My collegiate plunge into life writing produced an unexpected but welcome habit: unremitting reflection. Add in a life-changing trip abroad and an academic year defined by change and fear, and well, I have a lot on which to reflect.
All that fodder for lingering led me to think about the modern commemoration of the life landmark — a peculiar moment defined at once by the individual and the culture.
With a quick click on Facebook, for example, one can take a brief tour through each important “life event,” decided by the profile owner. And that’s where I begin to feel particularly unmoored: the ownership of life events.
Though I immediately placed my January 2014 trip to Turkey in the “high impact” category in my life, I worry adding it to an arbitrary “timeline” could trivialize the power and tangibility of it. If I type it into an electronic timeline, it’s available for a few hundred “friends” to imagine, conceptualize and ultimately, define for me. But I’m probably overthinking it.
Additionally, I’m baffled by the ownership of memory in relation to the tangibility of it — the tickets, the souvenirs and the leftover Turkish lira in my back pocket. They traveled from one retailer to another, one gutter to another, one pocket to another, one continent to another and finally, wound up in an Arabic-decorated trinket box in America’s Heartland. Yet, do I really own those mementos?
I can’t help but wonder if a traveler before me experienced a more poignant moment with them. But in the box they’ll remain, harboring my memory — and undoubtedly, many more I’ll never know.
Finally, I worry about my ability and more broadly, my generation’s ability, to comprehend the gravity of life’s milestones and memories. With the ability available to “delete” a “life event,” with an album requiring a click rather than a week of paper-cutting (and a paper cut or two, given my lack of crafting grace), are we missing valuable opportunities to linger on life experiences? Have we made memory commemoration too easy, too quick and frankly, too public, for it to impact us in a lasting and meaningful way?
Well, I’m going to try to find out. I plan to create a tangible project from my Turkey experience (with the guidance of my creative younger sister, of course). And no, I don’t mean adding a bad clip-art flower or “xoxo” to a photo and placing it in a glittery photo frame.
Whatever the project, I hope I’ll find a new kind of reflective experience and maybe, an epiphany the Facebook “timeline” and “like” could never provide. And maybe, I’ll even avoid the dreaded crafting paper cut.