Immanuel Kant claimed there is no such thing as innate ideas. Rather, he argued, reason itself is structured with forms of experience—we construct meaning in our heads to all the ideas and experiences we encounter. Thus, I’ll apply such an argument—one that paved the way for modern philosophy—to my memories, ’cause memories themselves are nothing more than mere collections of experiences.

Life is short, life is difficult, and life is beautiful. So, how do these attributes reconcile with one another? We all have different lives, but similar ideals—like happiness and contentment—they’re just manifested in very different ways. Here’s one neuroscientific realization that has given me more room to be happy.

Memories are malleable; all of one’s regrets, stereotypes, negative stigmas of people, etc. can potentially be discarded at the brain’s disposal. (For those of you who’ve seen Inside Out, I liken it to discarding the bad long-term memories and keeping the important, unique ones as core memories.) For me, that’s a great phenomenon: the friendships I’ve structured over the years will last, but I can let go of most of my circulated negativity and let it slowly drift away into a vortex of calamity; there’s simply no room for it in my current being.

In my junior year, for example, I didn’t score a single goal in a district game on varsity soccer, but I’ve gradually convinced my (occasionally negative) consciousness to not worry about it, because it’s nothing more than a trivial attribute of my past. Furthermore, I statistically had a better season in my senior year, but it was no match for the number of goals and assists I got on JV in my sophomore year—but do those stats even matter? Being a forward, I tend to quantify my own success in the number of goals I score and assist, so it’s hard for me to blatantly say it those stats don’t matter. But hey, will anybody else remember them in 20 years? In fact, will I even care about them? No, so senior year soccer will still be my favorite season ever because I simply enjoyed it the most and felt like the team was truly together in terms of chemistry; I’ve come to the mental verdict that this is how I’ll remember this season, rather than remembering it by quantifying the smiles I’ll get over the number of times I hit a spherical ball beyond a painted white line. Anyway, we took soccer (nothing else) seriously, played together earlier than 6:45 AM daily, worked hard together (except when we were in the weight room), laughed together, and cried together—once it was all over. What each of us will never forget: the special bond we of the team will always have with one another, as well as our campout in the woods with Coach Allen, astronomically high number of last-minute game winning goals, nerve-racking penalty kick shootouts, crazy (after-game events/nights in a Georgetown hotel during a tournament) stories, and other dazzling, permanent memories.

Speaking of senior year, by the end of it, I couldn’t think of a single person in Highland Park’s Class of 2015 that I disliked. As we all matured and got over preconceived notions of superficiality as well as weird exclusive cliques (and the gossip that comes with them), we respected and loved that each of we 540 people had a brain and a story. Now we’re branching off to different atmospheres and different people, but we’re prepared to deal with change, however sad and strange it may initially be. 

Holistically, everybody is constantly evolving and discovering new phases in their being, whether they’re aware of it or not. I only give examples from high school because it is my only past time in which I was a relatively mature human. But you, a great reader who has the commitment to make it this far in my post, have different stories and circumstances. That’s totally awesome, right? You might polar opposite circumstances, interests, and memories than mine, but you may achieve the same conclusions as I and others have. Besides, don’t we all strive for happiness? If so, then why would we logically approve of ourselves twisting potentially good memories into disappointing ones? Is cynical gloominess an addiction? Or are we just confused humans? Again, life is short, life is difficult, life is beautiful—and each of you, as well as I, is in the mind-blowing internal process of learning to master it. Keep going at it.