In my last post, I shared an XKCD comic about how age can be a scary thing when seen in relation to specific events. Like Jurassic Park, Friends and Toy Story all being 20 years old (if they were people, they would’ve gone through an actual childhood and been in college by now!) or 9/11 having happened 14 years ago (doesn’t it still feel so recent?) or the fact that children born in the new millennium are now almost old enough to drive. They write their birth years starting with a 20, you guys. They shouldn’t be allowed to do anything yet!
Every time one of those articles pops up on Buzzfeed, all “37 Things That Will Make You Feel Old”, you can’t help but wonder… where did the years go?! How did we come this far so quickly? At 16, I feel like I could’ve told you the highlights of each year prior in great detail, with anecdotes and evidence where necessary. Now, I feel lucky if something memorable has happened in the entire year to stick in my memory. I don’t remember things all that well to begin with, so that just heightens my sense that this last decade has been a blur, with things happening and changing so fast, I’ve barely been able to process them.
Facebook now has a “see what you were doing this time last year!” option, and it’s funny to take a peek at your younger self, ranting away, oblivious to things in the future. In the interest of feeling like I actually lived the last 10 years fully, instead of speeding through them, I thought I’d do my own peeking and compile a yearly yearbook of sorts, a snapshot of each year as I remember it in my mind. This is how I picture myself when I think about each of these years.
2014 – At my parents’ home in India, happily unemployed sitting in the living room in front of my computer, doing this challenge. At the library in Singapore, doing my freelance writing and reading books. At the function room of the neighbouring condominium, attending zumba classes.
2013 – In my living room, trying to mark a ton of papers while feeling utterly miserable. In Paris with my housemate, huddling against the rain and the cold winds. Chilling at home during the school holidays, enjoying my new freedom and painting. A LOT.
2012 – At work? Honestly, I don’t remember much from this year – it was crazy in terms of work stress. Oh! At my new house, setting up the wifi router at 1 in the morning.
2011 – At work, struggling to keep up with my overwhelming first year. In Komalas, holding my tiny little niece in very nervous hands.
2010 – At a canteen table with classmates and doing fun assignments during teacher training at NIE. On a field trip with fellow teacher trainees, being the class idiot (as usual).
2009 – In the lab, desperately doing assays for my final year thesis. At the university cultural centre, attending my graduation ceremony with my friends. In school on the first day of contract teaching, fully realising what I’d gotten myself into. At home, falling asleep at 10pm on my birthday.
2008 – At my brother’s place, going on a massive diet and losing a lot of weight. In Tioman, getting very, very drunk with my friends.
2007 – In Cuttack, at my brother’s wedding. At my brother’s place, being surprised by my friends on my birthday with a surprise party.
2006 – I don’t remember a lot from this year either, honestly. And this was pre-Facebook, so I can’t even check.
2005 – At PGP in NUS, meeting some friends for the very first time. At science canteen between classes, wondering how the hell we were going to survive jam-packed Mondays for a whole term. In a study room in PGP, celebrating my birthday with new friends.
It’s a little scary to me how little I have retained in terms of memories in the past 10 years. Sure, I remember a lot more than that in actuality, but on the surface, it doesn’t feel like 10 years’ worth of life. Some years are more vivid than others – those are the kind I want more of.
On another level, though, a part of me feels like it’s fine to not have vivid memories of everything. I don’t want to go through life feeling the pressure of making every single thing memorable – sometimes, it’s enough to just be happy in the moment.
And I guess that’s what life is, essentially – a mixture of those things. Some things stay in your short-term memory and some make their way into the “Memorable Events Of My Life” folder in your brain, and at the end of the day, neither of those is less important than the other in shaping who we are and what we take away from our lives.