I started this series on one of those days where I felt left behind by myself. My past self looked at present me and felt disappointed.
“You changed. We’re not the same anymore.”
But who is this past self?
Because when I look back so many of my memories are muddled together. They’re like shifting sands, they’re inconsistent, constantly reshaping and retelling themselves. Little details are filled in by a brain that I’m not sure I can trust.
Do you remember that tree stump you stood on and declared to the world your love for life and the skies?
But I still have this sense of identity. This Andrewness that is me. I recognize myself as sensitive, playful and imaginative. I’m often sad, but I can have a lot of fun as well. I’m disorganized and impulsive, and rarely finish my projects.
Do you remember the tree you and your friends climbed and you would sit in for hours talking about something, and you called it the “Cow’s Tree,” or maybe it was “Bull’s Tree”?
There’s specifics of my own personal life-story.
I was born in Anápolis, in Brazil, but lived most of my life in Viçosa. A college town, populated with hills and pot-holes and a beautiful sunset every day. I lived with my parents and 3 siblings, all of whom I had very different relationships with, and their different quirks interacted with mine to bring me here where I find myself studying Fine Arts at a Christian Reformed college.
Do you remember that keyhole you looked through, trying to see what was on the other side?
Sometimes, if I don’t interact with someone from Brazil, it feels like my existence in Brazil was a parallel world completely disconnected from today. How do I know I’m the same person? The one who left Brazil behind for a college degree seems so different from the one writing this blog post. Sometimes I need to call my parents, or hear my friend’s voice to remember it all happened.
Do you remember the nose and lips, of that first kiss?
But then, the memories I have, even if they seem so obscure, uncertain, and limited, they still inform my decisions, thoughts and feelings today. What I believe in or not is informed by those memories. I unconsciously choose to believe in these and live by these memories.
Do you remember that flower you plucked for your mother?
Memories are often connected with our material senses. Which I think is incredible. Many people write diaries, and in those visual symbols they re-find their memories. There is that smell that reminds you of that hug right before you left. Or that soft humid smell that breathes with the air from where you came. There’s that touch that brings back memories of when we were.
We keep old objects: the baby’s shoes, or the wedding dress, the books and sketchbooks we filled. A t-shirt or mug from this place or event. Souvenirs of our travels to remind ourselves of the past, of where we were, what we did, but also who we are. We pin memories to physical, sensorial, and bodily experiences.
Do you remember those chubby fingers you had as a 6-year old?
This is why, especially older people, are so preoccupied with pictures. They knew what I didn’t as a kid. That you forget things, everything changes. You move different places, leaving friends behind. And you can’t quite remember their faces and names. And your sense of self feels a little bit less steady and certain. Who are you, at the end of the day? As a kid you chased orcs with wooden swords, now you write angsty phrases that you put as your Instagram captions.
Do you remember that window you saw, when you walked back from the bus stop to your house, and you couldn’t help but imagine that someone lived in there, and that they had a life just as complicated as your own?
And while I do feel a connection between me-7-year-old, me 16-year-old and me-today, slowly I’m realizing I’ll always struggle to reconcile the changes that I go through. The places I go, the people I meet, the goals I reach (and the ones I don’t), they’ll all shape me. They’ll keep changing me, even as I struggle to keep all my pieces together in a coherent shape within a single identity of Andrew.
Who are you? Who am I?
This inquiry into identity, and the connection to memories started with some philosophy video that I saw that questioned this connection between memory and self. At first I didn’t understand what he meant; I felt pretty safe in my own identity. Now, though, I see these questions haunting me a little. Sadly, I don’t remember where I saw the video, or what it was called, otherwise I’d share.
I’m trying to frame the watercolors depicted above, but it’s a pretty expensive endeavor. If you’d like to help me out you can check out my Etsy store. I updated it with prints of these watercolors as postcard sized, but also have a 25% discount on all other items!
I also wanted to try and work with a similar format to the previous one on depression. Hope you liked it.
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