I tend to put a lot of emphasis on making memories, especially of late. It could be said that life is fleeting, and all we really collect is memories we store in jars in our soul. Money, objects and sometimes people can be so temporary. A story or a memory can be somewhat permanent. I remember running through trees, having a secret hideaway, concerts, dates and laughing till I cried. It sounds so poetic that a part of me would love it to be this realisation that sparked my curiosity, but it wasn’t.
My love of memories, and creating them, comes from my granddad. I could listen to his stories for hours, he had accomplished so much and it was fascinating to listen to him talk about it. He encouraged me to chase happiness, but he had begun to struggle to remember things. In 2010, we knew why he sometimes confused us with each other. He had dementia, and with that my world sort of fell apart. Our time together had changed.
In the time that followed his diagnosis, we watched him slowly change. Now it had become even more important to listen to his stories. What if they were the last time I heard them? But they had changed. He’d get confused over little details. One moment it was a bus that had gotten stuck, the next a milk float. I saw how frustrating it was for him, to piece his life together when parts were missing.
I tried to keep his stories close to me, but my biggest regret was that I never wrote them down. There’s no record of them. Instead, I’m left with the fragments I remember and that warm feeling I get when I do. I know he’d say that it didn’t matter, or it wasn’t about having them in a book. He’d simply be happy that he got to share them with me, and that I loved them as much as he loved telling them.
There was one, rather special, memory that we shared. From the age of thirteen, I was going to a barrister. The path was clearly mapped and I’d leave my writing as a hobby. It was an upward trajectory for me, university was going to be a springboard. I’d find love, and come out having a successful career in law. It was something I was passionate about, finding out why someone committed a crime had always fascinated me.
When it came to applying to university, I’d had a change of heart. I’d lost all that confidence and certainty that I could achieve what I’d set out to. It didn’t feel like me anymore. Not after I had spent a year running a writer’s group with a friend. I’d realised that writing played such an influential part in my life. If I studied law, I could risk losing that part of myself. I was stuck, and I didn’t know what course to take.
I stared at a blank page, as I’m known to do, and didn’t know where to begin when it came to my personal statement. No university would take me if I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I needed advice so I went to my mum, who told me that as long as I was happy, it didn’t matter what I studied. My family, on the whole, were really supportive; but I still felt this huge weight on my shoulders.
It was my granddad, however, that helped me make up my mind. I remember sitting with him, on his bench, drinking tea. By now, it had been three years since his diagnosis. I’m not sure if he knew it was me at the time. Still I’m glad we talked because when I told him I wasn’t sure, he listened. I asked him if I should go down the route I planned, the one most people assumed and expected of me; or do I go down this route that I hadn’t, and one that scared me and made me feel excited at the same time.
He paused for a while, and he then told me to do the one that would leave me with no regrets. One that made me love what I do. It clicked then, what he had said and in a way, what my mum said. I’d had never forgotten that piece of advice.
I could never be a lawyer because I didn’t love it enough, and it didn’t make me truly happy. It had satisfied some curiosity, and I liked learning about new cases and laws (I’d studied a bit of law at college). What I really loved and enjoyed was creating a story or a poem. I loved to express myself through my words and I’d have always been disappointed if I hadn’t followed where they’d led me.
It has helped me get two degrees, one in journalism and media and the other in creative writing. My granddad would have loved that I continued to share my stories and write. He loved hearing them when I was little and even when he didn’t realise who I was. He smiled all the same. It seemed almost like fate that he was apart of that story, and this is a memory I’ll keep for the both of us.
I never got the opportunity to thank him for his support in helping me chase my dreams. He never saw me graduate. I didn’t even get to show him the story he helped inspire, or the countless poetry I wrote. I’d like to think that wherever he may be that he’d like them, enjoy them still and that he would be proud of me.
Before he passed away, and even now, he is my constant inspiration. In a way, I’d like to think I’m writing just for him and me again. Only now, it’s not just stories I write. I do as he did once, I made my own memories. It made sense to not only create stories, but be in them as well. Continue to chase some happiness as he’d always encouraged me to. I hope that by writing my stories and being in a few of my own, would do him justice. My hope is that he’d love where my creativity took me, laugh at my crazy adventures – even smile at the photos I took. That’s why I love making memories, so I can carry on his memory and his stories and keep them with my own.
I think he’d like that, to live a life full of imagination, stories and memories alike.