keep it dark (snidegrrl) wrote,
keep it dark

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On Memory

I am obsessively concerned with my memory, or lack thereof. I am always surrounded by intelligent people; I have had incredible luck with that or perhaps it is simply because of my socioeconomic status - who can tell. But I do know that I can't keep up. I am an "educated" person. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. I went to an expensive private school. But that seems to mean nothing if I can't sound educated. If I find myself in the company of a friend - rob_donoghue or bronzemountain or examorata leap to mind - I am listening, ever listening because I cannot draw upon the wealth of knowledge I have observed. I cannot reach out and pluck a literary reference or historical fact and drop it into the conversation, because I can't remember.

I can't remember any of the Marx I read in college. I can't remember any of the extensive WWII reading I did a few years back for fun. I can't remember what happened in Wuthering Heights. I can't remember a single quote or passage from my favorite book of all time. I can't remember the gender relations article I read last week. I can't remember the four two-digit numbers that make up the "spec" for my paladin. I can't remember how to conjugate Latin verbs. I can't remember the french word for much of anything, despite spending 5 years studying it. I can't remember the names of any of the characters in Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry. I can't remember the score I got a few months back on the CCNA, let alone the contents I tried to press in my mind in an attempt to pass it. Hell, half the time I can't remember if I was born on the 30th or 31st.

In many ways, I feel like I am very much UNeducated, and will remain that way for the rest of my life, due to this one fact. This has grown and grown over the past year, until it's a large blight blocking my imagined pathway to higher education. When I think about going back to school I think immediately: How do you expect to go back to school when you can't remember what you did last saturday morning? Keeping the fairly amazing company I do, and always have, it follows the pattern of my life. I hung out with the smartest kids in 9th grade. Everyone assumed I was getting As the whole time, but I wasn't always. I wasn't keeping up with Miss Lu (a close friend at the time, and our class valedictorian). My parents always said it was because I was wasting my potential. And surely, that had something to do with it. But as I whinged and moaned about the inferior education at Virginia Tech (with a few startling specimens of good professorship as counterexamples) and that I came out stupider than I went in, I failed to notice then but I wasn't getting any better at learning. It's hard to tell if I'm truly bad at it now. But I do know that many people remember things, people who I consider to have vaguely compatible work ethics. But I don't, I don't remember. In conversation, I grasp and reach for something theoretically sound. I look for an angle or statement that does not require me to remember a fact or passage. Or in the end, I sometimes resort to the classic "I read it in a study, but don't ask me which one" cop-out.

So every night before I go to bed I read a few more pages from Luria's The Mind of a Mnemonist, and I envy and awe. I wonder what it must be like to be able to draw back any experience, any series of numbers, anything that ever entered through eyes, ears, nose. I try to consider the fact of my inherent laziness. I try to remember that I have a stubborn need to be singular or unique that manifests itself in ridiculous excesses of dilettanteism. ("Oh, everyone's knitting now? I'd better start cross stitching...") But when it comes down to it, if I mark my mental prowess in memory, I come up lacking, and when I take that into account all I see ahead of me is a lifetime of mediocrity. And a waste of tens of thousands of dollars on more degrees, because I am still paying off the loans I took out to learn things I don't remember in the first place. Sometimes in a fit of pique (see CCNA reference above) I try to prove myself wrong. It seems like the harder I try to remember, the more and more frustrating it becomes.

I seem to remember talking to someone about this a while back, maybe in this forum, maybe on IM. I think it was zenthia. She said that being smart isn't all about memory. That memory is a separate quantity. But aren't the people that sound smart (and likely are) the ones that quote things at you? That remember, for sure and true, who said what to whom before the battle of whatever? The best I've ever done is remembered that Mike Nesmith's mom invented white-out, and that little factoid is getting a teensy bit old at this point.

I would not say that I have given up. I have not. I dream of going back to school. I dream of being a PhD someday. I dream of finding something I actually can throw myself wholeheartedly into and become an expert on. I just wonder if it will be in any way other than the pre-organized printed word.
Tags: introspection, memory
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