The fallacy of an impeccable memory

I’m the sort of person who doesn’t rely on anyone. Doesn’t wait for someone to ask if I have eaten or if I am doing ok or if I need help. I’m the sort that people ask for help of. I’m the sort that does things on her own. I’m the sort that doesn’t wait.

I’m also the sort that doesn’t forget. If someone goes out of their way to care for me, they make a permanent spot in my heart. They stay.

I wrote this about myself a while back. Now, it’s become a lie. At least the second part of it has. If I were a Game of Thrones character, my characters title would be “Uzma, the One who Forgets”. When I go through my old posts, I feel like a different person wrote them. A person I don’t remember being. A better, unselfish, naive person who is not me.

I read a lot and a recurrent theme in the books I read rely on the character’s memories of their younger self and I think to myself, “That can’t be accurate. No one remembers what events passed on the night of April 16th, 1995. Not me, not you, not if the memory is supposed to be a happy one, or a scary one, or a traumatic one. It does not matter. I don’t remember who I was, what I was thinking, the names of people, the color of their clothes, and hair, and skin, and the shape of their eyes. I don’t remember anything except for a fleeting feeling of knowing that something happened because it feels right. How are these characters capable of remembering things that they as kids didn’t even realize would have been traumatizing to their adult selves?

The only real memories that are absolutely, startlingly clear in my hear are the embarrassing ones. The ones that I can recall instantly, and with a clarity that makes me feel like I am reliving them; the ones that make me cringe to the core of my being.

“Few things are more deceptive than memories” – The Shadow of the Wind

People don’t remember what u say to them, they remember how u make them feel.
My friend said this to me yesterday. It isn’t the first time someone’s said this to me. I’ve told myself this many times over too. Our mind is so very good at gist, at feelings. At the end to the day, they’re all that remain. The exact words, the looks, the gestures, the intonation, the expression, it all goes away. What remains is the way you made another person feel. It’s surprising how much we rely on just these feelings to judge another person. Ask a person for a direct judgments and they can never tell you exactly what they said or did to make you not like them, it’s just the bitter feeling they left that makes you dislike them. It’s no one thing. It’s just the impression.

We form friendships based on these. We fall in love based on these feelings. Our entire lives operate on these. What if this system is as flawed as we know it is when we read about it. Isn’t there a way to fix it?

Should we care to fix it? Should we hold grudge against people for something we think they did, that they don’t and/or have a completely different memory of? I don’t even remember the person I used to be and if I do, I think to myself how I had the energy to be so good since I am now so much worse!? Could it be that the person I hold a grudge against is also no longer the person they were? So, how can I hold a grudge against someone who isn’t who they were?

Wonder

Everybody’s got two wolves inside them. Both of them are starving. One wolf is anger, envy, pride. The other one’s truth, love and kindness. Everyday they tear each other apart. But it’s not the better wolf that wins. It’s the one you feed. – Tsalagi Tale

Sometime I wonder if anyone wonders what it’s like to be me; to live my life. The way I wonder what it’s like living someone else’s life. Do they think it’s easy? Or that the perceived value of my life is more or less than theirs? Do they wish they could be me? Or do they feel sorry for me and wish they never lead a life remotely similar to mine? Or do they even think about these things at all?

I want the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and know what they are going through. Sometimes I see the people who are evidently living a great life and for a fleeting moment I wish I lived theirs. But then, I stop and think of what problems they could be having that I don’t have and can’t handle. What struggles do they have in their seemingly perfect life? Will I ever be able to deal with the same issues that they face? Maybe their relationships with their loved ones are the hardship they face. Maybe they have trouble conceiving. Maybe they have financial issues and live with uncertainty every day of their lives. Or they don’t have enough food for the whole family. Or they are crippled by debt.

We all live under different pressures. Each person’s pressures, issues, difficulties, hardships are tailored towards their own self and with one goal: improve, rise above, hope, persevere, grow, learn, survive. Every single person has a unique set of issues like no others. I guess the Buddhist’s, video game creators and sci-fi authors are correct in a way: maybe a person ascend from one level to the next, the only difference being in the level of difficulty a person faces. But all this is an exercise in an isolated, individual world. Our secluded selves are not the way this world allows us to operate. To our individual problems, throw in an added complexity; that of the human’s ability to have interpersonal relationships and socialize. You now have the ability to exponentially increase your hardships in intensity or reduce them.

Because people forget that we all have our problems and are at the level of the game we are supposed to be at. Instead of dreaming/imagining each others life with empathy, it becomes a game of comparison. Although, there are people might dream of your life and be envious of it, they at the end of the day will step out, wish you well, be grateful for what they have, and move on. Others, however, might think you have an easier life than them and instead of wishing you well and moving on, they would take it upon themselves to teach you some hard lessons they think life hasn’t taught you. These people don’t directly cause you pain or stress, because that would make them terrible people, but they wait in the sidelines and encourage situations, hoping hardships befall you so they can “save” you and teach you the lesson. Their “good Samaritan” label on their self-identity remains intact and yet..

I wonder if my dim view of people is naive or if in my 32 years of life, I have managed to glean at least something insightful from my life. A lot of us don’t even know what is going on inside our own heads, let alone another’s. How do you gauge another’s intentions if we, the only creatures with the ability to communicate abstract ideas, can’t elucidate our murky feelings or be transparent about them? Perhaps, what we lack is courage. I know I do. Sometimes I think I am that person that wants to teach people the lessons I’ve learnt the hard way by “saving” them. It makes me hate myself and I have to make a conscious effort to draw myself back from being that person.

So, I guess the question is, which type of person are you? How do you make yourself be the Empath rather than the Samaritan? How thin is the line between them? What role is the Empath supposed to play in the world of interpersonal skills?

Social niceties

The brain is mutable. It changes all the time, a disconcerting amount, in fact. It changes based on the lighting around you, the weather, what you eat, whom you talk to, the way you sit, even what you wear. The consistency of the brain is like custard, and its makeup is more like a forest than a computer, always alive, rustling, changing.

– Your Brain at Work

Never having been reined in by social necessities, the brain grew unrestrained and uncontrolled in every direction it saw. It bloomed and blossomed into this unbridled beast that absorbed everything it saw and used it to grow rampant. And yet it was aware of its own growth; self-aware and capable of watching itself as it broke all social boundaries and grew unhindered. It absorbed everything. Every thing considered an obstacle became a lesson; everything else was a blessing. The mind grew into something so intelligent, it could cut you with its razor sharpness. And yet there was this innocence, that comes from having lived inside of itself for so long. Social niceceties are beyond it. People liked it for the innocence; left it for fear of its intelligence.

People attribute its intelligence to everything they could think of, so as to make themselves feel better for not being it or having it. For not having its abilities. They attribute it to age, or to studying, or not really having a social life. And all this is ok as long as they don’t see its learning curve. It is vertical. It is unstoppable.

Turmoil

I wrote this years ago, when I was having trouble at my workplace and social politics. Over the years, I have come across a lot of people like this, and this post and this significant change in my attitude has always seen me through. It has helped me through life and not just at work.


When the mind is in conflict with the environment, two things can happen; you either run or you adjust your attitude. I tried to run. But then I thought that no one was going to make me do anything I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t going to run. No one could make me. I think this was the best change of attitude that I’ve had in a while. It really made me think that I haven’t really stood up for myself and if I ran now, it wouldn’t be BECAUSE of so and so. It would be because I gave up on myself. So I decided to stay and take measures that would allow me to adjust my attitude instead.

So when I realize that people slack off and leave their work to be done by others, I said ok. I’ll do their work. This is an organization and more than that; a field where no one can proclaim your work as their own. And since the brands are now not divided amongst the Art Directors, no one person can claim that they handled an entire big brand etc on their own. So if I did do some work on “brand”, it would be mine. It would go in my portfolio as my own. With my name on it. Even though I wouldn’t be able to claim that the entire brand was handled by me, my work would speak for itself no matter where I went.

Having thought of things in this way, I was appeased and realized that I would never say “No” to any work that was assigned to me, no matter how much pressure I was under. And things seem to be working out. Even though everything is still fresh and the wounds seem to have been buried. Let’s hope things change with my attitude.

I guess all that matters is a change in attitude. Things always seem to fix themselves. After all it is always just your perception and how you see things. What you allow to bother you and what you seem to consider inconsequential. I’ve stopped showing or thinking of anything that in the least bit matters to me or bothers me.

Obviously I realized that my work-ethic is very different from everyone else’s. So many things don’t matter to me that matter to others. Whereas, so many other things matter to me that don’t matter to others. For example things like coming to work and making it your first priority are things that matter to me. Responsibility and investment into the content of what is going out there in your name also matters to me. The need to learn constantly and to keep moving forward, thats also something that I’m starting to hold very dear to me. It’s the little things that matter. I think, I need to relax a bit and stop putting things on such a pedestal.


It worked out. I stayed at that job for 3 years, being promoted to a Senior Art Director. I handled many big brands and became one of the most trusted Art Directors in the agency. Brands loved my work and appreciated it publically. I left the agency with my head held high and my pride more than intact.

One other thing I realized then was, life is not in statis. It is constantly moving. People were going to come and people were going to go. It was up to me to decide who I wanted to keep, and who I wanted gone. This thought has helped me tolerate a lot of people’s bullshit. It has also allowed me to keep my sanity; knowing and understanding that I will rid my life of the parasites who are stupid enough to think I am stupid and who are currently and forever trying to leech off of me.

Mundane humdrum

I know it’s been ages since I wrote anything on here. Sometimes, however, real life takes priority over the digital one or the one that you live inside of your head. A lot has been going on in my life that has required some specialized attention.

Sometimes as a teenager, I would lie in bed and wonder where my life was going to go, who I was going to become, and who, if anyone, I was going to meet in my life who was going to stay in it forever. And although, I did figure out the answer to my first two questions in the next couple of years, it took me another decade to finally find the answer to the last. I made mistakes, I gave up, I met people I thought were going to stick around forever and who didn’t. I always just wondered if I would ever live a normal life; a life where someday I could say “I was just like the rest”; that I had finally conformed. But God has always had different plans for me. Life has been a struggle; like wrestling with a hippopotamus. But once life becomes easy, I’ve always gotten bored. There was no way God was going to let me do anything in life without breaking at least a million rules.

God is weird. He makes strange and unsettling decisions for us and expects us to adjust. He throws such wrenches into our plans, that I’m surprised we get anything done. But I guess it’s a good way of getting our heads out of our asses. It’s also a great way of ensuring that we don’t get bored. Boredom kills and it can only be revived by constantly having to battle against life.

The strangeness of being the person I became, however, should have warned me, a long time back, that my life was not ever going to go according to any plan I contrived. I am not traditionally inclined; my parents didn’t raise me to be. I am most unladylike. I am loud and obnoxious and not entirely stupid. None of these things allows me to be classified as a woman who would “fit in” to what our society expects. I was always going to remain at the fringes when it came to our society. But then, what is deemed controversial in one society, is applauded in another. And even though no rishte wali Aunty could possibly help me, my mom never gave up hope. However, no matchmaker was a match for my unconventional existence. Believe me, my mother tried very hard. My mom believes in fate though and to an extent, so do I. So we’ll call it that. Rest assured that I am happy now that I’ve met my “fate.” So is my mom. I feel like a burden has been taken off of them. They were starting to question their child-rearing decisions. I don’t think they did too bad though, as parents. They did ready us kids for the world. It’s just that that world wasn’t Pakistan.

All in all, lifes good and as mundane as I can possibly tolerate without loosing my mind to boredom. I got a new job that I love, that motivates and inspires me to learn; that makes my mind churn. That makes me doubt my abilities and yet, when I overcome those doubts and the obstacles it throws in my life, it rewards me with a euphoric exuberance that takes weeks to dissipate. What more could I possibly want?

Well, having a cat would be nice.

Coding

Reading code is the most engaging activity I have ever taken part in. I love it. I love that my love for reading isn’t just limited to English and that unusual syntax isn’t something my brain considers an obstacle. Walking through code, line-by-line, and tracing it so that it reveals what it is meant to do is the most exhilarating experience. Everyone should be able to read code. It is like a flower that slowly blooms over time. Only, you experience it in the form of a time-lapse video that your mind controls by understanding.

Coding is 90% organization and planning; 9% creativity and 1% syntax and I love every minute of it.

My brain is a problem-solving machine and if everyone in the world could see everything in our life as a sequence of problems we are meant to solve, our lives would be so much easier. Except for the part where we actually have to deal with other people. That cannot be problem solved. Feelings and emotions are a pain in the ass and they cannot be quantified or problem solved. They are completely illogical and should have no place on earth.

My mind is hungry for problems. It is craving for the chance to flex and stretch and spread. It needs to collect the context in which most problems reside and so I rely on books. Besides that though, it just needs puzzles to solve. And the. The rush you get as soon as you solve a problem and get your code to work just the way you want it to, ahhhhh because you knew it was going to work, because you could feel it in your bones! That is the rush of dopamine I crave.

Caffeine buzz

I realize now why people love coffee to the point where they become addicts. It’s not just the life-style that they are addicted to. It is definitely because of the rush of happiness it gives you, the rush of adrenaline, the rush of serotonin. Or just the rush of plain old excitement; a feeling that you can achieve anything once you take the first sip of warm goodness.

It makes me feel like I am all set to take over the world and still have some energy leftover. The life-style, of course, helps. Sitting by a window with a cup of coffee in your hands, cozy in your favorite over-sized sweater, with your favorite book in your lap; ummm imagine that warm and fuzzy feeling. I’m feeling sleepy just thinking about it. I want to curl up on my couch with a book or sit at a desk by a window with my computer and my paper coffee cup by my side, warm to the touch.

Of course, along with the memory of this feeling comes the feeling of contentment, of no-stress, which is not the case in my life right now. I can’t curl up on my couch or in a corner with a cup of coffee and my favorite book because I have too much to study. And that’s where this drink comes in for me.

And it’s really not even the caffeine hit that does wonders for me. It’s me fooling myself into thinking that my drink is going to make a difference to my mindset because my drink usually consists of 80% hot chocolate and 20% mocha. The total amount of coffee present in my drink amounts to less than 10%, I guess. It’s just the idea in my mind that this will give me the emotional boost, the motivation to finish my work or to look forward to it. It is the idea of a beginning, of a start of a day with coffee. Psychological pick-me-up rather than actual chemicals doing all the work.

Oh, how marketing works in favor of these coffee chains. Giving us the impression that it’s cool to have a kick in your butt so early in the day because all the hipsters are doing it.