Nelson Mandela once said-“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to see the ways that you yourself have changed.”
I wanted to write my last blog post about remembrance and change. The returning to a place that we have once been to realize the changes and experiences we’ve gone through since we left. I write this for the graduating seniors as well as everyone else on our campus who has experienced an incredibly difficult semester.
There are things about returning to a familiar place that trigger memories within us. I know for me personally there is a perfume that is cucumber and melon that I wore one summer while on a trip to an Indian reservation in Montana. I still have the same bottle and when I wear it occasionally I remember vividly the experiences I had there of walking through yellow stone park or climbing up the side of a mountain to a secret site where people would meditate and fast for days at a time. These types of things are called Engrams. We experience them then as external stimuli allows for memories that are stored as “biophysical or biochemical changes in the brain” respond to things such as sight, smell etc…
In the article that I read about returning to unchanged places I thought of how many of us will be leaving Mary Washington very soon, within two weeks as we graduate on Ball Circle. I wonder how we will feel about this place five, ten or twenty years from now. Much of it I hope will remain the same like it has with the original parts of campus but I’m sure a lot will be different as we expand. That is the part I look forward to with engrams; the flashbacks to old memories when we come back one day and allowing the old memories and new memories combine and modify our neural networks that allow us to remain connected to the past.
The article also discussed Olfaction which it labels as out oldest primal sense. This is where the power of smell can be used to bring back powerful memories, some of which can be brought up in PTSD. Although there can be a negative memory associated with is “that remains unchanged and has deeply rooted negative associations—that it creates a window of opportunity to weave in positive associations and dilute the traumatic associations held in the engram.”
It is my hope that many of us have learned in this class how memory works, how our attention is processed and how our thoughts are formed. I hope that we can come back to Mary Washington and remember everything good about this place. May it be the smell of freshly cut grass even though the mowers were annoying at 6am, or the sodexo burgers being grilled out on Ball in the Fall and Spring. We can come back and help create out engrams with the new memories that we make from reminiscing on the old.