A study conducted on retirees suggests that when people look back at their lives, their fondest memories were experiences they had before the age of 25. People tend to remember far more events between seventeen and thirty than from thirty to seventy. What is it about the young adult years that makes them so crucial? The most obvious explanation is that you still live off your parents’ and are largely responsibility and debt free.
The future has not yet been addressed so it still holds infinite possibility. By the age of 30, crucial decisions have been made, paths have been chosen professionally and personally. If you’re lucky, they turn out to be the right ones. However, the days of carefree fun have ended and the cycle of life has taken over.
This study tells us that as parents, we need to stop sweating the small stuff and concentrate on creating powerful memories for our children. To quote the adorable Kevin Arnold from the nostalgic and imminently watchable TV Series The Wonder Years, “Growing up happens in a heartbeat. And the thing is, I still look back, with wonder.” The greatest artists in the world tap into their own experiences to come up with original work. Subodh Gupta’s retrospective, “Everything is Inside”, currently on at Delhi’s NGMA is a celebration of his roots. U2’s breakthrough album Joshua Tree is influenced by their Irish heritage. Incidents from childhood carry a particular kind of purity, if only because we were relatively unsullied creatures. Over time, it’s hard to separate myth and imagination from reality, but it all somehow adds to choices made later.
At least you have the old good times to fall back on and think about, when things go wrong. That’s why recent pictures in the newspapers of families wrenched apart by the Korean war, meeting after a gap of 50 years are so heartbreaking. Here are ordinary citizens who’ve been carrying around feelings of loss because the narrative of their lives were shattered by the political whims of their governments. Their encounters before 25 have a different thread altogether and nothing in common with what followed afterwards. Memory is our past and future intertwined, even though, occasionally, it’s nice to erase or distort a part of it.
I consider myself lucky to be living in the same city I grew up in. Sometimes I feel like my entire life is a slow reel, with people from my past showing up randomly. In a strange twist of sorts, after I joined a gym, I have suddenly reconnected with two people from my school bus stop. Another boy who I played pithoo with as a 10-year-old I see regularly, since our children are friends. Before photography became a whirlwind of cliches, we cherished family albums of tattered, yellowed pictures that people now recreate with the right filter on Instagram. It’s interesting to note one of the filters is called 1977, clearly, a tug at our sentimental side. You can make an image a few seconds old look ancient.
It fades out the colours at the edges rendering the wait for time to do its bit, obsolete. Because the significance of a real (increasingly rare) old image is valuable at so many levels. To trigger a back story, to share with future generations, to be seen as a visual diary of sorts that says so much more than words ever can. Sometimes the pictures are relevant but sad: the people and times they commemorate no longer exist. Our senses are not designed to record every second in the world, but to make sense of it. But we’ve come to see everything as a potential document, imploding the present with the past and turning everything into a confusing mishmash of nostalgia. It’s easier to go with ‘No Filter’. The real memories, anyway, are in your head.