I was watching a K-drama recently and the male protagonist Jun-yeong said something interesting. Something along the lines of
‘Memories are scary because you can’t control them.’
The more I pondered on it the more I found it to be true. We create memories but over time they can become like muddy waters that were once clear. We see elements of what makes the original thing but can’t grasp or remember the bigger picture. On a more logical note, even things like dementia, Alzheimers and amnesia take away the human ability to rely on our brains to store our memories like living room cabinet’s store china. Untouched, in one piece and always there for reference. I’ve always thought this is what fuels our addiction to various forms of technology- we love those phones and cameras can capture moments with crystal clear clarity that will remain over time. In this way, they have an added advantage the mind does not.
I was thinking about this [the unreliability of memories] as I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming and the sceptical voice in my head kept asking ‘how on earth does someone remember their childhood with so much clarity?’ Even when I look back to when I was such an age I can’t remember everything- which saddens me slightly- as if my mind’s once-tight grasp has loosened on these precious jewels whilst life turned my attention away.
But I am encouraged by what I do remember. The shine of the sun recently for example, randomly reminded me of the Sunday evening rush to the street outside so we could be first in line when the ice-cream van arrived. (You could always hear it before you saw it.) My siblings and I would always order a flavour called ‘lemon ice’ which captured the two-sided sweet-tangy nature of lemon perfectly. And although we may obsess over the specifics, it’s the feeling of happiness such treasured memories give you which is even more priceless.
Smiling is a beautiful thing- and I mean a genuine smile. A crescent moon of happiness on the face. A snapshot of laughter. When the joy inside of you bubbles over it can’t help but show from the outside too. I fully believe no-one can do too much of it. In fact, it doesn’t take much to feel like London is a miserable place for many that needs more smiles. I’ll often be quite tired and focused on my commute to work but when I get a smile from a fellow commuter on the train- although usually taken aback and suspicious in the first few seconds I always return the smile. And as we silently stand radiating mutual positivity in this weird but normal facial language, things change. My mood lifts a little as I go back to whatever I was doing and I realise, wow I really needed that.
Similarly, when I’m out and about, the people I actually find that smile the most freely and often are children. Especially babies, they have no logic behind their smiles sometimes but they will happen anyway. It’s therefore interesting that as we grow older we become more cautious with our smiles; only directing them towards we know and trust. Our smiles become sacred currency not many can access. We start to rationalise what should be a natural and easy thing, meaning we start to much less of it.
There’s so much in this life that is beautiful and that we should be grateful for; I try to remind myself of that every day (and trust me, it may be obvious but it can still be hard.)Even if you reflect on your current situation and 8/10 things are going wrong, smile because you have the other two things to be grateful for.
Friendship is a funny thing. Am I the only one that looks down the long hallway that is my past and sees the floating shadows of many former friendships? These are not necessarily friendships that suffered an explosive ending. Most of the time you try to keep in touch but days pass and the next thing you know two years have gone and you’ve barely spoken. I do see these friends every now and then but the conversation is very brief and shallow, almost as if you’re back to acquaintance (or even stranger) level again. After all, people do change- and much quicker than we know sometimes. Although the joyful memories associated with them bring happiness, you almost have to take time to grieve that individual as you realise the intimacy you shared may not ever be experienced again.
But as the old ends, new ones begin and such is the pain and beauty of friendship.
Yesterday I had a moment of serenity as I walked down the path to choir rehearsal. I was on the back streets of Notting Hill, the sun shining (weakly, but shining nonetheless), cooling intervals of breeze and Shawn Mendes’ voice soothing my eardrums. Did I mention I was eating a beef patty? Well, I should have, and with every bite, I was more appreciative of the moment at hand. As I looked at the trees ahead fighting for the sun’s spotlight I thought about how everything had conspired for this moment to happen. If I had decided to go home or to a different part of London, or maybe if it had rained instead- that exact moment wouldn’t have happened. That kind of mathematics (i.e. possible worlds and alternative chains of events) I like to leave to God, but it’s amazing to think about every now and then; it gives a new meaning to the moment.
Here’s a poem a wrote to embody the feeling in such moments: