The Magic and Necessity of Remembering
Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about the magic and necessity of forgetting, how your brain does you a solid by helping you completely forget things that would only bring you pain. When you have as much darkness in your past as I do—I don’t want to get too personal here but I’ve killed people, and not with kindness—not being able to remember everything that’s happened to you begins to seem like an incredible gift. Yes, I sleep more soundly now that I’ve purged my brain of the awful screams of the people I’ve ritualistically slaughtered in the name of the Dark Lord.
But the opposite can also be true. I recently spent two lovely days in Wisconsin, where I lived for about half of my life and was reminded of something I had forgotten: I have been happy. Though this blog might suggest otherwise, my life has not just been a grim wallow defined by crushing loneliness, rejection, depression and anxiety.
Oh sure, those have been major themes in my life as well as my writing, but I’ve also known happiness as well. I’ve known acceptance. I’ve known friendship. I’ve known love. I have even known employment.
There's a lot I adore about Wisconsin. It’s where I found myself as a writer, as a cinephile and as a human being. Even after all that has transpired, I am lucky that I found The Onion when I did and that it gave me a home for as long as it did.
The Onion that I loved, that was my Onion as opposed to Univision’s Onion, was the Wisconsin Onion. The pain and bitterness that characterized both of my exits from The A.V Club, first in Chicago when I quit in disgust to work for The Dissolve, and more recently, when I quit in disgust as a freelancer after they killed My World of Flops, has irrevocably shaped the way that I see The Onion.
But my trip to Milwaukee reminded me that I had a lot of good years at The Onion as well. It was my graduate school. I learned how to be a writer there. And if everything eventually went Pete Tong, I got to realize a lot of my dreams because of The Onion. I like to joke that for a lot of young writers, the dream is to write for The Onion or The A.V Club, and then it quickly becomes to be successful enough that you no longer have to work for The Onion or The A.V. Club.
While I’ve more or less rejected my identity as a Chicagoan, this trip up north was a reminder that until I moved to the South, I was a Wisconsite as well. I loved a lot about Milwaukee .A bi-annual celebration of dairy known as Cheese Days used to be my idea of Valhalla. I loved Madison. I loved beer. I love cheese.
Visiting Milwaukee I was overcome with positive memories. Just seeing the Mars Cheese Castle in the distance made me feel all the feels.
In the future, I’m going to have even more positive associations with Milwaukee because it’s where I saw two amazing “Weird Al” Yankovic shows as part of an amazing tour and an amazing experience.
So it turns out that memory is not an all-or-nothing proposition. So in the future, I hope my brain continues to remind of good things that have happened in the past, because I sometimes need to be reminded of those as well.
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