I’ll be upfront and put it in the first sentence: I don’t know, and I don’t have the answer. I’ve always struggled with figuring out what was important to me, which in turn became a question of what I should do with my life. I’ve googled it a few times, looking for articles or other blog posts to just give me the answer. I always get an enticing hook that ultimately flames out as a waste of my time in unspectacular fashion.
Although I still struggle with the general question, I have a good idea now that my wife and future kid(s) are my life. And it’s the correlation between that answer and this observation that makes me think maybe it can help someone else figure out, at least thematically, what is meaningful to them.
If you consider your brain as a scrap book, then your memories would be like the photographs or notes you append to each page. As you build a large collection of these memories, you start cataloging them, much as you would with a scrapbook. Typically, that’d be in chronological fashion because that’s straightforward and logical. If I could do that with my memories, I would, but my brain doesn’t operate like an Access or Excel database that I can just query. Maybe this is a documented heuristic, but I use particular types of reference points and recall memories relative to those points. It’s these reference points that I think give some insight into what’s important to you or how you define yourself. These reference points also develop/evolve over time just as we accumulate more memories, shift our priorities, and naturally change over time.
Early on in my life, before my 20’s, my memories were always referenced or organized by what year in school I was in when it happened (i.e., junior year – I was arrested for possession of alcohol and open alcoholic containers in a vehicle, and I was the designated driver!). Because during that time, it was how I felt defined by others (i.e., as a freshman or a senior) and it was an easy structure to follow. That structure quickly falls apart after college and we’re left to develop our own system. For me, periods of my life were referenced by who I was dating at the time – this is feasible for me because I’m a serial monogamist and it makes sense because I dedicated such large chunks of emotional energy to my girlfriends/partner.
For some, their reference points could be relative to where they’re living or what country they’re in. For others, that reference point may be what job they were working. What it all means, I don’t know. It could mean you’re success- or material-oriented. Or even location- or family-oriented. There’s no key or legend for interpretation, and I’m not saying everyone only has one type of reference point – I have other types of reference points beyond companion-related ones, including job and location ones as well. I’m sure everyone does, but maybe one of these types of reference points stands out as the go-to one if you’re asked to just react to fetching a random memory rather than think through it.
This is all just [another] / [a bullshit] attempt at extracting something from [deep inside] / [maybe nothing] (take your picks).