I’m wrapping presents for my cousin’s bar mitzvah, and I decide I want to do something special: an origami pleat in the wrapping paper that I learned at my first job fifteen years ago, working at a Barnes & Noble during the holiday rush. I used to be able to bang these things out in under thirty seconds, and it adds a little flair to an otherwise ordinary-looking package.
And I can’t remember how to do it. I screw it up, over and over. I can’t even quite remember what it’s supposed to look like, let alone how to get there. Finally I give up, smooth out the paper, and do my best to hide the creases with the simpler, traditional folds.
There was an age when everything I had ever learned, everything I had ever experienced, was right there when I needed to remember it. I was aghast at the thought of adults who couldn’t rattle off their bat mitzvah portions from memory, or recall in detail every book they’d ever read. That memory made me a prodigy, a bright kid. It was a core part of my identity. And now, I don’t know if it’s just that too much time has passed and worn away the details, or if I’ve learned too much and my brain has triaged whatever I don’t use that often. But I’m suddenly painfully aware of just how much I used to know that’s now evaporated. I’m not that person anymore. And I wonder what else I’ll lose, and who I’ll be then.