Of Overcoming Memories
The most interesting part of a medical procedure I had last week wasn’t the procedure itself or the results (I’m fine) – it was the loss of memory, not only of the event itself, but of the hour or so afterward when I was drinking juice and conversing amiably (I presume) with nurses and my wife. That I was fully clothed as I became aware of my surroundings was perplexing, but also very cool. Did I dress myself? I suspect so, but I have no recollection. Did I speak to my wife on the way home from the hospital? I know I did, but again, I can’t actually recall – it’s more of a hunch I have, the same way I used to have a hunch about speaking to a particular person during a drinking binge, but without that nagging sensation of having uttered something monstrously stupid.
Since then, I’ve wondered about amnesia and how wonderful it would be to target memory loss at other episodes in my life: my three strike-out performance at a baseball game. Several drunken stupors that should have led to total memory loss, but regrettably didn’t. Or my high school graduation, during which technical difficulties reduced my slide show that had been set to music, to a silent movie screen and the sound of jeering students.
The movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” my vote for the best movie of the last decade, addresses this desire, as heartbroken characters choose to wipe away all memory of a hurtful relationship. But the ability to selectively forget a particular event or a particular person would come in mighty handy for others: consider the aspiring author, songwriter, performer, inventor, entrepreneur, or anyone else whose desires bump up against incredible odds (these days, almost anyone looking for a job). Imagine how much harder one might endeavor if the memory of past rejections or crushing comments could be erased.
During college, I always admired those who could bounce back so easily after a woman’s rejection. I remember a friend of mine saying, “She doesn’t want to go out with me. So what? The next girl might.” This is, of course, what separates the most successful people from the rest of us – the ability to either forget one’s failings, or the drive to overcome them. You may be unmoved by J.K. Rowling’s prose, but she earned her success, for she persevered in the midst of rejection. Others far more talented than she are still waiting tables because they gave up perhaps one submission too soon while Rowling was sending out yet another manuscript to a prospective agent.
Consider others whose memories are short: the baseball player who erases his last at-bat, the actor who bounces back from a poor review, the doctor who strives even harder after losing a patient, or the philanthropist who overcomes the enormity of a crisis.
Even though I’d still love to forget parts of my high school graduation, I suppose that in my own modest way I’ve used this episode to my advantage. Ever since that technical breakdown, I’ve been obsessed with preparation when it comes to performing or public speaking engagements.
But what about the rejections that are sure to accompany the aspiring writer? There are only two options. Give up, or get going. Or, as the Stephen King character narrates in “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”:
Get busy living or get busy dying.