Illustration by Stacey Chen

Sulking In the Gaps of My Memory

By Jude De Luna

It took me a really long time to write this article, and I didn’t know why, but as soon as I finished, I realized that this is one of the only times I’ve confronted how scary it is having such large gaps in my memory.

I never thought of it seriously, mainly because I have avoided addressing the topic directly for a long time. I joked a lot about how having a bad memory can be a kind of superpower. I can consume my favorite pieces of media time and time again and it feels new every time. I get spoilers and I can just distract myself enough to forget it. Some embarrassing moments are immediately blocked out. No randomly remembering some awkward moment from the fourth grade for me!

With all of those obviously outstanding positives on one side, the negatives of this so-called power surely cannot stand a chance, right? Well, it’s more like a curse that I never learned how to face. I cannot reconcile with the fact that I can’t even remember things like the conversations I have with my friends and family. People tell me details about themselves in passing, like their favorite color, their allergies, and even their birthday and I can hardly recall. The conversation becomes a block of TV static in my mind, and it’s not like I wasn’t interested. It just couldn’t stick! I even had a somewhat completed draft written out for this article all in my head, but – surprise, surprise – I forgot most of what I wanted to say. You would think that I would know myself well enough by now, but I always overestimate the capacity of my negligible memory.

One thing that really gets me is how I cannot remember most of my younger years. If I were to estimate how much I really recall, I would say that I know 5% of my elementary and middle school days, and about 20% of high school. Of course there’s no random awkward fourth grade memory to torture me, because there’s nothing at all stored in my miniscule memory storage unit. My friends and family bring up how I used to act when I was younger, and I can’t ever believe what they say. They tell stories, and then it’s me interrupting saying, “I did that?” or “Wait, what happened?” It is frustrating, and if I were to let this continue, who would I become? How will I grow if I cannot remind myself of who I used to be? The possibility of me regressing into an old me grows when I cannot remember my history, no matter how cringey it may be.

Even some of my so-called “best days of my life” are part of memories that escape me. There are so many things that I can recall doing, like traveling with my family around the Philippines, going to see my favorite artists in concerts, and even my graduation, but the specifics of these pivotal moments seemingly evade my every try to remember. I know that it happened, but the fact that I will never be able to truly look back on all the little particulars fondly is disheartening, and frightening.

A few years ago, I realized that journaling was something that could help with this little problem. I filled up a journal every year. When my friends asked me why I liked to journal, I always said that I liked to reflect on my feelings every night, making myself sound so emotionally aware. Sure, that was definitely an added bonus to it, but it’s not like it was the truth. I toiled away in those little notebooks for the sole reason of documenting every single thing that happened every day. I brought my journal around and wrote in it all of the things that I liked or disliked. I noted down all the jokes that made me laugh, the things that annoyed me, and the overall people watching I had done. This went for most of high school until my first year of college. Meanwhile, a new predicament arose in the years. As I reminisce, the only thing I see is my journaling. I was too worried, and I even remember thinking “I’m going to journal this, I need to remember this” but I never retained the actual memory. Reading the journals was a poor substitute for the real thing, but I had grown too dependent at that point. My hand was weary from all the writing, but if it weren’t for me writing everything down, what would become of me?

Well, one day in the summer before my sophomore year in college, I found that my mother threw away all of my journals. She said it was just collecting dust, serving no real purpose. Those entries were the only thing I had to cling onto in my teenage years, and they were instantly gone. I obviously don’t remember October 5, 2017, but my journal did. Nevertheless, it was forcibly erased. After that, I didn’t have the energy to continue. I let myself, and my mind, waste away. Then, the pandemic started and my motivation to remember things diminished even more. I can’t think of anything from 2020, but at least in this case, I am sure I am not alone in that.

As the world goes on, with things gradually getting better, I have grown to regret that period of time that I let myself go, but I have also realized that it wasn’t good to obsess over journaling so much. It has taken a long time for me to reconcile with the fact that I can’t remember everything in my life. The fear is there, but it is not too strong anymore. As I go forward, I will enjoy the moment instead of scribbling it all down. I definitely don’t remember how I got here exactly, but it must’ve been good since I know I want to keep going. I’ll have my friends and family with me to remind me of the good times, and to create new ones that I can cherish, no matter how short-term it may be.