I’ve never really been one for nostalgia but being stuck at home for 8 weeks has seen me sorting out boxes of memories that I thought needed some revision and organising.
Unfortunately, lots of great memories have been triggered, special times, wild events and even the mundane. This has brought forth a great sadness. Most of my physical documentation seems to stop about 10-15 years ago as social media pushed all life into the digital environment.
How often do you scroll back through your own timelines – let alone those of your friends? A pile of photos in a box is a tangible reference to a life that is missing in the opening and closing of a URL.
I’ve started putting more thoughts and ideas into this blog in an effort to move away from Facebook. Facebook is a great tool for many things in my life but connection isn’t one of them. I’m looking back through that timeline (and Amy’s too) and tracking down pictures that I will print and probably once again store in a box. The proverbial box in the attic.
Finding some of my mother’s photos that she kept has brought into perspective the question of why do we keep these mementoes? I found a picture of my grandfather when he was a little boy. That’s nice, it’s meaningful to me. I’ll keep it. In a box, in the attic.
I can pass all this onto my son and he can choose what to do with it. The box that gets passed from attic to attic. And in 500 years? Then what? Will our physical and digital histories be available through some new technology, beamed directly into our brains.
But who will care? We have limited access to historical accounts from more than 500 years ago. Those that we do may be random, some of those important enough to have things written about or by them and deemed worth keeping. What others have been lost? Now we are in this age of mass information what will be decided as relevant? Will the rantings of a mad president be worth a discussion in a thousand years time? Will the ponderings of a youthful adult going through life changes be held up as a fine example of our era?
My sadness is through a frustration of feeling stuck right now. I feel like I have done so much, the evidence being right in front of me, I’m no longer particularly excited at the thought of new adventures. My body is getting shaky, along with my brain. It feels like my time is over, or waiting for something to come and fill it again.
It could be the post honeymoon period of having planned so long to make this move to Thailand, that now things have settled down a calm reality is setting in. I would like to embrace this. My plan was to come here and not stress about work and the rat race any longer. It hasn’t quite ended up like that.
Looking back again I’ve realised just how serious I am when starting a new project. Starting new jobs, I worked so hard to make an impression. At varying points the energy ran out, possibly from realising that my hard work was not particularly appreciated, and over time that energy has seemed to run out more quickly.
Again, when I started my teaching career here in Thailand, I worked so damn hard – too damn hard – to make a difference. My bright flashes were quickly extinguished by the cultural politics of the education system. I see other teacher’s different responses to this and consider that they have a better way of dealing with things. I set myself too high a standard sometimes, I need to be more relaxed in my own expectations.
I go back to school tomorrow. I have no enthusiasm today but a vague feeling that everything will be ok and I will slip back into things easily enough. It is somewhat a relief to have some forced discipline again, the discipline of being required at a certain place at a certain time. I feel I need and appreciate that despite being philosophically opposed to the idea of it!
I can happily fill up my time either way. But what is it for? It’s just for myself. So, what am I for? This is a question I still have difficulty in answering. I’m going to go read a book.
“But you live your wisdom,” said I; “why do you not write your memoirs? Or simply,” I added, seeing him smile, “recollections of your travels?”
“Because I do not want to recollect,” he replied. “I should be afraid of preventing the future and of allowing the past to encroach on me. It is out of the utter forgetfulness of yesterday that I create every new hour’s freshness. It is never enough for me to have been happy. I do not believe in dead things and cannot distinguish between being no more and never having been.”
– from ‘The Immoralist’ by Andre Gide