You know that thing where you’re going about your business and then, suddenly, completely unbidden, totally uninvited, apropos of nothing, a crippling memory of your own social dorkishness injects itself into your thoughts so violently that it eclipses your ability to walk/talk/think/exist as a human in the universe? Hopefully that’s not just me. Whenever this happens, usually in public like when I’m walking down the street or something, I find myself involuntarily folding in on myself like an origami transformer and muttering half-sentences aloud to myself in a kind of sustained groan. It’s as though I have been possessed, which, in a way, I have. Possessed by unpleasant memories, my mind wiped of all other contexts. This is me now.
I have wished, I must admit, that I could wipe these memories from my mind. Start over. Leave the dork behind. But here’s the thing. We’re all dorks. We all have memories we’d rather park. Thing is though, all life is, really, is memories. Love is memory. Pain is memory. The fact that you still know your childhood phone number is memory but it’s also a lot of other things. Memories are everywhere. Sometimes you just have to focus on the good ones. This is a Public Service Announcement: remember the good stuff.
Remember sparklers on the beach.
Remember lemon icing.
Remember a tree you liked climbing as a kid.
Remember that bit where you get into bed and the sheets are clean but they’re a bit stiff and a bit cold and you’re just getting used to bed life before the day falls away and all you have to do now is purposefully snuggle.
Remember dogs chasing waves in their sleep.
Remember random talented people who do things like beautiful sketches in notebooks on public transport and whose names you will never know and whose stories you will never hear but whose grey sketched faces slowly take shape as you edge closer to your station, wanting to stay until the end.
Remember sunlight belting through a glass of something cold that you can write in the condensation of with your finger.
Remember your favourite person who wore a watch well.
Remember cheese on toast.
Remember the feeling of realising someone you like also likes you. Noticing someone try out your nickname for the first time. Feeling someone hang back in a group to wait for you to catch up.
Remember the word ostrich, and the concept of the ostrich, and the fact that ostriches are a real thing and not just a child’s drawing weirdly come to life. Seriously. Google “ostrich running”. Utterly ridiculous.
Remember the sound of a teaspoon tingling in a saucer. If it doesn’t make you hanker a little bit for morning tea, check again.
Remember real mail. Your name on a parcel. Something lovely inside.
Remember that someone once invented the crossword. His name was Arthur by the way, and he was a violinist who worked for a newspaper and he made a grid where the words crossed over. He called it a word cross puzzle but the typesetter that day made a mistake printing the paper, so… crossword it is. I kind of thought crosswords had always been around. Imagine the things that don’t exist yet!
Remember suppressed giggles. You’re supposed to be quiet in maths class. You’re in a staff meeting and someone just did a hilarious mime out the window. Remember the giggle bubbling up. Remember the nose flare. Remember noticing someone else’s shoulders shaking with quiet laughter and trying desperately not to crack. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve been doing staff meetings all wrong.
Remember all those medical things that people do that are amazing but happen all the time. People use skin from here to patch up skin over there. People trick cancer cells into killing each other. They unloop umbilical cords from around babies’ necks and lift them out into their lives, no worries little mate there you go. We also trick each other, by the way. We go to plays that trick us, and films that trick us, and we read books that remove us from the couch we’re sitting in and take us wherever a made-up story takes us. So: remember the capacity for human imagination.
And remember the word dingbat and the last time you felt quietly proud and iced water with a slice of something in it and donuts.
This has been a Public Service Announcement. Remember the good stuff.
This article first appeared in The Big Issue. Please buy the magazine from your local vendor.