Can’t Remember Facts? Me Neither. And I’ll Never Judge You.


“Roller Derby” 1979


Like it was yesterday, I remember the day I realized that my brain does not retain facts.

Boston, 1995. I was 25. My new boyfriend at the time was the kind of person who could – and I’m sure still can – read an article or watch a show and file away the dates, statistics and progressions of events. Those little gems of information would just hang out in his brain until they are needed or until the end of time. Whichever comes first. And the same was true of all his friends and, by association, my new circle.

Quite innocently on this particular day, he asked me a question about an article I had read about the history of electricity. And I had no answer. Yes, I had read it. But for the life of me, I couldn’t spit out a single factual statement.

I knew the gist. But I couldn’t explain with any confidence what I had read and by no means could I pull out any numbers or stats or concrete anythings.

If I only knew then what I know now, the pools of sweat would have subsided. The pressure would have dissipated. I would not have silently chastised my A+ student self for being a dummy or for looking stupid.

I would have known that “hell, yeah,” I do remember facts – when they are tied to emotions.

I would have known that I’d remember that day and recount it 20 years later.

I would have known that it’s much more fun to watch movies a second, third and even fourth time when you don’t have instant recall of the movie plot.

I would have known that I really do not connect with people cut from the factoid cloth. And I’d rather sneak into the hotel kitchen to talk with the wait staff than discuss theories and history and topics that require recollection of facts.

I would have known that not all brains are alike. But it can seem that way when you are the “alien” in the room. It sure did for me.

I would have known that I have crazy recall of the names of the 70 or so kids from Saint Pius X Elementary School, eighth grade graduating class of 1984. And I remember where each of them celebrated special birthdays and that Joey Savarese had a party at Radnor Rolls Skating Rink – maybe his 10th.

I would have known that emotional connections drive memory storage. And for what I’m lacking in the cold hard fact storage, I make up 10 fold in emotional and relationship recall.

Today I am surrounded by a tribe of people who LOVE to spend time talking about feelings and the absurdities of the human condition.

And for fact finding and cold storage, we count on a little company called Google.

Want to learn more? Check out this fascinating article on how the mind and memory works:

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