Time lasts forever when you’re eighteen. Each day is an adventure. There are no consequences, despite how important everything seems. Love is rich. The world is black-and-white—you and them. It’s beautiful, free, painful, fun, and most of all endless.
Did time really move slower when you were younger? Is it all downhill from here?
Cultures shift and you adjust. What you can and choose to pay attention to changes. You have your memories, sure, but even these are not immune to the shifting currents and patch-job tissue replacement called getting older.
We’ve been talking about self-deception. Many of the lies you tell yourself without realizing are actually fueled by your view of the past.
Contrary to assumption, memories aren’t fixed. They adjust as you do. They’re subjective.
Some escape to a version of the past they’ve created to avoid honest self-examination. Others do all they can to flee from a past they believe sets limits on what they could ever become.
Author and art critic Astrid Mania says of memory, “The retention and recollection of experiences are among the most unreliable and unpredictable of cerebral functions, and our ability to accurately recall events is affected by neurological, psychological, and cultural factors.”
Memories are scattered snapshots of recollection pieced together with whichever interpretations you believe best fit your current state. It’s these faulty accountings you use to make predictions about the future.
Artist and teacher Rebecca Spiro affirms: “Our desire to resist the inevitable and preserve the integrity of our memories is so ingrained that rather than accept the malleability of our memories, we unconsciously forget, invent, and edit, resulting in a loss (or gain) of detail, a re-contextualization of experience, and a re-shuffling and re-combination of fragmented words, images, and knowledge.”
Memories can be treasures that give life special meaning. They can also tie you to distant people and events that should no longer have power over you.
As memories are altered to confirm the ticker-tape readings of your current state, your conscious thoughts are transformed into hard-wired excuses.
It’s much easier just to believe your thoughts than to have to always question their source (and every detail).
Trying to keep your thoughts and memories free from being influenced by your state is sort of like telling yourself to do perfectly in a video game.
As I record and prepare to share my experience over time, I see my limited state losing its stifling power. I become more and more aware of the big picture of my life, and of the progress I’ve already made.
Recording and sharing over time flips time completely on its head, disabling skewed interpretations of memories from further hindering your progress in at least three ways:
First, distorted memories can no longer be used to make you feel ashamed for not being as far along in life as you believe you should be.
Second, inflated memories can no longer be used to chain you to the “good old days”—feeling like you’re forever drifting from your best times.
Third, hijacked memories can no longer be used to convince you that you’re a victim of circumstance—a feeling that bleeds out in defeated thoughts, like, ‘If things had just played out a little differently. Oh well.’
Recording and sharing your experience lifts your perspective up and out of the murky past, allowing you to see your life from the future. What you want becomes inescapable as you watch similar themes emerge repeatedly from your unconscious mind to connect in more and more dynamic ways, snowballing in a progressive avalanche of purpose and empowerment.
For example: Some themes related to my addiction that have resurfaced again and again are that I want to use weed less, I want to connect with others more, and I want to find better ways to relax. These reoccurring intuitions have tied to each other and others in so many ways I’d say they’re fairly inescapable for me now.
When you can see your current state clearly from the future (instead of seeing the past and future through the muffled lens of your current state), you’re essentially seeing through the eyes of who you want to be.
Here’s a crude, incomplete comparison I once jotted down while high:
“Not following conscience = emotional discomfort.
Solution = obey for your benefit.”
Have you ever noticed that there are a lot more voices clamoring for your attention than just the voice of your conscience?
When you can see your life right now from the perspective of the future you want, you’re forced to reckon with the consequences of your actions ahead of time—whether you keep doing what you’ve said you don’t want to do, or do nothing, or actually do what you see yourself repeatedly saying you should.
Here’s something else I once wrote while high:
“You deepen as you simplify.
“Time will convince and ease you—time fulfilled that’s been committed.”
As mentioned, there can be a gap in time between knowing who you want to be and actually living as that person. The more clearly you can see through the eyes of your future self, the less able you are to let time keep slipping by in the gap.
That process, by the way, is maturity.
What one question would you want to ask your future self?
Tomorrow: the plan to end all plans, and why it failed.
AstriftMama, “ScreeningMemory.”‘ m Kerry Tribe: Rceent Hisiory. Catherine.Nichols.ed. (Berim: American Academy in Berlin, 2006), 18.
Spiro, Rebecca. “(DE)constructed memory: the Transformation of subjective experience in the film and video art of Omer Fast and Kerry Tribe.” Afterimage Jan.-Feb. 2012: 17+. 27