Your Memories Are Merely a Reflection of the People You've Met
And some people choose to be happy on purpose.
The new age of social media and online culture has shifted the ways in which we think about human interaction. Impact is now influence, and identity has become one’s brand. As a teenager, I often “cut people out.” Now, we are “cancelling” everyone. The language we use to describe humanity may change, but the connectedness remains the same. Describing the effects of human interaction as impact or influence does not alter the result: the presence of others changes us profoundly, and the label we attach to this power evolves with us as a society.
Modern spiritualists seek meaning in energetic exchange, but what they are describing is simply one’s internalization of said energy that was exchanged. We consolidate experiences to memory through a structure in the brain called the hippocampus. The information gathered prior to the consolidation process is influenced by one’s experience, and experience is manipulated by humanity.
Let’s contextualize this theory:
You wake up early and drive two hours in the dark to watch the sunrise over the ocean. You drove alone, but you enjoyed the two hour drive while munching on donuts and singing the lyrics to your favorite songs. After you arrive, you wait 30 minutes for the first few rays of sunlight to reflect on the surface of the water, but the reflection never appears. Instead, the sky gradually gets brighter, but remains a solid shade of gray. It’s cloudy, you sigh. Suddenly, you’re back in the car, heading home with a suffocating sense of defeat. What will you remember from that day? More likely than not, you’ll remember the “let down” or the “time wasted” trying to catch a beautiful sunrise.
Now, imagine yourself driving two hours in the dark to watch this same sunrise over the ocean with three of your closest friends. You are passing around a box of donuts and everyone is belting lyrics to your favorite songs in-between bites. You still wait 30 minutes to catch the first few rays of sunlight reflect on the surface of the water and are met with the same shade of gray as before, but you’ll remember this experience differently. Why? Because the people you experienced with it manipulated that memory. You’ll remember the depressing shade of gray in the sky, but you’ll also remember the sprinkles flying off of your friend’s lips when she attempted the high notes in Beyonce’s “Love On Top,” and that memory alone will ignite feelings of nostalgia for years to come.
The skeptics will argue, "But that is a different memory altogether; the friends weren’t involved in the original scenario.” To that, I say… fine. Let’s paint a different picture:
You are walking down a New York City sidewalk on a bright, sunny day. The people around you are laughing, and you are feeling optimistic about the remainder of the day ahead when a big gray storm cloud rolls in overhead. The people around you stop laughing, and your optimism fades into uncertainty when the cloud lets out a sudden downpour of rain. The people around you start screaming as they run for cover. What will you remember? Likely the people screaming as they searched for coverage and the stress of the day as a whole, regardless of how optimistic you felt in the beginning.
Now, you are walking down this same New York City sidewalk on the same bright, sunny day. The people are laughing and you’re feeling optimistic when a big gray storm cloud rolls in overhead. The people around you stop laughing, your optimism fades, and the cloud lets out a sudden downpour of rain, but—this time—the people start laughing while they run for cover. What will you remember? Likely the sounds of the laughter as everyone runs in the rain, and the silliness of the situation due to the positivity of those surrounding you.
If you’ve historically surrounded yourself with negative people, your collection of memories likely contains a filter clouded with their negativity, because you participated in that negative energy exchange. On the contrary, if you surround yourself with optimistic people who can make light of a difficult situation, your hippocampus will store some of the positive aspects of those experiences—regardless of how negative the experience was as a whole—because you participated in a variety of energy exchanges.
If you’re still not convinced, I’ll give you a personal example:
A recent “what-else-could-possibly-go-wrong” type day occurred while I was traveling by car from the southernmost tip of South America in a small town called Ushuaia to Punta Arenas, another small town further north in Chile—across the border. I started the early-morning drive with a lack of coffee and a mild case of food poisoning. Two hours into the drive, my back right tire blew to shreds. I was stranded in the middle of nowhere with absolutely none of the necessities: caffeine, cell service, or basic knowledge of how to change a tire. Fortunately, two men pulled over just ten minutes later. These kind, Argentinian men—who spoke neither English nor textbook Spanish, aka none of the languages I can communicate in—spoke to each other in their native dialect while replacing my blown out tire, and had my car back on the road within five minutes.
Upon my return to civilization in the next town, I lost $450 USD and two hours of precious travel time while three mechanics laughed at the monstrosity that my once durable tire had become and got to work on a new, less-laughable replacement. The two hours I spent sitting on the concrete outside of the auto shop created a risk of me missing the car ferry later in the day, when I had to cross a Bahía (bay) from a region called Tierra del Fuego to the mainland, which was after the border crossing. I drove at a whopping speed of 100km/h (or 62 mph) from the auto shop to the border in San Sebastian (clearly I was hesitant to blow two tires in one day) and—nearly unsuccessfully—I crossed the border after an argument with an Argentinian customs official. One hour later, my car made it onto the ferry, and I arrived on the mainland of Chile… with two more hours of driving left until Punta Arenas.
When I look back, I definitely remember all of the chaos that occurred that day in Argentina, but I remember it with a sense of light-hearted irony that doesn’t feel quite as disappointing as the gray sky that clouded the sunrise when I was alone (true story, by the way). Why? Because the people I shared these experiences with exchanged their positive energy with me, which my hippocampus later internalized in its consolidation process. I have a vivid memory of the two men hopping out of their pick-up truck, lost in mid-conversation, as the driver was still throwing the gear shift in park. One foot was on the brake, and the other was halfway out of the car as he climbed out of the truck. My memory also stored the sounds of the laughter from the three mechanics, who uttered sentiments like “que malo” and “pobrecita” (how bad, poor baby), and reassured me they will “reparamos en poco tiempo” (repair in no time) while asking me questions about New York. Because I was in Latin America, “repair in no time” actually just meant “we’ll get to it sometime today,” but the company I shared while wondering if I was ever going to make it across the border that afternoon, let alone onto the car ferry before its final journey across the Bahía that evening, positively manipulated my memory of the experiences.
With this theory in mind, the people we encounter are capable of altering our consciousness, both in real-time and in our consolidated memories. I could have opted to sit in the heaviness of stress and doubt during my emotional rollercoaster in Argentina; instead, I embraced the positive energy of those around me, which lessened the intensity of my own negative energy. As a result, both my conscious awareness in the present moment and my long-term recollection of events were generally positive. Some might describe this as a “happy-go-lucky” type attitude. I simply call it happy on purpose. It is ignorant to deny the fact that our subconscious mind naturally gravitates towards negativity, and we have to consciously choose to be happy.
So, now I ask you: are you surrounding yourself with others who allow you to choose happiness on purpose, or are you caught up in a hamster wheel of negativity, watching others from a distance enjoy their intentional happiness as you simply brand them as “happy-go-lucky” people and assume they naturally feel that way?
The choice is yours. I choose happiness on purpose.
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