Memory hand-me-downs

For as long as I could remember, memories would unpack themselves every night when I went to bed – half fact, half fiction. My child self was skilled at creating reels of how moments may have played out given the circumstances surrounding their occurence. I spoke of people I had never met, places I shouldn’t have remembered at the time, and largely of my mother and her life as it might have been. There is something about memory. Does it stay with the experienced or is it passed along discretely, mostly from woman to the next, in the shade of lofty trees and the intimacy of cooking alongside one another? Memory has mostly transcended the boundaries of time in my life. It has, however, respectfully filled the container of space till it was brimming with a knowing akin to intuition – clairvoyance, even.

With time, recollection is streamlined. This is the truth. The pathways of the mind shorten the distance between trial and error and wisps of inexplicable, deeply held truths are born out of the process. To learn from the experiences of others requires an emotional depth so profound that one could imagine the life of another in order to then enter it. They would then synthesize the memories of others into bits of understanding and empathy.

This empathy is painful at times. When we identify with the feelings of the people around us without knowing what caused them to feel that way, there is a tendency to either take on those feelings as our own or to push them so far away that we look down on ourselves when we feel the same way.

Striking a balance between empathizing with others and staying true to who we are is hard. It requires a constant state of mindfulness and an abandonment of self-judgemental tendencies. Over time, we naturally learn to know ourselves by means of compassion and self-criticism. Throughout that process, we also gain the tools to understand those around us. When this ability is lacking, we can look to memory to gently reveal to us the patterns in our lives and how they may present themselves in the lives of others. Every time I revisit a memory, I have no choice but to see it differently than I had experienced it.

As we honour our memories and the knowledge gained from those experiences, we can better appreciate the wisdom and experiences of our family, friends, and strangers, too. We can have the memory shortcuts without needing to analyze where they’ve come from or explaining them to other people.  We create an inventory of all our knowledge, whether it originates from lived experience or deeply held intuitions. Most importantly, we learn to accept who we are and to be confident in our viewpoint of the world, without needing to justify our vision and our actions to anyone.

 

 

 

“Where do I start?”

This has been my most agitated week of the year. Despite this, as I ran from one place to another, racing to secure employment, I noticed that I wasn’t accomplishing much at all. There’s a unique sort of glorification reserved for being on edge and busy all the time, but what about when all your work doesn’t end in reaching your goals? I’ve grappled with the tension between believing that I am either delusionally ambitious or that I am trying to talk myself out of my own plans, and I am beginning to understand why.

Ambition is the drive to accomplish. Put a driver who doesn’t know what turns to take to get where they’re trying to get and you’ve got someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. But what about someone who does know where they’re going and doesn’t seem to be moving forward at all?

There are barriers, inside and out. For some, there is a social privilege that allows them the luxury of entirely by-passing certain barriers to opportunity. The (arguably) most important barrier of all to accessing opportunity happens to be the easiest to remove. That is the barrier to first steps. So many socio-economically disadvantaged people, particularly people who fall into this group and first generation immigrants or their children, don’t know where to start.

The more I think about this, the more I begin to see it everywhere I go. I’ll give you an example. For the longest time, I didn’t know that you could get funding for art projects. The concept was foreign to me. You’re thinking, “Whatever. It’s not really something people talk about”. It’s something you’d think you would know of, though, when one of your parents is an artist, yet he was just as surprised as I was. Many art communities are  very niche. Networking is important, yes, but there is a very specific-unspecific trajectory that leads to timely interactions. These interactions lead to a broader audience and the sincere consideration of a person’s work.

When you aren’t born into the social context of success, the “specific-unspecific” trajectory I mention above becomes even murkier. To be specifically unspecific in the face of opportunity means to be different while remaining in line with norms of the culture in which you are participating. In other words, it means to be qualified but to be more, too. There are three things that happen first when you face barriers to the first step.

  1. You don’t know what the first step to take is.
  2. You can’t take the first step because you don’t know how to.
  3. You can’t take the risks that give you the “more” factor because you don’t have.

The first step is always the hardest, but for a lot of people, it’s near impossible. I can’t help but wonder how many people have been needlessly prevented from giving whatever it is they had to offer because they didn’t get the chance to start.

This is not something we should be setting out to remedy: it’s a structure that we have to undo. I’m not calling for a restart of social capital. It’s just the rerouting of information and opportunity transmission, and many people are doing just that by offering representation for groups that tend to be left behind, and mentoring young people and acting as positive role models. I’m grateful for the people in my life who played those parts. If you’ve also had that privilege, consider paying it forward in your community. Together we’re better.

What I don’t know

Many things.

When to stop. When to go. When to speak. When to bite my tongue. When to look. When to turn a blind eye. When to breathe. When to hold my breath.

These are things I don’t know. And yet, we’ve been acquainted many times before. I’m like a bashful child pulling on her mother’s leg, dreading the approaching lady pushing the cart, and her two kids – we’ve met before, but we don’t know each other too well.

Today, my mother’s leg has been replaced by a comfort zone so large, I live to maintain it. The lady pushing the cart is life itself. Her two kids are everything I fear. Fear is not always a gun to the head or a monster in the dark. Rather, fear is all from which I maintain discretion and dance behind curtains to avoid.

It takes on a life of its own; it presents itself as an inanimate thing and all of a sudden, it has become a shadow looming so imposingly over your own that you decide it must have opened its mouth and swallowed you whole already. You begin to have conversations. Fear jumps down your throat and steals your autonomy. You’re not ready to negotiate with fear. Ideally, fear is not to be negotiated with.

Before they had become fear, the woman’s two children were, to me, unknowns. Truthfully, they remain unknowns. Fear deludes us into believing that this feeling comes from an honest assessment of the unknown. But fear had existed long before the unknown presented itself to me. In my life, fear is manifested by stagnation: an inability to move forward. There is no quick fix for this. To say that a change of spirit will necessarily rid me of fearfulness is a symptom of disillusionment.

Fear always comes from experiencing failure. It may be perceived or painfully felt. It may be a failure to protect oneself or a failure to succeed. However, failure is most often not self-originating and I think that is a liberating truth.

In this life, we are born into love for the most part. Despite this, there is worry abuzz throughout our existence. I don’t have many answers for the question of why, but I am proposing a how. Fear of the unknown is not a fear of change. If it were, why would we still lament the loss of freedom to do and to become?

In my life, fear often began as doubt. Doubt is healthy and humbling. It only turns into something ugly when we tend to it and encourage it to prosper. The agriculture of fear is a product of community, which is more often than not the experiences that have contextualized our development. Understandably, looking into ourselves becomes a feat much larger than ourselves.

To feel fear in the face of the unknown does not mean the context of your growth is faulty. Rather, it’s a reminder that your experiences today and their validity are under constant cross-examination by all the experiences that preceded them.

 

 

Talking to the moon

 

Time is a thread outstretched in whatever remains of August sunshine. The light dims as quickly as it reappears.

My father’s thumb and index finger pinch the string with apprehension. His hand leans on my mother’s loosening grip.

Is this growth?

At the other end of time, a figure moves in recession.