‘Undelivered Mail’: To Memory

April 18, 2023, 10:53 p.m.

How many times have you wanted to say something but stopped yourself just before you did? “Undelivered Mail” features letters thought out but never sealed and delivered: to concepts, people and navigating life, through my eyes.

Dear memory,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

It’s not often that I take a moment to acknowledge you, but every time I do, I’m glad I did. As you slowly fade away, I want to express my sincere gratitude for keeping me tightly fastened, grounded in everything I know and love.

The orange marigolds that frame the sea on the view out of my bedroom at home. The feeling of a warm hug as I make my way through airport gates, intermingled with an inescapable melancholy. A smile. A face passing by in a corridor. A memory.

Have you ever wondered how exactly a memory is made? Look back at your first day at Stanford — are you nervous? Excited? Both? Now, look back at your first day of second grade — how vivid are the colors of your teacher’s face, the first activity you did in class? Our memories seem destined to fade away some day: an expiration date only hastened by the copious amounts of information we pack into our brains every day. Remembering the good is easy, the bad exponentially more difficult; both equally necessary.

Something I’ve been thinking about recently is the concept of rosy retrospection. No matter what I do, every time I look back, things seem a lot better than they actually were — shaded a rosy pink in my rear view mirror. Sure, I’m grateful for the sense of happiness that these moments suddenly bring me, but I also feel like I’m tainting these memories and changing the time, place and space they occupy. 

As I make the trek from East Campus to West; as I pass by Meyer Green, filled with throngs of people enjoying another rare appearance from the elusive sun; I’m thinking about the furthest back I can remember (or at least claim to remember). My second birthday — an inflatable ball pit filled with green, yellow, red and blue, my best friend whose name I no longer remember as she disappeared from my apartment building and a big, frilly pink dress. Yet as I wash over this memory, I can’t help but wonder if it’s real. Is it a story pieced together by pictures and retellings, or am I still grasping onto some semblance of this memory? For me, remembering feels like an unsettling limbo. I don’t know if these memories are my own, or ones that I’ve artificially manufactured from puzzle pieces that lie in plastic wrapped photo albums.

I think my greatest fear is losing the ability to hold onto these memories. We never really think about how important our memory is. Without people to hold our memories for us, our past would fade into obsolescence. Images of me running around as a toddler, being carried around on shoulders and refusing to leave my grandmother’s hand throughout kindergarten wouldn’t exist if they had not found a home in my grandparents’ minds. It’s important to remember that this process of remembering isn’t one that’s conducted solo, but rather finds a place in this strangely complicated web of everyone you interact with. How many memories do you occupy without even knowing you’re deeply entwined in them?

Remembering under this rose-colored haze comes with its own set of obstacles, its own questions of whether the truth is being shrouded by the suspicion that the grass is always greener in the past. But, my mind keeps me firmly tethered to my reality — remembering the first time I rode a bike, being suddenly let loose as I rode circles around my terrace, shows me just how far I’ve come. Now, as I pedal furiously to my 10:30 am chemistry lecture, late once again, no one’s holding the back of my bike to keep me upright.

So maybe I do enjoy looking back fondly — rosy recollection is both a blessing and a curse, and I can’t help but love the multidimensionality of memory. Maybe there’s a way to stretch out the inevitable expiry date of these memories, keep them closely strung between the family, friends and strangers I pass by every day; give them another chance to show me what life was like before they fade away like fountain pen ink and perform the greatest disappearing act of all time. Maybe I’ll find a way to tighten my grasp, and maybe sometimes, I’ll learn to let go.

I know you think you’ve done your job already — made me remember everything I could possibly want to, but how would you feel about hanging around for a little longer.

As you move out of the way to make way for more incoming spheres of thought, is there any way I can make more space to keep you close?



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