Rarely Fully Present

Why do some people remember everything, while I don’t? Can we learn to be present? It’s not that easy

A peaceful stroll in Bretagne

There’s this Paulo Coelho quote I’ve been pondering:
“To live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life.”

I’ve read similar things in self-help books, that life is about creating beautiful memories with people you love instead of buying material stuff.
But what if you hardly remember those “beautiful memories”? Maybe I would’ve been better off buying that Playstation 5 instead of going on vacation after all.

I’ve thought quite a bit about why my memory is so bad – I can hardly remember what I’ve done and where I’ve been, while others can recall every little detail of a vacation 3 years ago.

A neuroscientist might say some people just have better long-term memory than others, and my short-term memory is better than my long-term one.
A doctor might say it’s ADHD.
A therapist might say it’s some past trauma that causes me to disassociate.
Elon Musk will say it’s because we live in a simulation anyway.

My inner devil’s advocate might argue that I’m not that interested in the past. Indeed, I rarely think back about my past, I don’t enjoy reminiscing and playing back past memories in my head. I’m extremely future-oriented – thinking about creative ideas, solving puzzles in my mind is usually more intellectually stimulating than real life in front of me.

But if I’m honest with myself, there’s more to it: It seems I’m more comfortable in the abstract world. My brain is anxious and neurotic by default, it seems to be programmed to scan the world for danger.
That mode might be useful for survival in harsh environments, but it’s not that conducive to enjoying life.

Consequently, I think I’m rarely fully present and engaged with real life. Even if I’m hiking through a peaceful forest or strolling through a beautiful Italian city, I won’t fully be there, because I’m simultaneously solving some problem in my head.

I’d like to be more present and engaged.
And I know there are no simple solutions like “just be present bro” or “just meditate bro”. Most of how my brain operates is genetic and hard-wired.
But I’d like to change a bit and I like to think that I can.
I don’t want my life to just be a vague dream I can hardly remember.

My main takeaway is, however: People experience life differently, because people’s brains are wired differently.
I have a lot of sympathy for people with weird brains – it’s not something you can shake off with a bit of positive thinking.