Piece by Piece: mental notes


Brian Higgins

Staff reporter Madison Saviano explores hot topics and issues that students face in her weekly column Piece by Piece.

Madison Saviano, Staff Reporter

School is almost over. It’s all gone by so fast, as if my very first day of high school were only a few months ago, yet I swear I can hardly remember any of the time in between. 

There’s a quote that my mom’s always had on the fridge that reads “we do not remember days, we remember moments.” As far as a Post-It Note or hang it up quotes go, it’s certainly better than “live, laugh, love,” though maybe there’s something to that one too.

It’s true, though: we do not remember days. I don’t remember the day my dog died or the day I got a new one, I don’t remember the day I failed a test or the day I aced one. I can’t definitely remember much of anything in its entirety, regardless of how bad or good it was. 

People say we remember the bad more than we do the good, but I don’t think that’s all true either. I think sometimes, at random stops along the way, we make mental checkpoints. 

There are so many completely random things I can recall as vividly as if I had just closed my eyes from being there. I remember one thing about the first day of high school. I remember my first class of that day was Photojournalism and we played a game with M&Ms and as if happening now, I can remember standing up slowly to share my fact about myself. That moment is admittedly of little significance, yet for whatever reason my brain decided to make a checkpoint there. Maybe it had a hunch that for years to come, I’d sit in that same spot.    

At some point as a kid, I realized this sort of brain hack: if you tell your brain to take a sort of mental freeze frame, you can remember it forever that way. I’ve used this before when I thought a moment was beautiful yet too boring or too ordinary to remember. When painting my friend’s living room one foggy morning, the coffee steam rose up and floated out the window so beautifully that I knew I had to immortalize it. Yet, nothing was happening and my brain has the unfortunate tendency of cutting out everything not densely packed, so I decided to make an imprint of it in my memory, and there it still is. 

Our brains automatically make checkpoints; they checkpoint the good, bad, and mundane. The range is all over the place. Sometimes, because of who knows what reason, the frequency gets a bit lopped, and our brains end up having made more negative ticks than positive ones. Unfortunate biology, concerning past, who knows. But I think we can offset whatever ‘bad’ checkpoints our chemistry has demanded if we just outnumber them with even more good ones. See, I don’t think our brains are inescapably wired to remember bad over good. We have some say in the matter, too.