I don’t know what the first memory that you have is. I’m not counting what you’ve seen on home movies or in pictures, but what you can actually remember yourself. Most of us start at a few years old and anything beyond that is left up to our parents’ memories. So I guess you could say that babies have an extreme sense of short term memory. Normally this phrase implies something very negative. We criticize people for having short term memory or we fear that we’ll suffer from it when we get older. But as I’ve watched my son develop I’ve realized that short term memory has some huge advantages that we seem to overlook.
As a baby grows, he needs to learn everything about life: how things work around him, how his own body works, how he interacts with people, etc. Each of these is learned through trial and error. Gavin will attempt to stand up, then fall on his face and cry. But the amazing thing is, he’ll try it again only moments later. Put an adult in this situation, and they’d conclude that it hurt the first time so they better keep things the way they are. In a bizarre sense of irony, babies are able to develop much faster than adults because they want it more. To them, it is all about trying–>failing–>trying again–>learning. Most of the time for adults it looks like this: trying–>failing–>reflecting–>quitting.
So if we had to insert our current selves into our bodies when we were less than a year old, we’d never develop into the people that we are today. We got to where we are by a foundation of short term memory and a persistence to keep growing even after numerous failures. But life has taught us to hold onto those painful memories and avoid repeating them at all costs. We pride ourselves in our long-term memory. But are we missing out on more of life? Has your long-term memory caused you to stop developing as a person? If it has, then it’s time to start acting like a kid.
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