Grant Stone is an icon of WA science fiction fandom, an archivist, a renowned raconteur and one of my favourite people. Spending time with him is always good value and lunch this week was no exception.
As always, the conversation was peppered with fascinating titbits from Grant’s past and present, ranging from his early interest in botany to his later research into the cultural ecology of Barbie (dolls). This time the mix also included some shared reminisces of our respective childhood years, in Johannesburg (RSA) and near Bunbury (WA).
The tales of Grant’s childhood and teenage years made them sound idyllic, a time of great freedom and adventure. I confess that by the time we parted I felt slightly regretful at not having grown up in WA, although my own childhood was not all that dissimilar.
Like Grant, I have a plethora of happy memories of racing around with friends (on and off bicycles), camping, climbing trees, collecting various things (stamps, plants, posters, etc.) and reading – so much reading. Quite simply, what’s not to love about all that?
Of course, just like everyone else, we also experienced sad, bad and boring times. But all those experiences were processed and allocated varying levels of importance in the time and context in which they took place. They became part of the complex memory-maze of our respective personal histories, which enables us to leave the sad/bad bits back in the past where they belong.
Shaping a coherent mental map that highlights the best in life is a way of being that can encompass all life experiences. One way to do this is try to be both participant and observer of your own life, to mindfully or self-reflexively create your history as you live it.
When I quit my day job I promised myself I’d use the ‘spare’ time creatively, that I’d do more things I enjoy and spend more time with people who’re important to me. In this way I’d be shaping a new part of my personal history as something I’ll both enjoy and want to remember.
Social interaction is a richly rewarding aspect of creating that history, but it takes planning and not insignificant amounts of mental energy. One week in, after catch-ups in all directions (including lunch with Grant, an Indie-rock concert and an elegant afternoon tea and lawn bowls with newly-married friends), my hermit tendencies have started to surface. The polite message they’re sending is that not all of this next chapter of my history needs to be shaped in the first week… who knew? 😛
I find memory so interesting. It should be a constant, but it’s ever changing, our relationship to it, the shadows it casts.
In the past year and a half I’ve found I’ve had a lot of trouble with my memory, a lot just seems to be gone. But therein lies the value of the friends you spoke of, these people that remind of your shared history, and with their words reignite parts of you that had faded. Or so I’ve found.
Friends, good for lunches, laughs, and memories it seems 🙂
I’ve also found that, in the process of reminiscing, unexpected aspects of shared history are sometimes unveiled. We all remember events slightly differently, depending on our own focus and world view at any given time, and it can be both informative and occasionally surprising to find where memories overlap and where they almost appear as two different story lines 🙂