“Memory: Is there a more fragile faculty? Without it, what are we? It is the only record we have of who we were and what we want to become. Take it away and only a spiritless machine is left, free of conviction, free of purpose.” - On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language by Ilan Stavans
“Do I know you? ’Cause you look awfully familiar,” I innocently asked, gazing up at the nurse who had been with me for four hours. Each time she came to check on me, she would ask if I remembered who she was. Helplessly, I could not respond or remember because of a severe concussion I had gotten during lacrosse practice.
I was confused, wondering why my sister was home and opening our front door even though I had celebrated her return from college the night before. Why was I being lifted into an ambulance as fear overtook me, screaming and flailing to get away? I drifted aimlessly through the hospital on a stretcher repeating phrases and constantly asking what day it was while back in my room, patiently standing around my hospital bed, my family attempted to start conversations which left me staring at them in bewilderment.
What are we without our memory besides formless, disoriented and lost? What if I had destroyed my memory forever and could not remember the simple beauty of the faces of those I love? My favorite pastimes - books and friends - would have vanished. I would have been left in a state of solitary confinement, unable to escape. The simple joys that once filled my life would have disappeared. I would have to rebuild my entire world of memories.
A precious, fragile instrument that you must never take for granted, our memory preserves our hopes and dreams; it tells us who we are today and what we strive to become. Without your memory, you cannot combat the battles of consciousness or bask in the familiarities of life. Each breath is an unknown, a mystery to solve that will promptly be forgotten. Each day stands as a new beginning to relearn the events of your life. Your loved ones, your hobbies, your simple pleasures swirl away with the dust. Your eyes that gaze out into the abyss of foreign entities glaze over with forgotten tears. In need of sacred preservation, our memory proves irreplaceable.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.