The other day a friend told me what he thought of memories- that they are simply misconstructions of reality. As soon as an event happens in our lives, it is no longer real, it can no longer be fully captured or recreated. Our minds are limited by the information about situations that we remember, and slowly over time, as we continue to pull up the same memory, it looses it's grounding in the real world and simply becomes a figment of our imagination. The event becomes faded and fuzzy and usually appears behind a rose-colored glass as we soften out all of the wrinkles of the challenges which we experienced at that time and only focus on the positive. Taking this idea, each time we recall a memory, we become further and further from remembering the actuality. Depressing right? I guess it depends on what exactly you are trying to remember.
While I was in South Africa I was very conscious about remembering fine details about my experience so that I could recall them later. I remember trying to put words to the specific smell that my house in Masealama had, or imitating the phrases and accents of my closest friends so that I could realize what it was about them that I would miss. I made a ridiculously long list of what I loved about South Africa in my journal that I just now remembered and pulled out. I cried and smiled and laughed. But despite all the time I spent intentionally trying to remember things, I now find myself forgetting. The glass is getting frosted. I can no longer hear everyone's voices clear in my head. I find myself forgetting common Sepedi phrases. I no longer randomly break out into a South African chorus. I no longer hear the beautiful weaving harmonies. I don't remember how frustrated I would get when a taxi wouldn't come to Masealama for three hours. I forget to pray before every meal and car ride.
These memories are slowly fading like all the memories from the previous 23 years of my existence. But I don't want them to. I am deeply missing that connection that I have with the people in South Africa, and the only thing that I have left is these memories and some broken-up phone calls once every few months. What I hate most about memories is that they are easily forgotten. I don't want to forget. So, I am taking it on myself to intentionally unbury these memories. One of my many new years resolutions this year was to be in better contact with my friends all over the world. By talking to them and hearing their voices and stories the memories freshen a bit. I have also decided to start taking it upon myself to research South African architecture and how it is currently affected by racial implications and Western ideals which are not necessarily good or life-giving designs for the typical South African. Hopefully my studies will help bring back more concrete memories of places that I visited and people that I met. But this is a fighting battle that I can't win.
Eventually it will all be a faded memory. But when that point comes I want to be a changed person because of it. I don't want this memory to become buried amidst the trash I am accumulating in this American lifestyle. I want it, however faint, to become a beacon which guides my path from here on out. By consciously reconstructing these memories, although they may leave me in tears, I hope to keep these memories stored in a safe, visible place. I am fighting not to forget. I am fighting my own mind, but sometimes that is what we have to do to induce change. It won't be easy, and I will not succeed, but I am going to try anyway.
~Heather Anne Nelson