I’ve journaled for years, and sometimes I pull out a stack of my journals and read what I wrote on this date one, or two , or five years ago. It’s kind of a non-tech time machine. I read about things I don’t remember, and come across passages I’ve written I would never recognize as my own. Memories are a strange thing.
I remember Michael Greenhill trading me his Hostess Ding Dong for my PB&J sandwich in the second grade. I remember the combination of the master lock I had 20 years ago, 36-4-10. I can’t remember where I left the book I was reading an hour ago, and I struggle to remember the password for my email, which I use every day. Memory is a strange thing.
In his wonderful book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller writes,
“The saddest thing about life is you don’t remember half of it. You don’t even remember half of half of it… I have this friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers. If he remembers dropping an ice cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he’ll write it down. The last time I talked to Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories. He’s the only guy I know who remembers his life. He said he captures memories, because if he forgets them, it’s as though they didn’t happen…”
I started writing down the things I remember. Like the time I was walking to school in the first grade and I dropped my lunch box. I heard the glass thermos shatter and I started to cry. I ran all the way home thinking I would get in trouble for breaking my thermos. Instead I got in trouble for being late to school.
I remembered backpacking through the Colorado Rockies, and cycling through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Yosemite. I remembered walking home from elementary school with Richard Popejoy, who was pulling his tuba in a red wagon, and then seeing Richard’s face on the cover of GQ magazine years later thinking he’d come a long way since his tuba-playing days. Memories are a strange thing.
As I captured the recollected moments of my life I realized I mostly remembered three types of events; painful moments, new experiences, and people. Writing down your memories is a great idea, but better is the practice of doing things worth remembering. Painful memories will take care of themselves, so be intentional about creating new experiences and spending time with people who will help make your life more memorable.
Do something today that will bring a smile to your face when you read about it in your journal 5 years from now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I just remembered where I left my book.