I Will Be a Memory
I often feel a dissonance between who I am and who I was. Isn’t it frustrating To not relate to yourself?
By lizzie RACKLIN
Five years ago: my weekly freshman year routine of getting high and watching Riverdale (“like, as a joke, ‘cause it’s so bad”) with my friend. We shared custody of a dab pen, which we’d bought from a guy with a backpack in H&M business casual attire. He was wearing loafers with no socks, a lot of cologne, and was a friend of a friend. We took a cab to meet him in Flatiron because we didn’t know how to move around the city yet.
Now all of that is a memory and I barely recognize that eighteen-year-old as myself, even though at the time I felt fully formed. I had a weekly routine and a friend to laugh with on the floor of a dorm room.
Thirteen years ago: I was in the fourth grade and I had an inexplicable love for the sitcom Reba. There was no reason for me to be interested in the show—no one else in my house watched it, we had no familial love for country music, and I had no idea who Reba McEntire was. But (my mother insists this is true) I would watch for hours, alone in the living room.
My issue with this part of my sure-to-be-written life story is that I hardly remember watching Reba. I definitely don’t remember having a brain that would be entertained by it for hours on end.
I feel this dissonance, between who I am and who I was, annoyingly often. Isn’t it frustrating? To not relate to yourself?
Going through my family’s now-disused iTunes library is similarly jarring. A randomly acquired collection of movies and TV shows, it’s a look at the things I watched before I was really paying attention. I trusted my parents’ and my older sister’s taste blindly, watching anything they bought or downloaded because it was free. Movies and shows would land on the old MacBook I’d inherited (which looked like it was made out of melted Mentos and got hot the second you connected to the internet), and I’d just hit play.
My brain was so squishy and my taste so arbitrary, so dependent on what my older sister’s friends said was cool. When you’re a kid, you stumble across a movie and decide it’s good just because you watched it. You absorb these things into your sense of self, adding them to your subconscious list of “things you like, things you can talk about and share with others.”
Twelve years ago: someone in my family purchased Becoming Jane. I watched it on a plane when I was about eleven, before I’d ever read Jane Austen, because it had downloaded automatically and I had no WiFi. When the credits rolled, the score carried over the black screen and I closed my eyes. In an almost meditative state, I told myself that whenever I heard an instrumental score in a movie, I should close my eyes for a second.
I remember nothing about Becoming Jane except that sweet, juvenile promise, but it must have moved me if I found the score so profound. Now, I break that promise every time I watch a movie, but at some point, I was someone who thought I could keep it.
Nine years ago: my sister bought The Royal Tenenbaums. I watched it at around age fourteen, and when it ended, I thought, “That’s my favorite movie.” No, “That’s my favorite film.” It was my entrée into what I considered cinema, and while I still hold that movie (and its unimpeachably excellent soundtrack) dear to my heart, I wince at the twee wallpaper and the sepia-drenched slo-mo shots.
Nine or so years ago: also the age where I bought items of clothing solely because the frontmen of bands I loved had worn them. I tried to convince myself that I had synesthesia because I wanted to be interesting and I kept concert wristbands on for days because I wanted everyone to know I’d been places. My sister went to college and I put my car keys on her NYU lanyard because I wanted them to know I was going places too.
It’s disorienting to recall these moments, to know I lived them, but to not be able to tangibly relate to the person who created an identity around them. We cling to the things we like as representations of ourselves, so recoiling from the things we once loved has an uncanny quality, like looking at an old photo and realizing, after a moment, that the person with swooping side bangs and a concerningly tight ponytail is, in fact, you.
Some choices I don’t remember making
Six years ago: when I was a junior in high school, I introduced a boy I liked and eventually hurt to The Strokes. As we whispered about our favorite albums in a church pew, I felt I’d shown him I was the most interesting (non-believing, half-Jewish) member of that Unitarian congregation, even though they were the most popular band of the era.
I stand by a lot of the things I loved in my early teenage years, but the exalting of my generally conventional taste as distinct and esoteric, a classic suburban high school impulse, is pretty embarrassing looking back.
That being said, disowning my past selves and their past loves out of embarrassment results in an uncomfortable fragmentation. Whoever I am now is the same person who cried to “The Only Exception” by Paramore and rewatched Stuck in Love countless times. Though I feel a strange disconnect from so many things that used to move me deeply, those things were once meaningful to me, shaping who I was into who I am. And truthfully, “Twin Size Mattress” by The Front Bottoms would probably still bring me to unironic tears, but thank god I didn’t get that tattoo.
Four years ago: when I was a sophomore in college, I took a media studies class that required recurring diary entries. My professor had long hair and a daughter named Cordelia because of Shakespeare. He introduced me to John Berger. In one submission, I mentioned how much I liked the movie Little Miss Sunshine. He circled the title in my essay and wrote “Really?” in the margin. I still don’t know what he meant.
Maybe he meant he loved that movie too, maybe he lost all respect for me. The comforting takeaway is that I was telling the truth about what I loved, I was telling him who I was.
And who am I now? I’m twenty-three and my favorite movie is The Princess Bride if a parent asks, Dog Day Afternoon or maybe In the Mood for Love if a film person asks, Goodfellas if a real guy’s guy asks, and “there is no way for me to answer that question, what does ‘favorite’ even mean” if someone I want to be honest with asks. I’m twenty-three and I tell myself that’s very young because it’s true. I’m twenty-three and I’ve been listening to Indigo De Souza and the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack and the same Bessie Smith song on repeat. I’m twenty-three and I count friends whose parents are doctors as medical professionals. I’m twenty-three and I went on a date with a tennis coach who told me I talked like a novelist.
I’m twenty-three and I sang along to Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”—a favorite from the family iTunes library—in the back of a questionable cab with my sister while the tires gave out and the driver used a magnifying glass to read the newspaper at red lights.
I’m twenty-three and today I saw an Instagram ad of a woman in her seventies doing a straight-to-camera testimonial for a color-correcting moisturizer. Her cheeks were covered in bruises and scrapes and she laughed, explaining that she’d fallen on her face. She applied the product and it covered her injuries beautifully. You could still see them underneath the skin tint, but just barely. I tried to watch the whole video, but I was at work and someone asked me something. I’m twenty-three and next year I’ll be different.
If I read this in a few years, maybe a few months, I might hate everything I wrote. But I liked it when I sent in the final draft.