Zia Hassan

How Words Stick To My Teeth

I have an amazing long-term memory. My short term memory is total shit, but my long term memory amazes me on a daily basis (and many of my friends as well).

My memory’s so good that in ninth grade, I was at a movie theater and noticed that the guy who was selling tickets was a friend of mine that I sat next to all of second grade. He moved away from that school for third, so I hadn’t seen him since.

“Sean?!” I shouted at him through the glass window.

He had no idea who I was. Even when I explained how he knew me, he told me there was no way he could remember that far back.

Words and sayings, I also remember. They stick to my teeth like steak. They have a profound effect on me, especially when they come from someone I admire. I hear people almost too well sometimes. I take what they say and let their words work their way into a locked box in my heart, for better or for worse. And as David Wilcox says, the trouble with keeping something locked away in your heart is that you still have to pay rent.

I realize it might be a little unfair to the folks whose words stick with me.

I recently asked someone if they remember something they said to me years ago. A piece of advice that it really stuck with me. Doesn’t matter what.

“Man, I said that? I was an idiot,” they said. “You don’t have to believe that. I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

But here I am, 20 years later, a small part of my personality and world view founded upon the words you said 20 years ago.

“I’ll never forget it,” is what I say to my friend. That’s what I say when words get stuck in my teeth like that. It’s the only way that sounds normal when I describe it.

“I just say stupid shit sometimes,” he said.

It’s hard to believe something is “stupid” if it resonates for more than a decade. But this is how we adopt thoughts without realizing it. It’s how we idolize our friends. It’s how we form a life, by adhering to the words of others.

Sometimes, it’s good to reminds ourselves that the people you respect can actually be wrong and have bad opinions that sound good on the surface but actually weren’t very thought through. How many conversations do you have on a regular basis where some of the things you say is totally throw-away conversation?

Some of that garbage is another man’s treasure. He might remember one of your throw-aways for 20 years.