I think I’ve spent most of my life chasing memories. I do something, I enjoy it, and then I spend years trying to recreate that thing and get back to a place where I can relive that moment or reinvent it in some meaningful way. Maybe it’s what everyone does when they seek out future experiences and maybe it’s something only I do to this extent. I don’t know. This idea is new enough and uncertain enough that I can’t tell whether it’s a revelation or tripe.
It certainly explains the decision to come back to debate and start coaching after spending so many years missing debate after college graduation. It explains my taste in restaurants, in activities, in people. It explains most everything I do and every decision I make. The choice of where to live in the next year largely hinged on choosing between something I remembered liking (debate coaching) vs. some place I remembered liking to live (Albuquerque) vs. some trails I remembered liking to hike (Grand Canyon/Flagstaff). I’ve chosen, by the way. I’m moving to Highland Park, NJ, a suburb of New Brunswick, through June 2011. Moving west in the summer unless something radically unforeseeable happens. You know, because radically unforeseeable would be such a change at this point.
I think what I’m saying is pretty mundane and trivial. It felt revelatory, but it’s coming off sounding silly. Of course we chase memories, right? I mean, how does one know what one likes to do or who one likes to be if one can’t remember aspects of that reality? All we have to go on is our experience and perhaps the testimony and feedback of others. What else is there? Visionary thinking, I guess – the ability to imagine oneself in a new place and situation and see if one likes it. But how well does that work? And how would one judge what one can envision oneself liking without basing that on the aforementioned memories? Otherwise it would be pure speculation or invention. Or just randomness.
I guess part of this is about me being more past-oriented than the average person. I’m probably about two-thirds past-oriented and one-third present. The future doesn’t hold a lot for me. And if you thought that was true before all this happened… wow. So yeah. The past seems like the basis for whatever future there could be. I was a History major. I am fascinated by the collected actions of people in the past, what led us to this very point. I am certain that there are codes and patterns in the past that would be able to tell you precisely what will take place in the future, or at least the decisions that the future actions will be based upon. And who doesn’t want to predict the future? Maybe there’s a little room in me for future-orientation as well.
The future is starting to take a little shape, for better or for worse. I’m sticking with the Rutgers team, which I’m excited about, even though I’d ideally relocate them (and all of my East Coast friends) to the desert Southwest. I’ve got plans to volunteer at a soup kitchen, maybe even to swing that into some sort of employment at some point. Short of the latter, I’d like to get some part-time work doing something else, probably something rote and officey and relatively mindless just to get me out and about and put a little extra money in my pocket. I think three or four demands on my time would be about right to keep me sufficiently distracted to somehow survive whatever combination of separation and divorce lies ahead.
But what are all these things? Mere shadows of past memories. I remember enjoying the Rutgers team last year, and debate for nine years before that. I remember enjoying volunteering at a soup kitchen. I remember finding solace and structure in office work. I remember how I tried to distract myself the last time the loss of love drove me to the brink of destruction.
How does one make a new memory? How does one dive off the cliff and into the cold cold water of the unprecedented? Should one even strive to? Or is everything in our future built on a pyramid of the few good memories we’re left with that somehow survive unscathed and unfettered into the future? How much of the promise of a memory depends on its sanctity, on its untainted state in the future? “The price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings.” Yes? Yes, but? Is all experience destined to yellow with age, to curl and crinkle till the bright sincere smiles get mangled into ghoulish grins? Is every good thing an implicit portend of its own doom?
The chase is on.