Everyone tells you how important it is to remember. Everyone tells you the days or the moments that are special, and you’ll be grateful to look back on in the years to come.
No one ever tells you, that sometimes, it’s ok not to remember.
Ok, so my name is Elizabeth Monaghugh and I have lost my memory. I was told to keep this journal by my doctors as it may help me remember something. Right now, I know my name and where I live. That’s it. The doctors told me I was found alone on a road, near some forest. Apparently, I’ve been in a coma for six months. I don’t remember why I was in that forest… or what happened. Good start, huh?
Others have tried to make me remember. Those that I called friends and family. They spewed out dozens of memories, moments that were special. Birthdays, Christmases, holidays, anything like that. Ones they thought I would like. Nothing worked.
It was soul destroying to see how many happy times had happened and that they loved reliving the memories. And then watching their faces drop, filling with disappointment when they realised I wasn’t joining in. That I couldn’t remember something so vital to our relationship. I can’t help it. I didn’t ask for a brain wipe during my coma. Like an additional extra. It just happened… all inclusive.
You know what? Maybe now is the perfect opportunity for me to start over - I am a blank slate right now. I can make a whole new Elizabeth Monaghugh. Yes, I like that idea.
What a day it’s been. Some of my “friends” came over. They’ve been set up by my doctor to come and jog my memory. One was called Tiffany and another was called… Jemima? I think? Anyway, they came over hauling boxes of photos to show me. They would pull out one, give me a run down of what happened that day and what happened just before or after taking the picture of us or something nearby. They’d smile wistfully at the photo and then look to me, full of anticipation. I remembered nothing.
Those two seemed to have a great afternoon taking a trip down memory lane. I, however, had a really boring time looking at photos of complete strangers. Even if I was in the photo, that Elizabeth is a complete stranger to me now.
The “friends” were talking to me all afternoon as if they knew me. But I was meeting them for the first time. Tiffany was definitely the leader of the pack. She put an order to how to do things, what photos to look at and when. When she got bossy she would purse her lips and flick her wavy hair out of the way like it was nothing more than a nuisance. She had a very measured laugh, and sat with proper posture - hands on her knees and everything. Not a very tolerant person. Why did I make friends with her?
Jemima was the girl who would be in the popular crowd at school. She had a fair face, a glamorous smile, and a twitch in her nose that would be seen as cute. She dressed stylishly in every photo she was in, and even when she came over today. She was softly spoken until something tickled her sense of humour when she would let out a roaring laugh.
They left me with Old Elzabeth’s favourite photo when they finally went home. They looked deflated by the end. Glad to go home and leave the empty shell of Elizabeth behind.
Old Elizabeth’s favourite photo was the three of us at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. Apparently, we had a girls holiday to France and it was a great time. I never knew I had left the UK. I looked hard at the old Elizabeth. She was pretty. She was happy. She probably had a whole host of things that made her who she was - hobbies, interests, likes, dislikes… memories. You know, it’s weird. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know what I enjoy doing. I feel like I need to get out there and soak up every inch of life I can possibly get my hands on. Then I can judge what it is I do and don’t like. I can make my own memories.
Is this what a toddler feels like?
I barely slept last night. Every time I drifted off my brain was flooded with images. Some snippets of the girls trip to France. Happiness. Flashes of me winning a gymnastics medal when I was 8 years old. Pride. My Dad promising to take me fishing when I was older. Hope. The day I was told our cat was run over. Grief. I saw moments of my school life, all mashed into one. So many confusing feelings.
They all came with an out of body feel to them. Like I knew they happened to me, but at the same time, not. I’m not sure how I feel about having someone else’s memories in my head.
Apparently, Old Elizabeth had a job! They rang today, demanding to know when I can next come in. The tart woman on the phone was outraged when I asked who was calling. Despite the trauma I’ve been through and can’t remember, she fully expected me to at least remember my employer. Nope. I quickly told her where she can shove her words and quit on the spot. Old Elizabeth did something to do with finances. Boring! New Elizabeth is going to do something more interesting. Something with purpose. Although, I’m not sure what kind of thing yet.
I told my ‘Mum’ today about wanting to explore life to figure out who this new Elizabeth is and that didn’t go down well. She didn’t understand. Or didn’t want to. She asked me why I would want to do that when the exercises from the doctors could lead to a breakthrough. Then, I’d know exactly who I was and things can go back to the way they were.
What if that never happens? What if I spend the rest of my life trying to figure out who I was and I don’t get anywhere?
I can’t risk that. I want to know how I am. With absolute certainty. I want to say
“I am good at X”
“I enjoy Y”
“I hate Z”
How can I go about life without knowing these facts about myself? Sure, I can be told these facts about Old Elizabeth and go by those. But, if I don’t like certain parts of her life then surely I’m being a fraud? I’m just acting as Old Elizabeth to keep everyone else happy. I don’t like the sound of that. I want to live for myself. I know that much, at least!
My Dad thinks I’m not getting out enough. He thinks I’m not seeing my friends enough. My Mum thinks I’m wasting my time at home, looking up experiences to try.
She accused me of faking my memory loss.
They don’t understand. They want their little girl back. The one they used to know. They keep telling me all the things that I don’t normally do.
“You don’t normally sit like that, Elizabeth.”
“You don’t usually swear this much, Elizabeth.”
“That’s not how you used to hold your pen to write”
“That’s not the order you would usually do things”
“I’ve never seen you wear anything like that before, Elizabeth!”
Why don’t they get it?! I am not who I used to be. I am not the person they knew. I’ve told them over and over that I want to figure out who I am now, not who I was. Why can’t they see that that’s what is best for me?
We tried to have a nice family day out today. It didn’t go well. We went to a Wildlife Park, somewhere I used to love going to when I was younger. Apparently. We wandered around. Saw some animals. Ate some food. Participated in awkward small talk. They tested me with memories I still don’t remember.
I didn’t particularly enjoy the day, I found it a bit boring. I told them that and that maybe I wasn’t an animal lover anymore. That was a mistake. One thing led to another and we were shouting each other down in the middle of the car park. We were all flapping our arms about in angry gestures. Like a bunch of loonies.
They spat at me how empty they feel now their only daughter doesn’t speak to them for days on end, when before she would speak to them daily. They made me feel guilty. Unwanted. Like I was doing this all as some sick joke. Why? Why would I do that? ... Was I the kind of person to do that? No, I don’t think so. At least, not anymore.
I feel like the smallest person on Earth, right now. They’ve made me feel so selfish, my ‘parents’, for not seeing their point of view. And maybe I haven’t been thinking about that. But they haven’t been thinking about what’s best for me, either. They’ve been the ones constantly trying to push me back into the boxes of Old Elizabeth. When all I’ve wanted to do is find out who I am now.
I’ve had enough. I am fed up of always being compared to the Old Elizabeth. She doesn’t even exist anymore! She’s gone! And they need to accept that. I have.
This will be my last journal entry. Today, I will be leaving Old Elizabeth’s friends and family to create a life of my own. I’ve bought myself a one-way ticket to Sydney. It’s a bit extreme to go to the other side of the world, I know. But, I’m in the mood for some sun and where is a better place for that? Plus it’s their summer right now.
I am super excited to head out there and meet a bunch of new people, make some friends of my own. Try swimming with dolphins, walking the Sydney Harbour Bridge, surfing, exploring. Everything. Anything.
I’ll be able to relax. I can stop worrying about whether what I’m doing the Old Elizabeth would also do. People will see me as who I am and accept that. What a breath of fresh air that will be. I can finally be me.
Oh, look at that. Time to go.
Goodbye, Old Elizabeth’s life. Hello, New Elizabeth.
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It was interesting reading a diary type story without really any other point of view. I didn't quite understand the phone call from the boss though. She's been in a coma for 6 months and is recovering, but the old boss calls her to see if she'll come back in to work? In my head, a conversation like that doesn't happen if the employee is missing for 6+ months. Other than that I liked it.
You make an excellent point! I had re-written it a few times and didn't think about the logic for that section. I'll keep that in my when I re-write things from now on Glad you liked it, though! Thanks for reading and commenting :)
I love the twist at the end that she leaves behind her old life to start a new one! Also love the line: is this what a toddler feels like?
Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Haha I couldnt figure out another way to show her wonder at life and trying to learn everything so hopefully that line helps!
Yes, definitely a good comparison. I can’t imagine starting over with no memories!