Nicole Young is currently a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is studying Education Policy. When she is not reading a million pages a night for class, her hobbies include loud laughing, eating, and pretending to be the star of her own music video/broadway musical.
“Don’t forget me” was scrawled in a particularly high school girl style, with flourishes and a smiley face, underneath a framed picture in my cousin’s room. The picture was of my little cousin holding another high school girl, presumably the one who wrote the note, on her back – piggy-back style. Both of them were grinning madly and you could almost hear the giggles through the picture. It was adorable and one of many in a carefully crafted collage. And as I sat on the edge of my cousin’s bed, talking to her about silly things as she did her hair in the bathroom mirror, it really touched me. The three words struck me in such a deep way that I paused and lost my train of thought. “What were you saying?” she asked. I grabbed for something and began again, all the time thinking about the little graduation collage.
What struck me the most was that the phrase, “Don’t forget me” is one I think about almost daily. I don’t want my friends or family to forget me as they go about living their lives. I don’t want ex-boyfriends to forget those special things, those uniquely us things, that we shared. I don’t want the world to forget me when I die. I don’t want my living to have been just another flash in the pan. I want my being here to have meant something and I know I’m not alone. Everyday I watch people make fools of themselves on reality TV or social media all in an attempt for their 15 minutes of fame. Anthropologists and pop culture junkies talk more and more about the unique accessibility the Internet has afforded our generation. And while they discuss the ability of one idea or event or name to quickly saturate every single media market in a matter of seconds and how that has forever changed the human race, for good or evil, no one ever talks about WHY people want those 15 minutes. Maybe everyone’s in on that part but me. Maybe inherent in the phrase “15 minutes of fame” is a perceived opportunity for immortality, but the idea is pretty novel to me.
Believing that no one else loves the way we do or feels sorrow’s depths the way we have, is an inherently human flaw. And as we chide the less talented for their tawdry hopes of gaining celebrity through being a contestant on “Flavor of Love” or even the next “Love and Hip Hop: ATL,” we, the more intelligent, driven people of the human race plot our own 15 minutes. We call it policy, or a contribution, or art, but at the end of the day our attempts to change our stars and make the world a better place are just a cry out against the fleeting nature of life. We don’t want to be forgotten. And this 17 year old girl, writing a note to her friend at graduation, summed up the feeling perfectly in 3 words. It’s amazing how young the awareness of loss begins and how hard we fight from the beginning of recognition to prevent it. We don’t want to lose that piggyback ride or the laughs that followed. We never want to forget that sunset. We hope that even when we’re gone, there will be someone left to remember or something left to remind them that we were here. And what happens in our eternal struggle to make our mark, is that in a particularly human way, we forget that our friends don’t want to be forgotten either. We neglect to tell them that we think of them and that they matter to us.
So there’s loss, the permanent kind, the type that is so final that it leaves us breathless. And then there is quasi loss: the gradual falling away that happens as you get a little older. The kind where something triggers a hilarious, warm memory and you want to talk to the one person who would remember and you realize that you’re not really friends anymore. Sure, you like each other’s statuses and peruse each other’s instagram photos, but you don’t TALK. You can’t remember the last time you spoke and more importantly, you don’t even know if they remember. Somehow it’s even worse. To know that you could reach out to that person if you just had their number and even if you do have there number, if you could get past that first awkward, “So what have you been UP to for the past…9 years.” But you don’t do it. And the moment passes and you’re left a little lonelier, wishing you were your 16 year old self, if only because that version of you would have been able to talk to them.
So then I’m right back to this girl’s three words and the question her message poses. What if you never get your 15 minutes? How do you make them not forget you? After a million years, how do you let them know you haven’t forgotten them? How do you fight the quasi loss that’s bound to come? I’m really no sage about these types of things, but I think you just tell them.
I think you brave the brief moment of discomfort (and the nervousness about rejection) and remind them that their life matters to someone that they don’t see every day. You message them and say that even though middle school was ages ago, you think of them every time Titanic comes on TV or let them know that your Sunday brunch ritual, no matter how long past, was one of the highlights of your 20s. Shoot them a text that conveys ‘yes, you are thought of and often.’ You don’t have to have those awkward phone conversations if you don’t want to and you can continue to skulk on each other’s Facebook pages afterward. But why wouldn’t you want them to know that you remember?
Because truthfully, aren’t we are all hoping that in the busyness of living, they don’t forget us?