Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Confession

I have a truly terrible memory.

Well, sort of. I'm incredibly good at remembering certain kinds of things. I'd call it episodic memory, or maybe writer's memory. I remember things in striking detail when my emotions or my senses are highly engaged. I remember what it felt like to walk home from the Chapel bus stop on a particular night in undergrad, when the fog was just starting to freeze, and the ice crystals in the air felt like tiny diamonds cutting into my skin. I remember what both Shawn and I were wearing the day we met, as well as the color of the carpet we were standing on when we had our first conversation. I remember the particular tank top and pair of shorts I was wearing on the day Jeff broke up with me in March of 2000, and how the cool air and the hot sun felt on my arms, and how the stone steps of the Colonnades felt against my bare legs. That sort of thing. There are moments in my past that I can practically go back and inhabit in my mind. Scenes I can walk around in. It's a wonderful gift.

The flip side of this kind of memory is apparently that I lack the other kind. I remember almost literally nothing of a movie just a few days after watching it. I read lots of novels last summer, and all I can remember about my favorite one was that there was a dysfunctional family with a father who was losing his memory and who fell overboard on a cruise ship. (Someone please tell me what book this is, because I really loved it, and I'd like to read it again.) Sometimes Shawn will explain some aspect of physics to me, and it'll make perfect sense, and I'll ask all kinds of questions until I'm totally clear on the concept, and then a month later he'll bring it up and it's like I've never heard of it before.

I forget names and faces. When I see someone in the hall at the law school whom I've known since 1L year, I tend to smile and nod rather than actually saying hi, for fear I'll call the person by the wrong name. Facebook is a godsend: I can practice the names and faces until I'm sure I know them. I've had some really, really embarrassing moments due to mixing up names of people I've known for years.

I don't think I have some sort of dementia or anything. I've always been this way. But only in the past few years have I realized that most people's memories aren't like mine. And I have to admit, I'm a little afraid of what this sort of deficiency will mean for my efforts to study for the bar.


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