The human brain is a mystery, at least to me. I’m perfectly content to believe the oft-cited “statistic” that we only use ten percent of our gray matter, in spite of its inaccuracy. This is comforting to me for the same reasons I’m glad we haven’t explored the whole ocean—would reading a book be any fun if we knew the ending going into it?
Blissful ignorance aside and accepted, I do sometimes wonder how my neural pathways become so hidden, overgrown vines hiding their dusty gravel from casual passerby. I haven’t been on this planet nearly long enough to bury thoughts, feelings, and opinions as carefully or whimsically as I have, and yet, it seems like every day a smell or sight will trigger something I’ve long since forgotten.
For instance, the origins of my recent fascination with basketball are not, as previously believed, the result of my dating someone who is into basketball; those roots stretch waaaaay back to the tiny brown house I grew up in, seven moves and a practical lifetime ago, where I would sit up with my mom and dad watching the Chicago Bulls, enamored with the many hues of Dennis Rodman’s hair and how quickly those massive men moved the little orange ball back and forth. The shirt my mother sometimes still sleeps in, that I steal when I’m feeling brave, is from the Lithuanian National Basketball team of yesteryear.
They’re like puzzle pieces, these discoveries, but if I ever had the box it’s long since lost and I’m not sure exactly what it is I’m creating.
Another one: when I was in elementary school and junior high, I spent every afternoon the sun was out (and sometimes, even braved the rain) jumping on the trampoline in my backyard. For a few years, there were two—the new one, with the safety enclosure, and the old hand-me-down from my cousins that I wasn’t really supposed to be on but with much stretchier springs. I spent several years fully convinced I was going to be a professional trampolinist, if such a thing existed, and the first time I landed a backflip was the most exciting and terrifying moment in my short life. A cheerleader friend once shared her back handspring secrets, but I was always too afraid to put them to the test. These memories escaped me until pre-Christmas claustrophobic ennui catapulted me off of a couch and into my yard, where without thought I clambered onto the (now definitely unsafe) black elastic and remembered how it feels to fly.
For someone who has spent most of her sentient life documenting everything with a Harriet-the-Spy like fervor, from the daily minutiae to plans for world domination and everything in-between, it’s weird how much I forget. One of the darker things I’ve ever said, when an ex asked me why I write, was “in case I die in childbirth so my daughter or son will know what their mother was like.”
So maybe that’s where all my memories are hidden—in-between the lines, scrawled onto airplane napkins or doodled onto post-it notes that lie, crumpled and forgotten, in the bottoms of purses I haven’t carried in years. Maybe writing feels so cathartic because in putting pen to paper, I literally let things go, transfer bits of my soul onto some other surface, like a Horcrux but without the black magic.
My words are like breadcrumbs, leading me back to myself, especially the parts I might have forgotten.