Memories (My Birthday Observations)
As I reflect back on 32 years of life, I think about the memories that have made it up. On the heels of that, I've come some observations about memories themselves...
 "Random" ones serve a purpose.
I seem to remember the most odd intricacies of certain memories -- ones that seemed to have no special meaning in the moment, but for some reason casted themselves in my mind for later recall.
For instance, I remember that OutKast's "B.O.B." was playing when my select baseball coach drove me and friend Mitch Smith home in his Ford Bronco after practice one day. How random is that? Perhaps someday I'll learn why they stuck -- maybe there's an element of each of these "settings" that has yet to uncover itself until we're ready to duly appreciate it.
Each time I revisit a memory like that, I process it in a different way. There is a new detail exposed, perhaps one even alluded to by the "story," that hits me. For instance, in this one, the notion of "select baseball team" hits me. As a parent now (understanding the costs of everything from diapers to pre-K schools), I imagine what it would've cost my parents to support me in sports like that, and have a much more real appreciation for what they did. I never would've recognized that detail just three years ago.
Perhaps we're just not ready for those small specifics to be illuminated when we first encounter that life event -- or even more, when we first recall that memory. Perhaps that "version 1" is just the canvas upon which future realizations can be exposed.
Takeaway: Explore the intricacies of memories each time they revisit.
 Rough ones shape us.
Everyone knows that traumatic memories stick with us -- and play a large part in who we become -- but some we actually "forget," as if our subconscious aims to spare us from what would be a cyclical toll.
We can recall them, but it takes some intentionality, either from ourselves to pay the memories a "right kind of visit," or from others, as they help us lay the memories out and process them in a healthy, non-resentful way.
It took some time and processing, but I've realized that I was "bullied" by other kids during a few periods in my life.
Kids in sad little cliques.
"Cooler" kids, or so I thought.
Even Venezuelan kids who didn't know me!?
I'll never forget being 16 years old riding in a bus through downtown Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. My select baseball team (different one than aforementioned, if you even care) was down there for a tournament playing against teams from Venezuela and a couple other countries.
I was by far the youngest and least utilized ballplayer on the team -- I think I was a third-string catcher at that point -- and it probably only took one look at me to tell that I lacked social confidence in this circle. We shared the bus-ride to the fields with the Venezuelan team, and for whatever reason, one kid from their team sitting opposite me started calling me gay and making a hand gesture (that I won't try to represent here) to signify such. Before I knew it, a handful of kids were chanting, and some of my "teammates" joined in also. Not the best moment for me. Awkward, embarrassing, and super hurtful. I don't remember one other detail of that entire tournament -- just getting randomly roasted by some kid who didn't know me from Adam.
I've since learned that bullies like him, and like a few other guys who targeted me growing up, are actually the ones in pain.
They're crying out for control, attention, power, or anything that gives them short-term reprieve from their inner turmoil. I needed some time, maturity and perspective to learn all of that. As we grow up, emotionally and age-wise, we get to learn better, healthier ways of processing these rough memories.
I now look back and really feel for that kid. What was he going through? Why did he instinctually hate me like that? What drove him to set off such a horrible onslaught -- just to feel cool for a few minutes?
He must have been going through a lot or felt compromised himself. I am thankful that God keeps these memories in our recall bank, but sometimes only once we have the right filter to process them through. That is a gift -- being able to fight old enemies with newly sharpened weapons.
Rough memories shape every one of us. When we avoid them, they enslave us from the darkness. When we ruminate on and resent others for them, we perpetuate them in our lives. When we take them out and process them healthily, they give us empathy and direction.
We choose how they shape us. What an awesome privilege.
Takeaway: Never avoid rough memories. Gain insight to see what caused them, and allow them to help you love others better.
 Good ones often go underappreciated.
Weirdly, and sadly, the memories we more than likely forget more than often are the "good" ones. Not weird, not great, no traumatic, but just good. Status quo. Expected. Familiar. Comfortable.
And given that we're highly adaptive creatures, most "fresh" scenarios become comfortable eventually -- most transitions eventually convert into norms -- leading to a very large percentage of our memories falling into this oft-forgotten "good" category.
As I raise kids of my own, I process this notion with even more intent; "if I provide my kids a good, safe, comfortable life, then they will likely tell others that they had a 'pretty standard' childhood when they're asked." That's kinda funny to me, because from a parent's view, even the small, "normal" moments wrestling them in the yard, sitting down and eating "normal" foods with them, is such a distinct blessing -- one fresh and foreign to me (am I really a parent of two kids?).
Those simple activities and moments are "just good," but to parents, they are treasured ones -- ones we know will fade in just ~15 short years. I know that this is true -- just look at how excited grandparents are to become grandparents. They desperately crave another taste of raising kids all over again; their perspective has made them realize that was once just a "good, normal" night with their own children was actually a phenomenal, special one -- perhaps one they should've cherished more the first time around. We can learn from them.
Takeaway: Always revisit your "good" memories -- perhaps they were actually great.
 Great ones never fade.
When I was a senior in High School, football was very important to me. Not only had I played since I was eight years old and weighed 56 pounds and not only because it would help me get into a great college, but because of the guys I played with and the sweat we had poured into it. I mean, I played with some of the same kids every year for 10 years; they were like brothers to me and the team was my family away from home.
That's why when we lost 34-28 to Cascade High School (see, I remember the details, and I don't remember what I had for breakfast!) and knew that our season -- more importantly, our time playing together -- was over, it was devastating.
I'll never forget when the last whistle blew. I turned to a defensive teammate -- any teammate would've been okay, but it was Cameron Kashfia, one of our Cornerbacks -- and we both began bawling like babies together. Babies. Grabbing each others' facemasks and yelling "I fucking' love you man!" into each others' eyes. Aggressive, but super awesome, and heartfelt to our core.
In the locker room after the game, we decided as a team to not let it end with that whistle. We got the Seniors together, took off our pads, and headed straight back out to the field. We then worked out for another half hour together -- running wind-sprints until our bodies could not long produce either tears or sweat. We hugged. Laughed. Recounted fun memories. Made bold promises about keeping in touch after High School that, like, none of us kept. But we mourned together. We said goodbye to our special chapter of being a football family, together.
That is a memory I could never forget -- one that still brings tears to my eyes and warmth to my soul. I love that memory.
Takeaway: Cherish -- bask in -- the great memories. They are special.
I realize that all of these have to do with sports as a young kid. I too found that odd at first, but after more thought, I saw that the backdrop of “sports” — and the stark contrast between the memories within them — was akin to the broader theater of life. Just like our memories, we have “random” experiences — ones that keep us fresh and guessing. Just like our rough memories, our rough days help define how tough and resilient we become.
Just like our good memories, our ”just good” meals, friends, and laughs provide a comforting rhythm to life.
And lastly, just like our great memories, the great moments in our lives immediately cement themselves as special.
Here's to being 32+ years old. I pray for the strength to use every memory -- the great, the rough, and all in-between -- to become warmer, stronger, and better as I continue to grow up.