We are who we are because of what we learn and what we remember.

When I was 7 years old I was in Brownies in the UK. We took a trip one year to a camp that consisted of a cafeteria and a room filled and stacked to the brim with bunk beds. During the day we had to wake up early, eat breakfast and go and do activities. My memories of it are very unclear, as you can imagine, and I don't really remember many of the details. I do, however, remember some things with spectacular accuracy and I wish I could understand what it is that makes some memories STICK.

We did ab-sailing, which is were they strap you up and send you bouncing your way down the side of a very high structure, I remember the panic attack... but mostly I remember the outdoor swimming pool. We came down the road from the bunk in our swimsuits, towels around our waists, laughing in anticipation of a fun afternoon swim. The camp leaders had been informed that the pool was "sun heated" from the huge, paneled glass roof that covered it, a sort of, "greenhouse effect!" It was Spring time in England, warm enough to wear shorts but not by any means sweltering. Their must have been 30 of us little girls, little feet pattering across the cement, goggles and swim caps on head, small voices chattering. I'm not sure why no one in charge ever really checked the temperature of the pool, but we all plopped in together, tiny heads disappearing beneath the clear blue water.

I remember the impact of the water, the absolute, extreme chill that seemed to grip my bones, I remember my eyes crossing underneath the goggles, my brain temporarily losing control. When I emerged I tried to gasp for air, my lungs stung and held tight, hyperventilating I grabbed for the edge unable to grasp what exactly had happened, I lost total ability to control my brain for just a few moments. I remember the panic as they pulled us all out of the water and wrapped us up in towels, I remember people laughing as they realized we were all safe. We clambered up the hill shivering and giggling and I said, "Was the pool supposed to be closed? Why did they let us in it?"

I don't know how I remember this event so well, maybe the physical impact was so extreme that it smashed it permanently into my easily accessible well of memories. It's strange how we lose parts of our lives, maybe it's so we cant fully comprehend exactly how long we've been alive, maybe it would be too overwhelming. I can remember this pool with staggering accuracy, the smells, the tastes, the way it looked, the sounds, but I cant remember some entire months, maybe even years with some ex boyfriends, my supposed monumental first loves. I cant remember what we fought about or what inevitably brought the break up, I cant remember existential, prolific teenage conversations I had deep in the night with close friends, I can barely remember those close friends at all! So what is it that makes a memory STICK. I wish I could learn because I would like to hold onto things with a little more clarity, I'd really like to remember the details of my young life. I guess it helps I keep blogs, they will prove great calenders in the history of my life.


So for those of you who are also curious, here is a very interesting movie by Nobel-prize winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel , watch the trailer :)



Posted on July 8, 2012 .