30 January 2013

When September Ends

In September of 2005, I drove home from flag-football practice in tears. I was seventeen, a senior at my Indiana high school, driving my little old red car with the PURDUE window-cling clearly legible every time I glanced in the rear-view mirror, and Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" was playing on the radio.


It was a new song, having only been released that June. It felt like it had been written just for me. All of the elements of that afternoon together had given me, for the first time, an intensely overwhelming sense of lastness. This will be the last time I practice flag football with my classmates before the big Powderpuff game against the juniors. This is our last year in high school. This is the last time I'll go to homecoming events. And it just got worse from there, turning into one of those little cartoon devils that ride around on people's shoulders, whispering, whispering horrible doubts and fears into frightened ears. The angel of the set wasn't particularly loud, when he even bothered to show up.

Lastness isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, but it is a delicate balancing act. Be unaware of it, and you may miss its specialness. Be overwhelmed by it, and you can't enjoy it.

I suppose I've been thinking about this because I've just finished another period of life, but also because "Wake Me Up When September Ends" was playing on one of my Pandora stations the other day and all the feelings of that drive home in September of 2005 came washing over me in a particularly emotionally-vivid memory. Many of my memories are more scent-based, but some are song-based. (I previously wrote about my attachment to "As Long As You Love Me.")

Today's particular memory of my first experience with lastness is all tied up in this one particular song. Sometimes it feels as though the memory was experienced by an entirely different person and not by me at all. The interesting thing about that is that it's sort of true. PsyBlog discusses how memory works -- what I'm talking about is "4. Recalling Memories Alters Them."
"This raises the fascinating idea that effectively we create ourselves by choosing which memories to recall."
How actively do I choose to recall this particularly poignant moment whenever this Green Day song comes on? Did I at some point assign this memory meaning to my personal internal narrative? Was it because it was a significant experience of lastness that I remember it? Or was it because I was inexplicably in tears that I have such a strong memory of the event? What I do know is that I've remembered it so often that I'm not sure anymore if I'm remembering what actually happened or remembering a memory of a memory of a memory.

Memory is a strange odd thing.