Making Memories

By Jordan McNeil

For a good chunk of my younger years — sixth grade until about my second year of college — I was a photographer. I took pictures of everything: goofing off with my friends, centerpieces at dances, food spreads at family gatherings. The list goes on. I catalogued those days of my life through hundreds of pictures so that my family and I could have them for later.

Once I got knee-deep in undergrad, however, my cataloguing stopped. It became a pain to carry my camera with me everywhere, even though it was small, and my phone at the time was too cheap to take decent photos. Also, I got lazy, and I think my roommates had gotten sick of all the pictures.

So my Facebook albums for each year got smaller and smaller; I only have three photos so far for this semester — not counting my sporadic splurges of goat selfies, of course.

I’ve lost the compulsion to document everything, and when that feeling does rise up occasionally, I typically tamp it back down, afraid of making a fool of myself in public by stopping in the middle of the pedestrian flow to snap a shot of my surroundings.

Here’s why this change has been plaguing me lately:

At the beginning of the summer, my grandmother started suffering memory loss. It was mostly short-term at first, forgetting where she put her glasses, sharing the same stories multiple times in a row, losing some concept of time. It progressed through the months, and then recently, it spiraled downhill in a blink of an eye.

She no longer recognized some family members; her mind would flashback years, even decades, to people and events that we had no real knowledge of. A lot of the memories that we might have with her, she no longer remembers.

This is one of those fears that you probably don’t think much about until you’re affronted with it — losing your memory. Not being able to recall your high school or college graduation, forgetting about vacationing with the family, not recognizing your own kids, it’s a scary thought.

When I was taking all those pictures of my life, I told myself that I would make scrapbooks. I’ve started a few, but then life got busy, and I got lazy, and they’ve sat on my shelves for years now, unfinished.

Now I have the urge to work on them again, to start cataloguing my life again — whether it’s through pictures or Facebook statuses or journal entries. Somehow I need to make my experiences tangible and lasting.

I’m getting older, and though it may not happen for a long while, I know I’m going to lose things: family members, friends, memories. It can all happen in a blink, but from here on I’m going to do my best to not be caught at a complete loss. I’ll have my catalogue, and I’ll take comfort in the fact that it’ll remember my life and experiences, even if I can’t.