(1) For years, I’ve kept a detailed journal that’s now about 1,000 single-spaced word-processed pages long.
(2) I have the kind of memory that makes people uncomfortable.
If you tell me something (or if I hear anything about you), as long as I was paying attention during the information’s delivery, I’ll remember it, quick-recall style, for the rest of my life (at least until the senility kicks in). I had a fourth-grade acquaintance—whom I haven’t seen, heard from, or heard about since fourth grade—whose birthday falls on February 15th (or so I overheard, at age 9). To this day, every February 15th I find myself honoring her with a moment of silence.
On account of the not always paying attention, and my not being perfect or a robot, there are things I do forget. That’s where the detailed journal comes in. If I’m asked why I became standoffish with a specific someone during Presidents’ Day weekend 2009, and I can’t fully remember why off the top of my head, all I have to do is turn on my computer, pull up the journal file, do a “Find” search, and there’s the answer, all laid out, chapter and verse.
My latest “Find” search exhumed an entry alluding to an afternoon shopping trip in London during the summer of 1998. While I waited for a friend to come out of a bathroom in Harrods, a man sat next to me, waiting for his wife. He was an American too, and we had ourselves a grand old time reminiscing about the Motherland. By the time our people came out of the loo, this guy and I were giving Frick and Frack a run for their money. He asked my friend and me what we were studying in school, and we told him we were pre-law. “Women lawyers, huh?” he said, after a long pause, shaking his head in genuine revulsion.
If it hadn’t been for my trusty database, this unabridged history would be lost forever. I’ve always remembered the friendly back-and-forth with an older American at Harrods, but I forgot about the sexist stuff.
I think everyone, even those who don’t like to write, should regularly update a journal of some sort. One that nobody else can see. If it keeps you half as honest as it’s keeping me, staving off senility might turn out to be less of a challenge.