I have a poor short-term memory.
Tell me a phone number and it’s wiped from existence by the time you reach the last digit. Concepts are my life raft in a sea of splashy facts. I don’t remember names, birthdays, or what I was doing ten minutes ago.
Unless I intentionally commit something to memory, chances are, it’s gone. I never even learned the entire multiplication table or the names of the notes on the guitar neck. I don’t even know the names of the streets in my neighborhood where I’ve lived for 2 years, and only last month I found out the name of the city I was born in. When someone asks me details about my life during small-talk, I usually go blank. It takes some mental hunting to remember where I went to college, what my dog’s name is, and much less what I do for a living.
Most of the time, it’s because I don’t care.
(NOTE: I’ve never used drugs. I’ve been this way since I was a kid.)
I daydream like crazy. My internal world is so abstract and philosophical that I’d be a wandering, homeless nut if it weren’t for my ability to micromanage and control my own habits.
I’ve designed strict systems for keeping track of things that matter. For my freelance business, everything goes through Gmail. If I don’t have to respond, it gets Archived and disappears. If it’s not there, it officially doesn’t exist. It’s why I don’t answer my phone. It’s just better for everyone, when the specifics of the discussion (instructions, agreements) are literally literal.
But The Game of Telephone is very real, and it even happens in email. As concise and clear as my writing is, people still see what they want to see. It takes one to know one, and I have no tolerance for people who haven’t overcome memory deficiencies by getting their shit together with all of the available tools.
Of course, I don’t hoard data, either. (The thirteen external hard drives on my desk are all work-related, I swear). I don’t have much interest in old stuff unless it serves a purpose. Sentimentality is for teenagers who are afraid their identities will disappear if they don’t cover their walls with everything they like.
Computers have made it possible to document your entire life in multimedia — and to a narcissist, it’s tempting to live in The Truman Show. What’s the next step, recording yourself looking through the junk, so you can again look back at that later?
If you’re not The Weatherman, obsessive documentation is pointless.
Last year I went through a Myspace account from 2003 and couldn’t believe the stupid stuff I had done and said. I may as well have been reading someone else’s secret repository of petty drama and personal problems. It was as boring and unproductive as watching people on television.
So unless I’m working or attending a seminar, I don’t document. I’d rather be in the moment, experiencing life as it happens. I think people who spend more time aiming their camera than their eyeballs are crazy.
Lesson: forgetting is a gift.
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