When the sense of loss is indelible, finding the courage to move forward can be a daunting task. But the natural movement of change can perpetuate hope, as the loud cries of grief and the quiet sleeplessness of mourning could bring about a kind of calm, previously unknown. Flowers bloom, babies grow, and memory fades.
Consciously holding onto positive recollections could fuel the push in the right direction. However, just a bit too much romanticizing could do more harm than good, stalling the growth and trapping the melancholy of what will never be again. For that reason, nostalgia could be dangerous, for the filtered perception of the past could prevent from being in the present.
Human memory fades with time. I often struggle with the idea of not being able to fully capture the important moments of my history. But perhaps this natural progression is a mechanism, hardwired in our brains to protect ourselves from obsessing over changes that are inevitable. The past shapes the present, but it does not define it. And I think what they say is true. What matters is now.
When I was younger, I used to wonder why people don’t remember things. I was one of those quiet and observant kids that remembered every detail of everything. I absorbed every visual, every sound, and every sensation given to me and stored them in my memory like a vivid and colorful movie file I can play over and over again.
I’m no longer that way. I’m sure age is a factor, but it’s partly voluntary.
Now, I’m more protective and selective. I’ve once read that the human brain is like a hard drive with limited capacity, albeit no one uses it fully. Once memory collects itself, storage runs out of room, kind of like my DVR when I’m away on long trips, erasing old shows if left without active cataloging. Of course, human brain is just a tad bit more complicated, and I can’t voluntarily erase. But I do consciously try not to get stuck, proactively moving on from undesirable things. It apparently works. The trick is to keep the mind occupied, hopefully with good things. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out, but I’m mostly better for it.
I remember feeling pretty at age five when I wore two matching hairpins, creating a smooth, curtain-like wave in my hair above my ears. I hold dear the warmth of my mother’s hand. I dream about the cooling sensation I used to feel on my soft belly during humid summers of my childhood in Korea - when my parents would take turns, gently swerving a fan over their sweaty little daughter, taking an impromptu nap. Memories can be powerful. These glimpses of my past keep me grounded and grateful.
There are more holes in the recollection of my recent adult existence. But as long as I can keep my memory of all the warmth in life and become more whole as I get older, I have a feeling I will be just fine.
There are a few phrases my sister and I’ve come up with in our childhood that we still use when we talk to each other. One of them is ‘dooming feeling.’
Our childhood was pretty pleasant and normal in a lot of aspects. But for the latter part of it- earlier for my sister, there was this one factor that seemed to make everything a bit more difficult. At the age of fifteen (and a half), I chose to leave my comfortable home in Korea and go back to the states. Soon after, my little sister followed at the age of twelve.
In hindsight, I realize how young we were. I was still a child, but it was a serious request I made to my parents. Perhaps I was too ‘thoughtful’ for my own good. After a lot of discussions along with my mother’s strong reluctance, the decision was made that I would go back to America, the country from which I left a few years back. I was ecstatic, with a trace of apprehension. But that little bit of fear felt like a fair trade to go back to my friends and to a school system that encouraged extracurricular activities. It was an opportunity not given to anyone, and so I was to take it. I was sure.
The ‘dooming feeling’ was defined at the airport as I was being sent off. I started wondering if I had made the right decision. But it was too late, and I had to be brave. It was my choice after all, and I was only two years and a few months away from being eighteen. I was almost an adult, and I had carefully considered for a long time. I had to go. But the ‘dooming feeling’ wouldn’t go away, and I cried for about ten hours of the sixteen hour flight, six of which I spent sleeping from exhaustion from the seemingly endless sobbing.
Once I arrived, I was greeted by familiar faces of my welcoming extended family. Then things seemed okay, and I went from there. But ever since then, to this day, I get that ‘dooming feeling’ now and then, which takes me back to that awful plane ride.
It’s a sense of being utterly alone and overwhelmed by the daunting task of independence. I had chosen to let go of the kind of parental support that only comes from physical proximity. Of course they were still my support, and I saw them often enough. But the constant sense of security was gone. Every time they flew back, I was left with the ‘dooming feeling’ all over again.
I also always had a choice to go back. I wasn’t forced into any situation. And that remains the same today. I’ve chosen this path. I’ve come here voluntarily.
The almost paralyzing fear, the ‘dooming feeling,’ still haunts me. It usually happens on a Monday morning, when it’s dark and gloomy, or the morning after close house guests have left. But I think I’m getting better at dealing with it. I could tread through it. I organize my thoughts and write them down as I used to on my daily letter to my mother, telling her the unusual struggles of a sixteen year old girl with premature adult responsibilities.
Many years later, I feel the same as I write on my laptop instead of a piece of paper. But now, my responsibilities are not premature, and I no longer feel paralyzed during goodbyes. Life is still daunting. But now I don’t dread the ‘dooming feeling’ as much because I know it’ll soon pass. Maybe I’m getting wiser. Maybe the phrase, ‘dooming feeling,’ will some day be obsolete in my conversations with my sister.
Oh.. I sure hope so.