Newsletter #12: Do you remember?

Custard slice and coffee

This is a preview of my #12 Newsletter. You can view the full one here (it’s free), and subscribe above. The newsletter archive with all past editions is here.


⛱️ Another short week with a public holiday, and lots and lots of soccer. I also worked so much this week, and it felt like my head was going to explode with all the info I had to parse through. But not only am I loving what I am doing (more on that soon) but I am also very good at balancing life/work lately, and I must say – it’s definitely a skill worth acquiring! The days are still flying by too fast, so I have set a challenge to myself to meet up with at least two people every week, one on one, socially, so I can slow it down a bit. Nothing like a good cup of coffee with a friend, or – even better – a good meal. Hope you had a good week too, and are planning a relaxing weekend.

Custard slice and coffee

Memories made and lost

I have a pretty good, somewhat photographic memory for non personal facts. Back in the day, when History tests were nothing more than just regurgitation of textbook to paper, I could easily get 95% for an exam. But I have a pretty shocking “autobiographical memory”. I have snippets of memories from my childhood, and a good understanding of the overall sentiment of my youth, but I am scarce on the details.

My sister, on the other hand, is like a walking encyclopaedia of our childhood. Example: I will have a vague recollection of moving into our childhood home, but she will tell me exactly what year it happened, who her school teacher was, where my dad had his primary office, what car we drove and how many dogs we had at that time. This is extremely useful, because I simply offload the burden of my life story on her, and whenever I need details, I just ask her.

Until this week, I was convinced that my lack of childhood memory was a survival technique, a form of dealing with PTSD trauma. I didn’t have a horrendous childhood by any means, but it wasn’t a walk in the park either. So, I figured, maybe there were things that I just choose to forget. Now I know better.

Katy Schneider, writing for The Cut, describes this exact memory experience, also referencing her sister as her primary holder of memories. Katy says she has about 50 distinct memories from her past, but that’s it. She names us “Forgetters” and our sisters “Rememberers”. She did some proper, scientific research, which included speaking to memory experts. In the absence of a medical condition (which I am pretty sure I do not have), the sporadic memory is unlikely to be linked to trauma.

Researchers who study SDAM (severely deficient autobiographical memory) say there is nothing wrong with people like me – our first person perspective just leaves our grasp quicker. On the other side of the spectrum is HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory) which is where people don’t really forget anything, down to the last mundane details of their past. My sister and I are not extreme on either end, and we both fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, each closer to her “side”.

Unsurprising, people with HSAM are more miserable. They struggle to let go, hold onto grudges. They ruminate over negative things, and are obsessive. SDAM people are better at thinking conceptually, and move easier through life. I know I am probably much better off for being a forgetter than a rememberer. There are whole decades of my life that I have spent with a person or in a circumstance that I can today literally only reduce to a shrug and a “it didn’t work out”. (Even though I have vague recollections of the actual storyline being filled with enough drama to make a blockbuster movie). I bet if I asked my sister she could fill in the details, but why bother?

My one deep, deep regret about not being a rememberer involves my beloved uncle. Once, when he visited us in South Africa, he took me out to lunch and told me stories. And I mean, stories! About my parents, his parents, the family. The dirt was spilled! 😀 I remember being gobsmacked. Today, probably 20 years later, I remember the lunch, I remember the restaurant and where we sat….but I remember almost no details of the conversation 😢 . I think I consciously blocked it out, but I still kick myself about not writing down the details. Too late now. All the elders of the family have passed on.

Just to be clear, I don’t live with no memories. There are very specific and clear memories that I consider a strong part of my personal story, but after reading Katy’s article I realised that they are the same stories, over and over again. The rest are still there, but they are buried deep, deep down inside. Then, once in a while, something happens in today-life that jolts some long forgotten episode awake. That’s what happened yesterday, in a story I’ll tell you next.

This is a preview of my #12 Newsletter. You can view the full one here (it’s free), and subscribe above. The newsletter archive with all past editions is here.

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Join me in my musings and adventures as I live and love my second (and best!) chapter, together with my 2 kids and beloved dog! ❤️


I’ve started a newsletter

I will be the first one to say that there are too many newsletters in the world. My inbox is filled with emails, and I ignore most of them. Still, I am in love with the idea of writing directly to people who voluntarily signed up to receive my musings, and so … here we go: I’ve added another newsletter to the world.

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