Memoir of a Failed Memoirist

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Please don’t ask me about my past. Don’t say, “Remember the time we…” or “Tell me about when you…”.

The past, for me, is a wasteland of vague impressions, abstractions and perceptions. Memories are not movies playing out in my mind. They aren’t clear and vivid photo-quality images.

I’m good at remembering odd, insignificant details, like the fact that I decided to name my fat, orange goldfish Garfield, and his skinny, gray swimming partner Simon. I remember how I thought it was clever to reference the famous Sunday comics cat, and also indirectly suggest a sixties folk-pop duo. And yes, Garfield is close enough to Garfunkel to make this witty in my mind. I remember how they died. Simon went first. It was a nameless, tumor-causing fish disease. I remember how glad I was that Garfield outlived him by several years, even though he eventually succumbed to the mysterious belly up-disease.

Looking at photos is helpful. So is listening to stories that friends and relatives tell. But I can’t seem to shake the discomfort of realizing that vast chunks of my life exist somewhere in a black, inaccessible void. This is what scares me. It makes me feel sad and wholly inadequate.

It’s not that I don’t remember any of it. It’s that I remember it differently than others, and selectively. My memories are often random and always subjective. I’ve come to accept this as a by-product of my natural cognitive functioning.

For day three of my 21 Day Writing Challenge I have decided to consider the past. I’m drawn to memoir and I’m not sure why.

So far I’ve managed to successfully capture two personally memorable moments in the form of memoir. Was this a stroke of luck? An un-reproducible, isolated phenomenon? Am I doomed to fail at memoir writing?

I have a few more where those came from, so I’m going to tentatively suspend all self-deprecation from this point forward.

Maybe there’s a reason I like memoir so much. Maybe I like the idea of struggling with the elusive past, fishing something out of the depths of time, and re-working it into a meaningful story.

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