About a month ago, a friend confessed that when she first met me, she paid attention to whether her nails were done when we saw each other because she knew I would remember. Another friend shared that she finds it hilarious how I remember extremely random moments from our freshman year of college and can recall exactly what she said at any precise moment in time. She insisted that I’m also likely to recall what color shirt she was wearing, what we had for dinner and what we were planning to do or had already done that day. She admitted that she often doesn’t remember the moments I mention in the slightest, and just assumes that I’m remembering them correctly. In my friends’ eyes, I remember everything.
Initially, their confessions took me aback. I began worrying that the fact that I remembered the exact shirt that someone had worn to a party seven months ago was snobby, and I even went as far as to think that my friends would stop trusting me with stuff because I would never let them live it down. After expressing this concern to my friends, they merely laughed. They explained that they didn’t think it was weird that I could recall such specific details, but were instead fascinated by my memory capacity. They began insisting that my close-to-perfect memory was thanks to the fact that I read so much.
My parents always encouraged my reading habits when I was a kid. They bought me any and every book I wanted, but I never considered why they were so adamant about me maintaining a seemingly unshakable reading habit until I actually stopped reading. I don’t think I have ever seen my parents more worried for me than during the four and a half years when I didn’t read a single book for pleasure. I now realize that, perhaps, they were trying to foster my love of reading and understood how it reinforces healthy memory recollection.
I’d always considered reading a way to exercise my brain and imagination. I never fact-checked this assumption, feeding off of the praise I received from adults whenever they saw me with my nose stuck in a book. According to Mather Hospital, regular reading is known to improve brain power and memory function, the benefits of reading go beyond this. Reading has also been proven to enhance connectivity to the brain, reduce stress levels, improve sleeping patterns and develop extensive knowledge of vocabulary.
In the same way that we need to move our bodies to ensure physical health, reading is necessary in order to keep our brains healthy. Not only does reading stimulate and exercise our brains, but it has been shown to aid in the development of new neurons. The more you read, the easier it becomes to recall things. If you start reading consistently, memory recall will become second nature soon enough.
My friends didn’t mean to insult me when they expressed how freaky my picture-perfect memory was, and I have learned to be proud of my memory capacity. I read consistently from ages 8 to 11, and even though I went on a four-and-a-half-year sabbatical, I picked reading up again during my sophomore year of high school and have not abandoned it since, marking a consistent reading streak of five years. I think it’s fair to say that I have made up for lost time, when just a few years ago, picking up a book for recreational purposes was the absolute last thing I wanted to do for fun.
My memory capacity doesn’t just allow me to recall oddly specific details. It implies that I’ll be able to capture special moments with the people who matter most to me in the most accurate way possible, ensuring secure, lifelong memories that will forever inhabit my tiny brain. I’ll perfectly remember a random night out during my freshman year with one of my best friends with the same fondness that I’ll remember a week-long vacation that took months to plan. My intention is not to equate nor compare the memories but rather to appreciate them individually and to their full capacity.
So, the next time someone asks me why I’m able to recall small life events, I’ll tell them to read a book and offer a list of book recommendations that I think they’ll enjoy. Some may say that spending so much time hiding in one’s room to read wastes time that could be spent making meaningful memories, but immersing myself in the words of a 300-page book will ensure that, even if I make fewer memories than others do, I’ll certainly recall the ones I do make a lot better. Possessing that ability is something I’ll never take for granted.
Daily Arts Writer Graciela Batlle Cestero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.