While it has brought me a lot of joy and a burst of energy, going back to school in my thirties has definitely forced me to face my growing weaknesses (now there's a fun-filled, wahoo experience). When I was a younger student, I had a pretty darn good memory. In fact, I let my little-engine-that-could memory pull me out of numerous academic fixes, cramming as much information as my poor short-term memory could tolerate, only to eject it clean and empty moments after the exam. I had the audacity to think this meant I was smart.
Now at school, I look at those young students and their fancy next-to-new brains with the same knowing look that I give cute bouncy teenagers on the beach, with their smooth firm figures that they seem to think they earned. My knowing look says "enjoy it while you can" but also "your day will come, sweetheart, just you wait. We've all been 18 before."
I have this sense that every time I put something new in my brain, something else falls out. Other things I decide not to park in there at all...thank goodness for calendars and computers and other gizmos that store information for me! I always cross my fingers that what I'm putting in there ranks more important that what it's replacing but who knows? I leave things behind, I forget appointments, I seem flakier. (Greg makes me feel better when he reads one of his thriller-genre books and, halfway through, says "I think I've read this before." And then continues reading because he can't remember how it ends anyway. Like a whole new book!)
I know, I know, I'm only in my 30s. Some of you will read this and smile indulgently at my whimpering. I'm sure I ain't seen nothing yet. Indulge me, too, then in adding this Billy Collins poem that I love (especially the memories retiring to a fishing village!):
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even
forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
~ Billy Collins