I don’t have any actual research to hand to back this up, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that in a lot of situations negative experiences are more easily remembered than positive ones. I’ve definitely read marketing literature claiming that a bad review does X-times more damage than a positive review does good; and from a personal point of view if you asked me to rhyme off stupid or embarrassing decisions I’ve made or situations I’ve been in, I could recall these a lot more quickly than I could positive experiences. That’s not to say I would struggle to remember positive experiences – just that the horrific frightening/awkward/embarrassing ones are more vividly prominent within my memory bank. That sounds a bit depressing; but I prefer to think that rather than this being a human tendency towards negativity, it’s probably a sound survival-instinct technique. If I’m an animal and I end up in a dangerous/ frightening/life-threatening situation, it’s very important that I have the capacity to clearly recall this, and can avoid actions that would put me in that same position again. (I have absolutely no research to back that up, but it seems like a reasonable proposition at the very least.)
Regardless of the whys and wherefores, given that it seems to be much easier to remember the negative life-choices, I think it’s worthwhile celebrating the positive decisions as and when these occur – be they big ones or pretty inconsequential. So, at one end of the scale there are things like going to Uni, going travelling etc. which are bigger life decisions that I’m glad I made. Then there are the smaller things like starting playing rugby again or joining the concert band, which made me a bit nervous initially, but I’m really enjoying and I’m glad I took the plunge to do them. Then there are those investments in time, effort or money which I’ve undergone in the knowledge that they would subsequently benefit me in whatever capacity: be that anything from buying a manatea tea diffuser – it’s so cute while the tea’s diffusing!!!!; to organising my (coughandboyfriendface’scough) paperwork (coughandbedsheetscough) – now we can find things when we want them and there are (for the time being) no longer piles on every surface. And then there are times when I deliberate and make a decision which works out well, and I am absolutely vindicated in making that choice – for example, yesterday I was doing interview preparation, after some consideration decided to take a break to watch the Ireland vs New Zealand rugby match, and am so very very glad I did because (heart-breaking though it was) it was a cracking game. So for all those good life-choices which I have made, be they big or small, I say well-played past-me.
But the most satisfying of all, I think, are those occurrences whereby a decision I’ve made in the past happens to work out very well for completely unanticipated reasons. Having waited until a) boyfriendface was far enough through reading the series that I wouldn’t overtake him and b) I’d finished my dissertation (both good decisions – well-played past me) I am currently reading Game of Thrones. I can be a bit impressionable when I’m reading things. This may be genetic, as I’ve recently discovered that dad has a tendency, not only to adopt accents when re-telling stories, but also to adopt the manner of speech of whatever style of book he’s currently reading. (He’s currently in Shakespeare mode. Mum’s so lucky.) For me, it’s more that certain aspects of different genres begin to sound very fun as I’m reading books, and I feel that my experience of reading the book will be enhanced if I really embrace this. So, if I’m reading period novels, a good swoon now and then works wonders; or, reading Tolkien is a sound reason to partake of a breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper mealtime schedule, and so on. I also always really want a travelling cloak, staff and some sort of matching leather knapsack and coin-pouch when I read Lord of the Rings – I feel that popping into town would be a lot more exciting dressed in such quest-like attire. So, I was reading Game of Thrones and they were ‘breaking fast’ on oats and honey and such like, at which point I took a notion for some homely fare, and after some rummaging in the cupboards discovered that I had at some point in the past few months purchased a box of oatcakes. Well played past-me.
That was a small example. This one’s much better. Age 13 I said that I wanted the Scotland rugby shirt for my birthday. After ordering through the catalogue mum said that the only size currently in stock was the medium men’s long-sleeved shirt, and did I want something else for my birthday, and I could get the rugby shirt for Christmas when other sizes were in? “NOOOOO!!!!” I said, “I want the rugby shirt.” Clearly aged 13 I was not the size of a medium-build male rugby-player. It was massive on me. 13 years later, despite having grown upwards and outwards, I am still not the size of a medium-build male rugby player. While it’s considerably less massive – and the sleeves are considerably shorter, having been subjected to over a decade of nervous chewing watching Scotland play – it’s still too big. However, this means that when I now go to Scotland games, I can fit seven layers on underneath, and therefore stand in a stadium in Edinburgh of a freezing November night, wearing a Scotland shirt as the outer layer, without needing a jacket, and still be cosy.
What luck! What incredible foresight I displayed! This may be my greatest life-decision to date. Well played past-me!!!