Who could disagree with this saying?
Those crazy nights that often involve alcohol, friends, loud music and irresponsible behavior—those are the ones that remain permanently etched in your mind.
You’re probably not going to say something like, “For the past month, I’ve slept at least eight hours every single night. It’s been AMAZING!”
Everyone enjoys talking about the wonderful things that have happened in the past and reminiscing about the good old days.
It’s also undeniable that shared memories bond people together. That’s why leaders intentionally create shared experiences in an attempt to foster unity and camaraderie.
Why good memories can be bad
But, at the same time, I think that memories are overrated.
The increased accessibility to innovations like photography has made it possible to conveniently record our memories—maybe too conveniently. It’s not uncommon to see people at any sort of event who are so intent on snapping the perfect picture that they forget to take it all in, to fully experience the sights, sounds and emotions. (I’ll admit that sometimes I’m guilty of this too!)
They’re so caught up trying to capture the moment that they fail to enjoy the moment.
The over-glorification of memories often causes the present moment to be eroded of its rightful significance. After all, the only moment we ever really have is the present one. It’s in the present moment that we experience life and create lasting success.
Moreover, if we focus too much on memories, it’s possible that we can become inward-looking and self-centered.
Making selfish memories?
I have a story that illustrates this.
More than 15 years ago, my Aunt Violet passed away after an agonizing battle with cancer. In the last few months of her life, the cancer reduced her to a walking skeleton and robbed her of some of her mental capacity, too.
It was heartbreaking to watch Aunt Violet degenerate physically.
But it was especially shocking when Aunt Violet’s good friend (I’ll call her Jane) declared that she wasn’t going to visit any more.
The reason? Jane wanted to preserve her memory of Aunt Violet as a strong, healthy and happy person. If Jane had frequently visited Aunt Violet in the hospital, Jane would have remembered her as a frail, emaciated and exhausted person instead.
Is it understandable that Jane made that decision? Sure.
But was it also an inward-looking one that prevented Aunt Violet from saying a proper farewell to her good friend Jane? Without a doubt.
Because our memories only exist inside of our own head—and no one else’s—the desire to make pleasant memories can be an insular one that, at times, has selfish motivations.
Create meaning, not memories
All this talk about the value of memories begs a deeper question: What’s the point of life, anyway?
I don’t claim to know the exact meaning of life, but I do know that life isn’t mainly about accumulating fond memories. If that were the primary purpose of life, that would be far too trivial a reason for our existence.
Life is much more about making a difference in the lives of others, about contributing, about loving people, about being immersed in a story that’s far greater than yourself.
The point of life isn’t to create more and more fantastic, unforgettable and epic memories. Rather, I believe that life is largely about creating meaning.
Amazing memories ought to be the by-product of purposeful living. Memories are little treasures that you pick up along the way, but they aren’t what the journey is about.
In closing, a memorable life isn’t necessarily a meaningful one, but a meaningful life is certainly a memorable one.
So let’s choose meaning over memories. Ironically, that’s the way to create the most beautiful memories of all.