Time for another deep thought from yours truly, in response to by the latest deep prompt from The Daily Post:
Which good memories are better — the recent and vivid ones, or those that time has covered in a sweet haze?
Interpreting that question at its face value, I would admit it’s very easy for me (maybe you too?) to say that the memories accumulated during the “sweet haze” of the distant past is the better form of memories. My reasoning is that, well, those memories occurred in the distant past, when you were a little more innocent and carefree than you were now; they come from when you didn’t have as many everyday difficulties or didn’t feel as much pressure or concerns as you do in contemporary times. Certainly, hearing that song on the radio or seeing that image can turn the memory into a hagiography, even if it’s from a difficult time.
I use that word hagiography to describe some of the distant memories from my young adulthood (my early 20s, the early 1990s). It was a difficult time for me: I went back-and-forth between multiple jobs with little pay and few hours of work, which meant not a lot of money in my bank account, which meant that I had to share an apartment with my sister… until one day when she decided I was cramping her lifestyle and she wanted the apartment all to herself (and her boyfriend at the time), which meant I had to find an apartment of my own.
At least my sister couldn’t say I wasn’t dependable when paying my share of the expenses while living with her, and I was still able to mind things when I went out on my own, albeit barely. (Our parents may not have emphasized a lot of lessons of empathy and compassion when we were kids, but they sure taught us the meaning of responsibility.) But while I constantly freaked out over those small digits in my bank account during that time, I began feeling… comfortable, because I was living on my own. I could venture to the store by myself; I could buy anything I wanted at the store; I could go freely without giving my sis the 4-1-1; I could go to my place(s) of employment without having to rely on her wheels, either; I could make friends without sibling interference…
And, to make this post somewhat germane to my crossdressing background, I could also buy my own wardrobe of women’s clothing and not have to risk getting caught wearing my sister’s dresses. Okay, that new wardrobe was almost exclusively from Goodwill or St Vincent De Paul (and it wasn’t as nice-looking as what was in my sister’s closet), but at least I could wear them freely in my apartment, keep them freely in my closet, and have a combined feeling of femininity and… independence. Yeah, that’s the word! Independence! It was a feeling I never really had until then, what with years of living under some variation of supervision or close contact. But those feelings of being independent, of anticipating all that independence had the potential of bringing — and of feeling free to express my masculine and feminine identities — were good feelings I will never forget.
Of course, I won’t deny that those times could be difficult; as Marcel Proust said, “Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” My mind may not want to dwell on these facts, but I still had a small bank account back then, not to mention difficulties with having my own set of wheels (long story); wacky hours at my places of employment; and, after a couple of years of being by my lonesome, the mutual necessity of my sister and I having to share a domicile again. But, damn, those years on my own actually left a good feeling, which is why I allow my mind to bathe that time in a “sweet haze.”
But that’s not to say all recent memories are not good or do not provide the same euphoria as older memories. Case in point, the recent United States Supreme Court ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans across the country. If you were anything like me, you were probably jumping for joy upon hearing the news of the ruling coming down. And, two weeks after the fact, you probably still have a pleasant memory of that pleasant feeling.
So, how could a positive memory as recent as that give the same good feeling as a totally different positive memory from decades ago? (Let me preface this by saying I’m not a psychological expert; I’m just presenting a novice’s supposition.) Well, perhaps you understood the gravity of the issue (the permission and recognition of same-sex marriages); you had an opinion of support on the issue that was passionate or at least above the passive level (you were of the belief that same-sex marriages should be permitted and recognized); and when the outcome of the case was announced (same-sex marriages should be legal and recognized throughout the United States), it justified your commitment to the issue, ergo the happy memory the court’s ruling gave you.
When you think of it, the vividness of the moment can help in it being a happy memory — whether it occurred 25 years ago or just last month. You recall jumping for joy over recent good news, but sometimes you need an audio or visual aid to recall something in the distant past, unless you have a perfect way of recalling things like, say, Carrie Wells.
Unlike that fictitious police detective, though, I have a hard time recalling the color of the carpet in my first apartment without a photograph, which is why I tend to take a lot of pictures — tangible proof so that I can remember living there or being here, doing this or just walking past that. Oh, for the record, the apartment’s carpet was green, the walls were off-white, and the refrigerator was olive. Thank you, Kodak.
So, to stop from going on and on and to provide my definitive answer to the question at hand… are vivid, recent memories the best? Or are memories from the distant past the best? Well… yes! On both counts! There’s nothing like the good moments that come in the here and now; they perk me up when the bad elements of modern times get me down. However, there’s still something sweet about pleasant thoughts from the distant past; they are the stepping stones that gave me happiness and hope and kept propelling me forward.
But whether it be good memories from now or from then, they all become sweeter if you have the power to recall them. And if you learn even a little bit of a lesson from any memory, all the better. Which leads me to finish with this quote from someone far more intelligent than me; it’s another one of his quotes I never knew he gave until today: