Past, Present, and Future of the Mind

Let’s play a game. Imagine yourself from 10, 15, or 20 years ago. What do you remember? Do you see that time in your life through rose-colored glasses, or does even thinking about it make you cringe? If you asked other people about that time in your life, how do you think they would answer?

Now let’s flip it around in the other direction. Imagine that 10, 15, or 20 years ago someone asked you what your life was going to be like that many years in the future. What would you have said? Where would you have expected yourself to be? What would your closest friends and family have said?

Here’s the thing: human beings are absolutely awful at both viewing the past and predicting the future because our brains tend to want to glorify or vilify everything. Did you get teased a lot as a kid? Even if it was bad, you probably remember it being a lot worse than it really was because the memories of the teasing overwrite the good times in your mind. . Did you party every night in college and have the time of your life? Even if there were lots of awesome moments your brain probably glazes over all the epic hangovers and panicked all-nighters. As for the future, did you imagine yourself in your perfect job with an awesome house and a cool car, because you knew that you would settle for nothing less? Yeahhhh…how did that work out for you? That’s not to say that your life turned out poorly, but if you were to answer honestly how many of you ended up exactly where you expected to be when you thought about the future a decade ago?

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Can you say “Throwback Thursday”?

16-17 years ago (man, that makes me feel old…) I was in the middle of junior high, which for those of you who don’t have the same kind of school system set-up, is the 8th grade, or 9th actual year of public school. That’s me, second from the left in the first row, taking a weird pose because there actually wasn’t enough room for me on the end of the bench and the guy who was taking the photo couldn’t have cared less. I do not recall this time in my life with a great deal of fondness. Junior high is a period of time during which young people start to be real jerks to each other, and I exacerbated that by being an awkward, self-conscious nerd. I was constantly teased and tormented because I was good in school and liked things like Star Wars and anime, and I made myself an even bigger target by neglecting to keep up with my peers…I didn’t wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, or pick up the right habits. I was a loser, and I was convinced that I was both fat and ugly. Seriously, look up at that picture again, and consider the fact that I thought I was fat and ugly. It was an absolutely awful period in my life.

Except, that’s not exactly true; it’s just the way the awkward, self-conscious girl in the back of my mind wants me to remember it. The truth is that I had several good friends, many of them in this picture with me, and we had lots of great times together. I was making excellent grades, developing a life-long love with writing, and I was in the best health of my life. I had an excellent support system in my friends and family, and I had the freedom to choose what clothes I wanted to wear, what music I wanted to listen to, and what habits I wanted to keep. I was a good kid with a good life. It’s just difficult to remember this because time has a way of warping memories in one direction or the other. The teasing and tormenting left a mark on my psyche that persists to this day, always desperately trying to push the good out of the way so that I have to focus on the bad.

Thinking into the future, of course, is a different beast because it doesn’t involve memories, but it’s similar in that we rarely see it the way it is likely to turn out. When a junior high student thinks about her future life and career she doesn’t consider that her hopes and ambitions may have changed, that her priorities may have shifted, or that the opportunities that she took for granted would be available may have never shown up. Back in the days of the above photo, I knew that I was going to be a writer. I’d had other dreams and ambitions up to this point, but right then, right there, I knew for sure that there was no way I was going to be anything else. I was going to write novels, and someone was going to pay me to do it, and I was going to be happy with that. I had no image in my head to represent a husband or children, because those things meant nothing to me at the time. I never would have imagined living anywhere except right in my own hometown, because the concept of not being able to work and live right there was ridiculous. If you had told me that I was going to end up working a job that required me to spend 20 hours on a plane twice a month and work 12-hour days for 14 days straight, I would probably have fallen into a deep depression because that couldn’t have been further from the “reality” that I had in my mind.

And yet, my life has turned out pretty wonderfully. I have a loving husband and a beautiful daughter, and we live in a great house in a quiet part of town. At 30 years old I am very close to having all of my debts gone. My job is not ideal, but it allows me to have extended periods of time off with my family. I’m surrounded by things I love, and I even managed to go ahead and publish a novel as well. Past me may have looked at this picture and seen a hundred things wrong, but future me thinks that things developed pretty well.

And I find that kind of funny, myself. The human mind is a strange thing that likes to warp memories and distort future realities, and only by understanding that can we create a more accurate image in our minds of our own lives.

So look back at the questions above again. How do you remember yourself from the past? Can you admit that your recollection might be a little warped by the extreme good or the extreme bad? What about the present? How different is your current life from the expectations you had in the past? Now take a look at the future. Can you imagine it with clarity and realism, knowing that we can rarely predict such things with accuracy?

5 Items to Save

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Burning Down the House.” Today the prompters over at The Daily Post challenge us to choose our most precious possessions. They tell us that our house is on fire; assuming that all people and pets are already safe, what five items would you grab to save if you […]

Memorable Moments

642Things

Note: Today’s post is courtesy of a prompt from “642 Things to Write About“. Today’s prompt is “Re-create your earliest childhood memory.”

It’s hard to say exactly when kids begin creating lasting memories. Some people will say they can remember things that happened when they were 2 years old, while others can’t remember much before they were school age. And there’s a lot of psychological factors to consider too, such as how people tend to “remember” their childhood the way it is described to them, and can therefore be tricked into remembering events that never actually happened. Taking such things into account, it’s difficult to accurately re-create my earliest childhood memory, but I can tell you what I think it is.

It was my third birthday party. The party was being held in my parent’s basement, which had a very old-school 70’s kind of look to it at the time, with floral furniture in many shades of brown and a long, wood-paneled bar that split the main room almost completely in half. My whole family was there; my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, amongst others. My hair was pretty long at that point, pulled out of my face by a bow, and I was wearing a pretty blue party dress.

I remember playing with balloons, throwing them up in the air and trying not to let them hit the ground. I vaguely remember the cake…I think it was in the shape of a Cabbage Patch doll. I remember being asked to pose for pictures, because my entire life my dad was always taking a million pictures.

But the thing I remember the most, the thing that makes this memory stand out in my mind as my first, is when my mom came down with the cake, lit up with a number 3 candle. My cousin Tommy, who is only a couple of months older than me, proclaimed that he was going to blow out the candle, and I had a fit. I can remember screaming at him, “It’s my candle!” And he shouted back, “No, it’s mine!” Back and forth we went, screaming, “Mine!” “No, mine!” “Mine!” “MINE!”

In order to avoid a full blow kid-pocalypse, my mother held out the candle for me to blow out, and then re-lit it so Tommy could blow it out too. The next thing you knew all the other kids at the party were running over to take their turn. My mother ended up lighting that candle about twelve times, just so it wouldn’t cause a fight. And I guess it worked, because I was perfectly satisfied with the solution and my mind quickly turned to presents. Ah, the attention span of a 3-year-old.

Size Matters

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Call me immature, but I chuckled a little when I saw the title for today’s assignment. I had to drag my mind back up out of the gutter, however, because today’s post is about a part of childhood.

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you? Today’s twist: Pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

———-

I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada. The house I lived in when I was twelve is actually the same house my parents live in to this day, but it looks much different now. It is a bungalow-style house with a single floor and a concrete-foundation basement. When I was twelve we had already put the siding on – it’s a very pale green. Back then there were several large bushes in the front yard, right up against the house.

There were three bedrooms and one bathroom back then, and each of the bedrooms were fairly small. My parent’s bed took up most of the length of their room; there was barely enough room to have the dresser at the foot of the bed and still be able to open the drawers. At that time I took the smaller of the two remaining rooms because I wanted the room that looked out onto the street. For the life of me I can’t remember why…because I was a kid, I suppose, and kids are weird in the head sometimes. The room was long and thin with the type of closet that expands out into the room, taking up even more space.

The living room ran into the dining room. A wall separated them both from the kitchen, but my father busted a hole through the wall and put up a see-through shelf so that the whole area felt more open. The kitchen was all oak-colored cupboards and white appliances, and the window looked out into the back yard. The bathroom was only as wide as the tub, which had sliding glass doors instead of a shower curtain. The window in there was a textured, stained glass kind of thing meant to hide the person in the shower from the outside, and I hated it because it felt weird.

The basement walls were all jip-rocked, but I don’t think we had anything down for flooring at that point. The laundry room also housed the furnance and the oil tank. Back then you could have your oil tank physically inside your house without your insurance provider having a fit. I always thought that room was super creepy for some reason. It reminded me of something out of a Freddy Krueger movie.

One thing I remember distinctly about the house in those days was the ridiculous electrical wiring. If my mom tried to blow dry her hair while the washing machine was running and the refrigerator cut in, we’d blow a fuse. If I was watching TV in my room while mom was running the vacuum in the living room and dad turned the microwave on, we’d blow a fuse. The most ridiculous combinations of circuits would be wired to the same fuse, so that it was nearly impossible for all three of us to be doing something at the same time without blowing one. Eventually my dad snapped and had an electrician come in to fix up the box, but when I was a kid the constantly-blowing fuses were a kind of laughable truth of life.

The Times, They are A’Changin’

We rarely notice it happening, but we all change as we grow. Some things may remain the same, like our taste in movies or our favorite book, but as the world changes around us so too do we. Our attitudes and opinions evolve, the way we react to certain situations transform, and our memories transform to match the way we want to remember them. It’s human nature. The way we look at something tomorrow may be dramatically different from the way we look at it today.

On my “About My Projects” page I have a short description of a current work-in-progress that I’ve referred to as “Parallels” since it’s conception in my mind almost ten years ago. I began writing this particular story during an upsetting time in my life, and the story reflected that. The first few chapters, if you knew enough to know where to look, were all about me, about my thoughts and feelings, and how I wished a big, crazy adventure would sweep me away from those thoughts and feelings. I spent a lot of time on that first version of the story, until I had probably somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 words…and then I started all over from scratch.

It might seem illogical. After all, you wouldn’t stop reading a book halfway through and start over from the beginning, so why would you do the same while writing a book?

The reason is that my attitudes had changed. Events had occurred that made me think different, made me want to modify the story. And so I began again, with changes to the plot, changes to the main character, and changes to the overall tone of the story. This time I think I wrote somewhere around 15,000 words.

You might see where this is going now, and why this particular piece has been in the works for almost a decade. Until a couple of years ago I would only write every now and then, when I got the chance or when the fancy struck me, so by the time I would get around to adding some more to this work-in-progress things would have changed again. Attitudes, feelings, perceptions, the world around me, and how I thought readers would react to the story. When I first began writing this story I was writing it just for me, with no intent that anyone would ever actually read it, but as time went on I felt that it could actually become something worth publishing, something worth sharing with the world. But not in any of its previous forms.

The worst form was actually a webcomic version that involved this little fella.
The worst of the several forms was actually a web-comic version that involved this little fella.
Cute though, eh?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this work recently. With my zombie apocalypse novel nearing completion, I’ll need to put my efforts into something else, and I want it to be this piece. Though I’ve already done it a dozen times, I want to start over again, this time with a much more adult, professional view of the world and what readers want. I have a desire for this story to be told, and for the first time in the past decade I believe I know exactly how I want to tell it.

The story will be changed quite a deal, from the issues that plague the main character, to the number and nature of supporting characters, the length and format of the overall story, and many things in between. For one thing, I’ve decided that instead of the 100,000+ word single adventure that I was originally envisioning, this story will henceforth be a series. I do not yet know how much I will be able to stretch the story out, but I anticipate 6 books. If that seems like an outrageous stretch (after all, each book would have to be somewhere in the range of 70,000 words, which means more than four times the original length I had expected), don’t worry. I have lots of plans. Previously this story went from point A to point B to point C, and so on, but there are lots of modifications that can be made, subplots that can be added.

There will be lots of other changes to ensure that this story is the best that it can be, but suffice it to say that despite my usual tendency to deal with things as they come, I’ve got lots of big ideas and plans for this and it’s all really rather exciting.

It’s not always expected, and we don’t always notice it happening, but sometimes change is an excellent thing, don’t you think?

Merry Christmas Memories

Christmastime is nearly here, and my household is getting pretty darn excited. Christmas is my favorite time of year, bar none, so with tomorrow being Christmas Eve I thought I’d share some favorite moments, memories, and traditions.

Not much has changed in almost 30 years...lol
Not much has changed in almost 30 years…lol

– Even during the times when my family didn’t necessarily have a lot of money, I was always spoiled at Christmas. I can’t remember a single holiday season when I didn’t get a few presents that absolutely shocked and amazed me. And even though my parents weren’t always very knowledgeable about the things I liked (hello…my mother still called video games “movies” until I was about sixteen), they always managed to pay enough attention to get me the best presents. I still remember the year I got my original Nintendo Entertainment System, even though I hadn’t been brave enough to ask for one, and nothing beat the year my parents managed to track down a used copy of the game I rented every single week – Final Fantasy III (VI). Those kinds of gifts, regardless of cost or how new or popular they were, really proved to me that my parents cared about giving me an awesome holiday, and I plan to try my very hardest to continue that tradition with my own daughter.

– Call me an old-timer if you wish, but I swear this is the truth: young people these days are selfish when it comes to work and holidays. It seems like every young employee out there, regardless of how little time they’ve been with their company, seems to think that they deserve every holiday off – with pay of course! I wish all of them could experience some of the earlier Christmases that my mother experienced when I was a child. My mother used to have to work every year on Christmas. Her shift was 7 am to 3 pm. She would get up with my father and I at about 5 am so that I could open my presents before she had to go to work, and most years she would even get the turkey going in the oven sometime in between those presents. After being up super-early she would go do her 8-hour shift, come home and get the veggies on the stove, and have Christmas dinner on the table by 5. That’s not to mention all the little things I didn’t even notice as a child, like cleaning up after dinner, sweeping away all the wrapping paper, and playing host to all the family members who would come visit us in the evening. Plus I was one of those kids who was up half the night on Christmas Eve, so mom and dad were probably up until midnight, assembling toys and arranging presents under the tree. And mom never whined about having to work the holiday.

– I have this Christmas calendar that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those homemade deals, made with felt and dowels. It has a nice picture of Santa and Mrs Claus on the top, and all the dates have little pockets, which hold a little felt mouse who marks the date. I loved that calendar when I was little, and I’ve kept it all this time, and you can’t imagine how happy it makes me feel to watch my daughter move that little mouse every day with a big smile on her face. The important traditions are the ones that you pass on and that make your heart full.

– Some traditions carry on, but some change or disappear completely. When I was little I always got to open one present on Christmas Eve…it was almost always pajamas, but at least I got to open something. In my husband’s family they didn’t do that, and he holds firm to that level of self-restraint. There will be no opening of gifts early in this household. Our daughter will just have to deal with the stress. XD

– In past years I’ve received many an eye-roll or snarky comment from my parents and inlaws, relating to the gifts my husband and I buy for each other at Christmas. We’re huge kids at this time of year, and often times there’s a stuffed toy or two for me, an action figure or collectible for him, or something else terribly silly. Half the time in recent years our daughter has ended up being the one to play with these gifts, and our older family members look at us like we’re nuts, or going through a second childhood or something. To them I blow a raspberry and stick up my nose. My husband and I love being silly and fun with each other, and that’s all there is to it. The day we stop having fun with each other at Christmas is the day we may as well just give up. Here’s to many, many more years of ridiculously childish gifts!

– Three years ago I got the best early Christmas gift a person could ever get. My little baby girl was born on December 4th, and though she’s opened presents and enjoyed the spoils within in past years, this will be the first year that she really has some clue as to what is happening. You can’t imagine how excited I am to get her up on Christmas morning, to show her that Santa Claus has come and left her lots of goodies, and to sit all day and watch her tear at wrapping paper and awe at all her wonderful new toys. That, to me, is so much better than opening presents myself. To just sit there and see the joy on her face as she rips open each new toy…that’s the meaning of Christmas to me.

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Like mother, like daughter!

So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or the holiday greeting of your choice to you all. May you enjoy the season in whichever way you choose, hopefully surrounded by loved ones and lots of fun. That’s my plan. 🙂

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Erased (Chapter 4 – Part 1)

This is the last bit of Erased that I have that is fit to be shared (the rest are random scenes I wrote as they popped into my head, so they won’t make any logical sense to anyone who doesn’t already know where the story is going) so I figured I may as well share it before moving on to something else.

Remember, this is a very rough draft, and if you want to read the other pieces of Erased that have been posted, choose the ‘Erased’ option from the Category drop-down banner on the left sidebar. Enjoy!

After the ‘Augmentation’ room, the rest of the facility seemed oddly mild by comparison. As a group they retraced their tracks and checked every ‘bunk’ room to ensure that there wasn’t anyone else still laying in stasis. When they reached the room that had been demolished, Toreshi hauled her note board from Bodhi’s pack and showed them the scraps of paper she’d found. Ashes examined the ripped scrap of name and scrunched up her nose. “I think I saw this on one of the lockers…” she said, and then nodded to herself, “Yes…the full name is Chaotic.”

Knowing the name, Toreshi was again somewhat glad they hadn’t come across this particular person.

They stopped only for a short while in the cafeteria, grabbing whatever they could find that could be eaten while they walked, and continued on through another hallway, at the end of which was a door with another security keypad. This one, as well, had been smashed, the door hanging open. Siora went through first, cautiously but confidently, and they found themselves in what looked like a large reception area. This was the first room yet that wasn’t white. Alternately, it was entirely black, from floor to ceiling. A large, empty security desk stood to one side, behind which were rows and rows of monitors, many more than in the testing room; they showed every inch of the facility that they’d already traveled through. There was only one other door in this room, a small, plain black door, exactly opposite the security desk.

Kattenya took a deep breath as Siora strode forward and hastily pulled the door open.

Even from behind, Toreshi could see the shock that rippled through Siora’s body. They all saw it and quickly moved forward to see what had surprised him so.

In silence, and with their jaws unhinged once more, the group of five stepped out into the desolate landscape.

Toreshi’s first notion was that it was so flat. The red dirt ground stretched impossibly flat in every direction. There were no hills, no water, not so much as a single rock to blemish the view. The sun was beginning to set, giving the sky a somewhat creepy pink glow, and a few stars were starting to peak out. There were no other buildings, no vehicles, no plants or animals, no people. It was a completely desolate wasteland.

“Oh my god…” Kattenya groaned, “Look at that.” She pointed a wavering finger upward.

They all followed the path of Kattenya’s finger and found themselves gasping in horror and alarm.

There were three moons rising in the sky.

It took a long time before anyone spoke. Surprisingly, it was Siora.

“I’m gonna go see if there’s anything behind the building,” he said, his voice deceptively calm. He immediately turned and began walking without waiting for a response, but Bodhi quickly moved after him with a clipped, “I’ll come.”

The women had a harder time tearing their eyes from the sky while the men walked away.

“What does it mean?” Katt eventually asked, her voice barely a whisper.

Ashes answered after a long moment. “Well I don’t know about the rest of you,” she said, “But here’s the thing…my memories are gone, that’s for sure, but the logical things, the common sense stuff, that’s all still in there.” She turned to look at the other women to see if they were getting what she was saying, and continued when it seemed like they were. “Like for instance, I know that I’m a human woman from a planet called Earth. And as far as my brain is letting me recall, I know that the Earth only has one damn moon. So logically…”

“We’re on a different planet,” Tore finished for her. She found the thought frightening, but also exciting and curious. “But I don’t recall anything about mankind having accomplished interplanetary travel.”

“Maybe that’s one of the memories they took,” Katt suggested. When the other two women gave her funny looks she rolled her eyes. “Oh come on,” she said, “Look at us. We all ‘wake up’ strapped down and hooked up to all kinds of chemicals? It’s pretty obvious that whoever put us there wiped our memories somehow.” The look on her face was one of sad resignation.

“Not necessarily,” Tore insisted stubbornly, “The memory loss could just be a side effect from one of the chemicals, or the sleep.”

“Or post traumatic stress…” Ashes muttered.

Tore thought about the pictures on her surgical file and couldn’t disagree with the theory.

Sail Off in a Wooden Shoe

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

5. Your first memory of books or reading

If I really stretch back as far as my memory can handle, some of my first memories of books involve these big kids books you used to be able to buy at the gas stations. I had a ton of them, but one in particular was full of nursery rhymes, and that’s the one I remember the most. I used to sit on my grandmother’s lap when she was babysitting me, and we’d read about the three little kittens who lost their mittens, and how that hussy dish kept running away with the spoon. But the rhyme we read the most was Winken, Blinken, and Nod. To this day my grandmother still asks me what page that rhyme was on, just to see if I remember (it was 9, for the record).

Colds and Memories

It’s finally starting to feel like spring in Atlantic Canada, and with that tends to come a desire to do better. ‘Better’ here refers to anything and everything. I want to write better, do better with the chores and errands, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, whenever I tend to get into these “wanting to do better” moods, something always shows up to put an end to it. In this case, that something is the fact that my daughter and husband are sick as dogs. The little missy threw up sometime after supper on Sunday and just went downhill from there, and by late that night my husband had started to feel it as well. As I type this, my daughter is in bed early, after spending most of the evening groaning and moaning and refusing to eat or drink anything. Its really quite a sin. Small children shouldn’t be allowed to get sick, especially when they’re still too young for you to be able to explain that having something to eat or drink will make them feel better. 😦

And because I don’t want this post to be nothing but baby misery, here’s something completely random:

I was wandering by Tumblr today because my friend has a blog there. For those of you who don’t know, Tumblr has a little automated bot called, creatively enough, TumblrBot, which randomly spits questions at you as ideas for something to blog about. While I was reading a message my friend had left me, I noticed that TumblrBot had left me a question: “What is your earliest human memory?” So I thought about it, and you know what? Hard question! Not because I can’t pick out any specific memories, but because I can’t seem to recall how old I was during these memories. For example, one of the first memories that came to mind was one of my cousin Tommy and I trying to make instant juice at his house. The reason the memory is a memorable one is because we didn’t read the directions right and ended up wasting several packets of the juice crystals. We never actually got the juice. Anyway, I know we were young in that memory, but I can’t remember how young. Old enough to reach the kitchen counters, so not really young.

So what is my earliest memory? I have no idea. But if I had to hazard a guess, I have a hazy memory of being at home when I was really young, back when my parents still had a ton of carpet throughout the house. I was playing on the floor of our kitchen with some kind of Barbie pool playset. I specifically remember there was a toy pool of some sort and mom let me have water in it as long as I stayed on the kitchen floor. I think there were also people visiting at the time, because my memory wants to tell me that there were multiple people in the kitchen with us. I think I may have been somewhere around the age of 4 or 5.

Not a particularly interesting memory, but an interesting concept. So share with me…what’s your earliest memory?