My friend said his father is getting forgetful, but his father’s doctor told them that his cognitive ability is at the top 5% of his age group. The family should be celebrating rather than worrying about his mental state. So I asked how the doctor made the judgement call and my friend said the doctor administered a cognitive test, which his father completed with flying colors. I don’t know how these tests are designed and whether they are as good as they claim to be, but I know enough about tests to understand that one can perform like a star in a test and still can’t do a real thing in real life.
I don’t have a good memory, and I suffer dearly when good memory is called for. Once I met a friend in a restaurant whom I had not met for a year or two. I mistook her for another friend whom I was more familiar with, who’s from the same big city, who’s more communicative and outgoing. Actually I instantly felt that something was not quite right, but somehow my mind couldn’t recall the name of the person I met, and wish that I had met the more vivacious girl that I knew better. We didn’t talk much thankfully as we came with separate group of friends. That night, I tried hard to recall names, but couldn’t. I could have called my other friends to make inquiries, but I was too embarrassed to admit my defect.
I’ve tried many different ways to improve my memory, but all to no avail. I am still as bad as before. My attempt at improvement only makes me anxious and diffident. If I haven’t made those attempts, I could have happily lived with the illusion that I can remember this and that if I’ve really tried; now that I’ve tried, I don’t even have the comfort of self deception.
I tried mechanical memory and repetition, only to find that I detested the method too much that I started to detest myself; I tried to write down as much as possible, only to discover my notes piling up like a jungled storage from which it is difficult to retrieve what I want; I bought books on memory, brain, mind, only to leave them unread since such books are relatively boring; I tried to connect something I want to remember with an image or a song, but I am so bad with images and music that it’s no help at all.
The only thing I can do and I enjoy doing is making bad stories to help memory. For example, make each number correspond to a symbol, from which I can weave a story to remember a phone number. 2 is like a swan; 3 is a like a brush; 4 is like a dancer crossing legs; 5 is like a spoon or ladle; 7 is like a walking cane; 8 is like a dumbbell. “Brushing a dancing swan on a dumbbell” represents 3428. We each of us have one trick or two, and finally I have one.