Despite our search for meaning and depth, our striving for epic outcomes and achievements, the majority of our time is spent on forgettable things, moving around within our small world; to-and-from work, having conversations, even arguments and intimate moments, most of which will be forgotten.
When we think about who we are, of course we focus on the memorable. When I tell my story, I sum it up by recounting those major decisions; what I studied at university, who I loved, where I moved. I omit the forgotten majority of my life. In doing so, I define myself by punctuations in the monotony. And I ignore the monotony itself, the everyday humdrum of getting up, going to school or work, eating meals of varying degrees of short-lived satisfaction, sitting in meetings. Or the small sweet pleasures of ordering coffee, walking the dog, bending my head back and looking at the stars. Things I've done countless times but have forgotten the doing of.
Yet, arguably, I'm more myself in those small moments. I'm more me when I'm sitting on my couch eating a forgettable but repeatable dinner than I am when I'm getting on a plane to emigrate. And so it seems I'm telling my story by the exceptions, rather than by how I mostly live. And I wonder if that's a fundamental problem: That we shape our identities around moments that are odd in the grand scheme of our lives. Whether this is really a little misleading as to who we are and what we're really all about.
And I wonder if it's also problematic for our future: That we think about success and failure and meaning in terms of future memorable moments, and not in terms of the quality of the everyday moments, eminently forgettable as they are.
I find the idea of this, that meaning really lies in things designed to be forgotten, beautiful. There's something gorgeously ineffable in the notion that we're made of things we don't even recall, lest alone recount. And it makes sense to me really; because isn't there a strange sense of omission when you give that rundown of your life by the pivotal moments alone?
But what to make of this? I guess some would say be more mindful in those smaller moments, to hold tightly onto them. Remember looking up at the stars and ordering the coffee, be fully present for the short strolls and the breakfast-for-dinners. (And I suppose social media - especially Instagram - has given us a tool to do that with.) But I say, give in to the forgetfulness, leave it alone. Just understand it's there and part of you.
I also find there's something unifying about the idea that humanity - all our multifarious lives - are unified by these kinds of assorted forgotten moments. Maybe more of what we share and connect with in others has do to with all the things unrecalled. And maybe when we love another we're loving their forgotten selves as much as the stories they spin us.
Maybe we're all really made of moments long forgotten.
*One of my favourite songs is Townes Van Zandt To Live is to Fly. It sortof vibes with this post and I listened to it on the way home as I thought these thoughts.