I believe in forgetting. I’d like to consider myself a thoughtful person. I try my best to remember names, people, and feelings.
But I firmly believe in forgetting. The kind that is life-giving. When I was in sixth grade, my grandmother died. This was the first death I learned to accept. The grief was overwhelming. Watching my father and aunts grieve was very difficult. But in the 17 years that have passed since her death, I don’t think about the funeral or wake. I remember the small but invaluable gifts she gave me. I know she took care to select them; they were treasures in my mind. When I think of my grandmom I remember a funny, spiritual, peaceful woman who gave great support, love, and advice. In these years I’ve forgotten the hospital, the cancer, and the days of emptiness. I believe in forgetting in order to survive. I think if I kept recalling the grief, I wouldn’t have moved on.
Throughout high school and college I worked with adults who have Alzheimer’s disease. Each visit I learned more about older people. Although they forget what they ate for breakfast and what day it was, they never forgot love, the excitement of their spouses, even those who were gone. They’d recount stories to me of their children and their successes. No one repeatedly would describe stories of grief, sadness, or hurt from their past, only love and happiness.
About 20 miles into my first marathon while I was hardly jogging, full of pain in my calves, thinking I could cry or collapse at any moment, I was wondering why I had previously thought this a fun goal. Yet after I finished I was so exhilarated that I wanted to run another. The excitement of finishing made me forget the pain and hours of solitary runs in thunderstorms and scathing heat.
I’ve been teaching for 8 years. I believe in forgetting. Every day I try to begin again, with renewed patience, renewed energy, and erased thoughts of the previous day’s or week’s trials. This is how I survive. Eight year olds make mistakes, like everyone else. They hurt their friends’ feelings, forget something we’ve worked on for 100 days of school, and sometimes just act without thinking which then detracts from the whole class. But I believe that if I couldn’t forget those mistakes or momentary lapses of judgment, I wouldn’t come to work each day. I wouldn’t be able to believe in their potential to succeed and learn while growing into more caring, more considerate people.
I believe we all need to forget. I believe it’s the only thing that gets me through the painful, sad, and difficult moments in my life. I believe it gets me through every day of working as a teacher. I believe it’s worth forgetting so that what remains in my life is love, joy, closeness of family and friends, and feelings of warmth.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.