272. Making Lessons Stick

I struggle to remember things. There’s probably a reason for this, but I’ve forgotten it.

In seriousness, I don’t have any good excuse for forgetting stuff. It’s not like I’m an old man or the guy from Memento. All the same, things seem to be constantly slipping out of my mind: names, faces, phone numbers and memories of all kinds. It’s especially hard for me to recall details from my own life. The past twenty-something years are a brightly-colored blur.

I visited my old college campus a number of weeks ago. It was a bit surreal. That campus was my home for seven semesters, yet it seemed to vanish from my memory the moment I graduated. Every time I visit the campus, it seems unfamiliar. I can hardly believe I spent months, let alone years, living there.

Why does this place seem so familiar? Have I seen photos or visited? Oh, that’s right, I spent a few years there. I suppose that would explain it.

In some ways, my poor memory is actually kind of a blessing. I’ve lived in so many places that it’s nice not to be burdened with homesickness for all of them. It’s hard to pine for the past when I can’t remember it. My day-to-day life is mostly uncluttered by memories, and they’re all the sweeter on the rare occasions I recall them.

Of course, a bad memory is also a nuisance… mostly for the people around me. I sometimes offer my younger brother an observation, opinion or bit of news only for him to reply, “Adam, this is the fourth time you’ve told me that.”

My memory isn’t even consistent in its faultiness. For example, I memorized the “quality of mercy” speech from “The Merchant of Venice” for an English class nearly a decade ago. I’ve made no effort to remember the speech, yet can recite it word for word to this day. On the other hand, entire epochs of my life (like my college years, mentioned above) seem distant and empty. It takes an effort for me to remember anything that happened before, say, last Tuesday.

The worst part of having a lousy memory is that it makes learning lessons hard.

If you’ve followed this blog for more than a few months, you should probably find some better way to spend your life. (I’m joking! Don’t go! Please come back!) If you’re one of the brave readers who has stuck with this blog for half a year or more, you’ve probably noticed how I’ve revisited certain things. I’ve written a lot about grace, and depression, and doubt, and the fear of not being good enough.

Part of the reason I revisit things is that learning is an incremental process. Learning a lesson takes one day; living a lesson takes years. If I’m honest with myself, however, part of the reason I write about some things so often is that I forget them. Writing about lessons and struggles helps me remember them.

What does this mean? Well, TMTF has had plenty of posts about grace and doubt and stuff, and it will probably have plenty more. I’ll keep going in circles, hitting some of the same notes again and again, occasionally hitting new ones (I hope) and gradually making the most important lessons stick.

Now then… what was I talking about?

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