Life blesses us with memories. Memories are what make up our personal biographical documentary, a documentary that only we can replay and which, unlike most documentaries, is filled with all the dirty and gritty parts — the best parts. Memories are what remind us of all the good times, as well as the bad. They are each unique, no two ever being the same.
That’s the true beauty of life: each moment that we live is different from every other moment, if only in the slightest of ways. Our memories collect, stamp and categorize each of these moments along with all the little details that accompany them. The more intense the emotions associated with each of these memories, the more that memory will stand out among the rest. Being human, we are cursed to remain aware of our emotions and for having the ability to, generally, understand the cause of said emotion.
This leads us to favor certain experiences and memories over others, causing us to wish to relive the more pleasant experiences. This, of course, is of great benefit when it comes to avoiding pain and negative emotions. At the same time, however, it brings us to believe that past memories may be relived and re-experienced. That is not the case. That is not the way things work.
Two memories will never be the same. Once the moment passes, the experience is over and all we are left with is the imprint it left upon our memory. From that point on, the experience can only be revisited in our minds, but never brought back to the physical world and relived. There are extreme cases where people actually do find themselves believing that they can recreate a memory, a moment from the past.
Generally, the mass of people are more likely only to wish to relive the feelings associated with the memory. No one wants to relive their trip to Istanbul solely because it’s Istanbul. Just as no one wants to relive their memories in Paris, Berlin, Zurich or San Francisco. What we wish to do is to feel the way that we felt when we lived that moment; we wish to feel the way that that moment made us feel. But that is impossible.
Moments are unique because they are one-of-a-kind. What makes up a moment can be argued, but I believe it consists of everything that we sense from the outside world combined with everything going on in our heads at that exact moment. When on the topic of emotions, it is important to remember how many words we have in the English language that describe different emotions.
There are thousands upon thousands of words for individual emotions that any person may feel and yet we often are at a lack of words when describing precisely how we feel at any given moment. Emotions are complicated because they rarely travel solo — they have a tendency of grouping and mixing together. More often than not, it is near impossible to describe exactly how you feel. As soon as you introspect on your emotions, they evolve and change form. Emotions are finicky things that have a lifespan of a millisecond. The next millisecond, we experience an ever so slightly different arrangement of emotions.
The science behind the way we experience our emotions is lacking, as is our understanding of the brain itself. The only thing that I can promise is that you will never feel exactly the same way you felt at any other given moment for the simple fact that you yourself are not the same. Every experience that we have changes us — whether for better or for worse.
We are new people, reborn every second of every day. The changes are often minimal and trivial. Sometimes they are profound and life changing. The way we experience the world relies most heavily not on the outside world, but on what is going on inside our minds at the time. You can visit the same place at the same time of year with the same person and not get close to the feeling of nostalgia that convinced you to return.
I am sure many of you have gone on vacations to experience such a phenomenon, just as well as many of you have decided to get back with your ex only to learn that the way you felt for them and they for you will never be the same. You are different. They are different. You together will be different.
Too often we find ourselves trying to hold onto the past, hoping that it may one day return and that we may somehow turn back the hands of time. It’s a funny way to live, isn’t it? Living not for today, nor for tomorrow, but for the days past. It’s no way to live; it’s not living — it’s called remembering. I am a true believer that very few people ever actually live.
We spend most of our time thinking about the past, hating on others and hating on ourselves. Very few of us live in the moment and do things for the pure joy of living it. It’s not easy. Just like most of you, I struggle with this regularly. I often find myself thinking back to the days, to that moment when I believe myself to have been wholesomely happy.
The feeling of nostalgia comes over me and I allow myself to float upon its waters. The funny thing is that at that exact moment — I am certain — I was thinking back to another, earlier point in my life and comparing it to the moment I was pretending to be living. Our moments are filled with thoughts of previous moments.
We rarely find ourselves overcome by the now and do whatever we can to hold on to the past. And then we complain that we are not making progress in life. That we can’t change. That our lives are not what we want them to be. If our lives never were what we wanted them to be, then why are we grasping on to those moments from our past?
The fact is that we don’t want to relive those moments themselves, but only wish to experience once again those feelings we experienced. We believe that we can reignite old flames and once again feel the excitement of visiting a new city for the first time. The first time is special because there is only one first time. Each new experience and the feeling that it comes with is the first and last time you will ever experience such a combination. Why do we wish to muddy it with thoughts of our past? Why do we wish to live by reliving? Is the present moment honestly not good enough for our attention?
We will never be able to live life fully if we live the present halfheartedly. You either live or you don’t. Memories are meant only to be revisited during our final days. They are what will bring us piece and comfort, confirming that we lived our lives fully and that all we did and who we were was not a complete waste.
Living in the past minimizes your moments — it taints them with past moments. This way, you never experience a new experience fully. Your consciousness is divided between the present and the past. If you want to experience things in their entirety, if you want to live life fully, then let go of yesterday. Today, right now, this moment is the first and last time it has an existence. Don’t waste what little time you have hung up on past experience and past adventures; they have past.