Sultans of Swing

Memory is a funny thing. It is your gateway to your past, you can use it to unlock history and past emotions, you can use it as a database, and as a conversation starter. Everyone has a memory and everyone relies on one.

And then it comes as a surprise when you look at the hidden inconvenient truth behind what we call memory:  The memory in itself is completely unreliable. Just test it with your friends, ask them what they remember from a certain day or event. It is sometimes amazing how little overlap there is between the recited stories. A misaligned memory usually causes disputes and accusations, fights and disappointments. However you turn it, memories are only good for the person they belong to. Others could not care less.

When I was a young kid I used to believe that knowledge increases with age. That there was a clean correlation between what you learned and what truth you owned. It was all gradual after all. You see, hear, learn, store, and would eventually end up with a perfect database of knowledge in your head.

This how I approached the world.

This is how I assumed the world worked until I learned otherwise.

I learned that I was somewhat different.

I recall my class schedule since second grade. Know phone numbers and birthdays, and know probably every single report card I have ever gotten. Plus the grades of all my friends. Whether they were in my class or not.

I used to get frustrated when I was able to remember entire conversations, and yet noone else did. I used to be the kid that got insanely frustrated with peers and teachers often thinking and sometimes screaming:”But this is not what happened !”

And people responded: “How do you know? Maybe you forgot? Maybe you do not recall correctly?”

And I got angry. Because I recalled, and I recalled correctly.

I sometimes felt like a broken tape recorder; able to record, but not to replay: A perfect conversations in my head. And noone was able to hear the recording. Stories others told only remotely retold what I had witnessed.

So I had to learn how to cope with my memory like it was a disability. Pretending I remember vaguely when in fact I could recite entire conversations, including the date, time and place the conversation happened plus what music was playing in the background.

Sometimes I fooled myself. Thinking I was just like the others. That my memory was imperfect and more a product of my desire of things I wanted to have happened.

Other times I felt gifted. Who else could get perfect scores in tests without studying as I remembered entire class lectures on topics? I got through highschool without ever really opening a text book before a test. I was also the child who would read all her textbooks during the summer vacation before school started and instantly had no reading homework for the rest of the year left.

A few times my memory tried to be funny: I remember one test where I knew exactly what page and what paragrapth the answer was to be found. But for the life of me I could not remember what was written there. I did not get any points for the answer and felt bad.

Now that I am older I learned to cope. I learned that most people do not like to be confronted with someone who has mental advantages. Instead of directly pointing out the holes and their gaps in their memory, I started asking questions. I let things slide. I often pretend I do not remember and need to re-read. I sometimes even humor them by letting them win the initial argument. Just to come back with firm written proof that I “had to research” after a discussion.

A memory is a weird thing. In my childhood every Sunday the local radio station played “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. This song has become like a warm blanket. Whenever I am insecure I can play it and immediately regain some of the curiosity and energy of my childhood getting me ready to face any challenge. This song came out in 1977 and since then it has become one of my favorite songs of all times.

I fear nothing more than to lose my memory skill. It saves me so much time and makes things so connected and accessible. Where others see a puzzle with many separate pieces, I usually see the picture of my life. Independent of all the coping when working with others, I still like seeing a big picture. A network of interconnected events and incidents. It is awesome.

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One response to “Sultans of Swing”

  1. Beau Ventola says :

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