My unremembered early years...
I cannot recall what I consider my most epic achievements. And by epic, I mean ambitious and life changing. These achievements happened at a time when my memories were not physiologically wired for future recollection – my indomitable years from birth to, say, four-ish. Although unintentional, not remembering makes it easy to take these achievements for granted; in the absence of remembering, first, the uninhibited feelings during the challenge, and then, that ensuing whoa, did you see what I just did feeling. These are my firsts – my first smile, rolling over for the first time, standing without holding on to the coffee table, my first steps, my first words, writing my name. And these achievements were not flawless. My walk was unstable, I said Mumu instead of Mommy, and I wrote the “P” in my name backwards. But the perfection of my new talents was of no consequence; and I trekked on, inadvertently learning fundamental lessons.
As I aged, challenges seemed more intimidating, and I became inhibited, questioning myself. It never really occurred to me how much I would have benefited from remembering early achievements. Not until I had children could I entirely appreciate the benefit of remembering my firsts during those later years of doubt, setbacks, confusion, insecurities – the “un‑indomitable” years. (We all remember middle school. Eek. Then high school. More eek.) I marveled at my kid’s resolve during their early years. But then, as doubt and insecurities started to creep into their consciousness, I found myself saying, somewhat jokingly, “Pick yourself up, remember, like learning how to walk. You did it then and you can do it now.” For every one of their challenges, I wished that they could remember their firsts. As a hobby philosopher, here are my theories on the practical relevance of our early achievements to the way we choose to live, and the purposeful lessons we all hope to remember and carry throughout life.
smiling – my first smile, such a pure gesture, one without words or pretense or expectation. I smiled simply because someone was smiling at me. Today, I use this compelling and infectious resource to smile at strangers.
Lesson: Kindness is contagious, let us spread joy.
rolling over – lying on a blanket in the middle of the living room floor, the confined scene around me was limiting. There must have been a natural desire to vary my perceptions, to roll over and see another view, what others might see. Today, I remind myself to look around and appreciate what others see.
Lesson: Expand our views, while accepting another’s.
standing – standing up without holding on to the coffee table. But not without a lot of falling. With each added second not holding on to something, I discovered perseverance I ignored my sore bottom and was not afraid of falling. My spirit never wounded. When you fall, pick yourself up – turns out, this is not a cliché; we just think it is because we don’t remember. Today, I ask for help and I offer help.
Lesson: It’s okay to lean on someone, and falling is not failing.
writing – like most kids, when I first learned to write my name, a letter or two was inverted. Since I continued to write inverted letters for quite some time, I can assume that I thought it looked just fine. And, after all, it was my name so I got to write it anyway I wanted. My choice.
Lesson: Nobody is pɘrfɘɔt, so let us not judge others.
I wonder, is it intentional that we don’t remember? Maybe we are humbled, and benefit from learning lessons yet again. A reminder, perhaps, to understand the worth of reflection. A personal invitation to create my own opportunities and say, Yes, I will do this, regardless of the level of expertise achieved. And with every achievement is a lesson to learn, about myself and about the world around me.