Remembering Life

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The time we spend at university is unlike any other. For most of us, going to university is the longest we have ever been away from home – we gain greater independence, along with the good and bad implications of that; we meet new people, some of whom will become lifelong friends; we have new, sometimes daunting experiences and the whole thing shapes the people we are going to become.

The sobering thing is, that as time goes by, the memories of these events will fade. It won’t be long until I’m unable to recall the late-night coursework sessions with friends; the nights out I went on, the acquaintances I made. And that strikes me as sad.

Before starting my first year, I decided I wanted to try to preserve my memories of my time here as best as I could. I didn’t want these precious years to ever slip away and so I set out to carry a camera on me at all times and to use it, as often as I remembered to, to capture my experiences. I didn’t want to make it harder by forcing myself to make that a dedicated camera, although I preferred my DSLR, my phone sufficed.

Now, I won’t say I was entirely successful in my mission, there will be many occasions that I have no photographs from, but looking at them, I have ended up with a cross-section of my 14th year of education. I have photos that are candid and those that are posed; those that capture big occasions (think birthday parties) and small occasions (think day to day life ); things I’m proud to remember and things that I’d kinda rather forget. But that’s the best part of all of this, the reward for the many times I’ve bothered to take out my camera – looking back at the photos and reliving the memories.

After reuniting this year, me and my housemates sat down and browsed my entire collection of first-year photos. Now, you might think that with COVID prohibiting so much, we’d feel angry, perturbed that we’d lost the last term, but in actual fact, it gave such a wonderful feeling of nostalgia and gratitude that I forgot the COVID blues altogether.

Before university, I came across a YouTube video all about keeping your memories vivid with photos and it is what has informed my approach. In “How to Remember Your Life”, Johnny Harris goes into depth about his philosophies for taking pictures to strengthen his memory. The most significant thing that struck me from the video is that to remember best, you must delete photos and not take so many. Seems counter-intuitive, right? Let me explain.

The thinking is that by deleting some, you don’t expend space in your brain storing insignificant memories but that the very process of looking through the photos, culling those that are unimportant, reinforces the memory by reminding you of what you’ve done.

When it comes to taking fewer photos in the first place, the idea is that with less time experiencing life through the camera’s lens, your brain has more information to make stronger, more lasting memories with.

I strongly urge you to take a look at the photos you’ve accumulated over your time at university, enjoy the nostalgia that comes with it and in the process secure your memories of this exciting time of our lives.

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