Why Remember?

By Michael Armijo


It was a story about a 9-year-old boy, Travis, whose mother died one day while at home. Without telling a soul, little 9 year-old Travis covered her body with a coat and placed sheets of notebook paper over her face. He then fixed his own meals – mostly frozen pizza, cereal, and soup – cut his own hair, and attended school without fail. He did this for over a month because he was afraid he’d be all alone if anyone found out his mother passed away. Her body was eventually discovered by family friends. Travis begged them not to call the police.

When I read that story I was very moved, to a point that I really wanted to write about it from my perspective. The feeling of loneliness, abandonment, the pain of being panicked at such a young age. Then a friend asked me why I sought out areas in life that are traumatic, emotional, or powerful. He asked me why I chose to focus on elements of life that are painful or disturbing. He asked why I sought to write about these emotions.

It was at that point that I put my life into evaluation. His questions made me think about what I’ve felt and what I’ve been through. It reminded me of a time I had driven by an obstacle that stuck with me.

There was an old, enormous tree that sat in my friends’ neighborhood. One day it caught my eye and I thought to myself; “I never noticed that huge obstacle in front of me before.” Although it’s been there for many years and I’ve had to go around it each time I passed it, I just never really noticed it until now.

I never realized what an intrusion this tree has become because it turned into an everyday routine; going around it had become a part of my life. I felt as though my emotions were just like that tree; I’ve driven past them for years, always going around how I felt, but one day I noticed this tremendous obstruction in my life.

When I thought back, I used to wonder why it took so long to be a productive person, and many times I wondered why life was such a hassle for me. I’ve realized that I’ve had to go around this massive obstacle, over and over and over again. But one day I became fed up; so I decided I wasn’t going to go around this huge barrier anymore. I will now drive right through the “enormous tree.”

It was never my plan to have to deal with such an intrusion; it was never my plan to have to examine the landscape of my life. I thought I was supposed to follow the path that was laid out before me. But somewhere along the way, I developed a source of confidence that convinced me that the paths laid out before me were vulnerable to manipulation. I realized that I could change where I was going and how I was getting there. And I realized that I no longer had to be a slave to life’s barriers.

I believe that it’s these experiences and desires that take you to the lengths of your life, giving you freedom and confidence. But sometimes you end up in a stagnant period when you’re forced to reflect upon unhappy times. During this reflection, you sometimes feel resentful of the circumstances that were before you because you’ve realized that someone planted the seeds that grew into this enormous “tree” that prolonged the success you feel you deserved. Those seeds turned into something that has survived and grown into somewhat like an enormous size. When you realize what happened, you feel angry and resentful that the obstacles in your life were planted by the irresponsibility of others, and nurtured by your vulnerability and dysfunction.

Although you cannot change what happened in your life, you could sometimes get stuck on a place in your mind. You can get stuck in the realm of reiterating a time that was the most traumatic. It’s puzzling why we remember those horrible acts that have scarred our lives with darkness and pain. But as my dear friend asked me a simple question that I had to ask myself, “Why Remember?” After hearing those two words, I felt compelled to just let the darkness go and try to remember how great life really is, because I didn’t know why I should remember such horrid memories.

So as each beautiful and warm sunny day passes before me, I will try to realize: The enormous tree that stands between me and my goals of a successful life may have strong roots that lie beneath the hard and dense surface. But the momentum we carry within our own happiness can uproot this enormous and longstanding “tree.” Because we can only be grateful that the few years we’ve spent as a happy child have brought tears of joy to our lives. We should always be thankful for at least having THESE wonderful memories. And we must remember: when little Travis felt when his mommy passed away late last year, a few pieces of notebook paper may sometimes cover the face of a painful sight, but those few pieces of paper will never make the pain go away. It’s at that point we have to ask ourselves a very simple, yet innocent question: “Why Remember?”

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