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A Walk Down the Memory Lane, Layover at Choices

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I want to be six again, coming home from a half-day at school ready to watch Dragon Tales, not taking off my uniform because it feels too comfortable to change. Spending a sleepless night with butterflies in my stomach for a school picnic the very next day. 

I want to be ten again, quietly feeding stray pups, breaking the old lady’s window with my cricket ball, and learning multiplication tables as punishment. When a random corner of a park was the perfect place to find treasure, only to get scraps of plastic wraps and the easiest access to a TV was the breaking of dawn.  

I want to be twelve again when now that I’m told to be a big girl, rebellion comes even more naturally regardless of the consequences. Going to places, being told not to. Thinking I could win at everything with the pre-adolescent confidence I’d just garnered. 

I want to be sixteen again, where I get to choose who’s a part of my life after losing people I assumed to be permanent. Discovering the darker alleyways of my consciousness and coming to terms with it. Realizing you don’t always get what you want, things don’t go as planned yet the dots always seem to connect, and life goes on to be what it is today.

Memory, in its most evolved form, is just controlled forgiveness where old Disney VHS tapes, report cards, and slam books act as tangible evidence of the reality you once experienced. Nostalgia may be the term for it. A simulation to all five senses, it dawns upon us in different ways. From reading old text messages, visiting your old neighborhood, or listening to music you once thought was cool, to blowing the dust off the cover of an old book, it evokes a range of emotions within us. They may either be pleasant or otherwise, but ultimately, serve as the base to triggers that help us understand our present selves.

But how are these memories remembered? The textbook definition of nostalgia describes it as this image of an old dream perceived as the “sentimentality of the past”. It is the golden feeling of warmth, comfort, and wistful affection. What this fails to include are the many other different ways and emotions in which nostalgia is felt by people. Like the genres of old DVD collections, we emote in a plethora of facets ranging from passivity, heaviness, anxiety, and even escapism upon getting these flashbacks. The mere thought of these memories creates in us a hollow, filled with these emotions which may put us in a state of distress.

Barring these, a person can also perceive that moment through a color, picturing a mood board containing themes on how time was back then. The shades of time and colors conjointly label those memories and further differentiate them from the rest. If observed carefully, even a single moment could describe a whole chunk of one’s life. When remembered, it perfectly fits in with the chain of events taking place since then. Like the first and last time you stepped out to play with your friends or the first book that you read or the song that you played at that particular time, these moments act as floodgates to the history around them that helps us imagine now.

Fake scenarios? No. Hiraeth? Yes. People often see their past as solid ground to find their footing, taking it as a precedent for their current behavior. This may either be because of indecisiveness or just not being able to connect with your identity. Be it physical appearance or fundamentals, it won’t be hard to find a person basing their current self on the way they were brought up, making choices not according to their evolved conscience but around what they started with. Our health to alternative subpersonalities is futile since that bridge burned down when we chose our former emotional support entity of questionable moral standing. 

Dogs think like dogs, parrots think like parrots, fishes think like fishes. Carl Jung paved the way for collective memory to be a significant aspect of human consciousness. He believed all mental activities that humans do arise from a preconscious level of collective memory. The human unconscious carries human templates so that when consciousness arises, it is shaped by those templates and manifests in those ways. What he meant by this was that the basis of human consciousness is pre-cultural, the variations are what separates cultures and further, humans. The collection of knowledge and imagery we have today was mutual at a point in time due to the experience with our ancestors. We may or may not be aware of them in our collective unconscious but we hold strong feelings about them. This gives rise to inborn tendencies to influence human behavior.

Time passes, things change, people leave and you can only go back to a place physically, you will never be six, ten, twelve, or sixteen again. These memories, good and bad, act as roots to pull oneself down to whoever is providing them strength to deal with what’s to come. It may not always be about how good those times were in comparison to now and just having that longing for them, but being grateful about everything that has happened. 

Priyal Nanda

Delhi South '23

19| Economics Major "I don't know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know that I've made a few people happier than they would have been without me, and as long as I know that, I'm as rich as I ever need to be." - Robin Williams, 'Mork and Mindy' 1978
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