A week in our past
Dissecting our past:
This week we worked on an inventory of our past memories: producing a timeline of our previous 33 years, drawing our versions of our pasts, in data.
This ‘mental survey' was particular: I drew this postcard while traveling in Italy, from my parents' home - which I left when I was 19 years old.
I sat down in my former studio and start inspecting my memories, intensely, and I jotted down events, periods, moments, places in a pretty random way to begin with.
I figured out that the ‘biggest’ milestones in my mental timeline of my past are:
- my movings, (I changed city and apartment quite often after I turned 19),
- the relationships with my boyfriends (I had 3 years-long love stories, before my current and hopefully forever-lasting one),
- and my extra-work/school activities (I played the piano, danced a lot and, hem, played in a heavy metal band for a while).
For the first time, sitting down and dissecting my past, I saw that these three categories articulates very neatly my vision of my past, and I guess this teaches something about me.
I never quite think about my past, actually! I am definitely a person who lives in the future, not even in the present, I am always anticipating what is coming next (even if Dear Data is surely helping me focusing on the here and now).
While writing down my “memoir" I was talking to my mum, and we laughed at how enthusiast I was with my band: Black Fabula. We were pretty sure we would become the next prog-metal sensation and make lots of money out of it (I was 17 years old, forgivable?).
We published a 5 songs cd for which I carefully designed and realized the artwork using a software called Corel Draw, that I taught myself how to use while actually doing it. 5 songs - more than 50 minutes in total length - infinite tempo and key changes (it’s prog-metal after all, if you are a real nerd you know what I’m talking about). We printed 500 copies, 200 of which my mum still carefully keeps piled up in our garage; just in case a music producer from the early 2000s will come to Finale Emilia (Modena, Italy) and ask for them, you never know.
We even recorded a second album after that, but I’ll spare you the data for it. What were we thinking?
(Something lasted though of that period: 1. my silly smile every time I think of it all, and 2. one of my very best friends, whom I met because of the band).
I categorized my data according to the main areas that came to my mind, and I added details about my education, my friendships' duration, whom I was living with, when I had pets, and finally the jobs I was doing.
I created my postcard as very linear timeline of parallel events going on, but I wasn’t satisfied at all ! While going back to New York on a 8 hours flight I sketched some new ideas: I really didn’t like the first outcome so I took the freedom to re-draw it once back home.
As I wrote several times, I am so not good at thinking in a circular way :(
My postcard is so imperfect! Truly not happy about it.
Stefanie’s card this week is very funny: not only she has a more detailed memory than mine, she also surveyed her music and cultural tastes and attitudes’ change over time, which I find very intriguing! Also I like how her style is evolving; I notice a shift in the color palette, she uses bolder colors and more contrasted ones, love it!
Dear Data thank you for triggering my memory.
This is one of those weeks where I reflected about the importance of Dear Data for me: analyzing my past, trying to remember some details that usually don't come to mind naturally...
So many things happen to us and around us every day, and I guess we all have blind spots in our field of vision and gaps in our stream of attention. Sometimes we can’t even answer the simplest questions. Where was I last week at this time? How many people did I spoke to the other evening at the party? How many things I bought yesterday? Sometimes we also have such very poor sense of the time we spent doing some actions! Of course, we fail to notice what we do because we aren’t motivated to notice it or, even worse, because we are motivated not to notice it (Do we complain too often? Do we thank people enough? Do we smile to our acquaintances or to strangers we cross path with?…Better not to track it right?) Keeping a record, a data-diary of mundane little aspects of my life sharpens my awareness and increases my feeling of self-mastery, in a way.
We know our memories are poor and we can probably focus our attention on only one or two things at a time, that’s why I think the one-topic-a-week tracking is incredibly helpful.
Also - I am more aware of how “big” a year is - now that the Monday-Sunday time span is clearly recorded and associated to one topic, I have an accurate timeline of my time since September 1st in my mind, while the weeks of my previous time just passed by with a blur: yes, Dear Data is a data diary for my future!
We decided to create a survey of our past for the other. This proved to be quite a challenge… how do you record something where over time, you begin to forget the fine details? As I grow older, things are starting to blur into each other, and it’s hard to really know whether I am remembering things right or not, or whether my memories are actually my own, or were just picked up from photographs that were shown to me, or stories told to me by my parents.
First, I thought I would try to map my past by just focusing on key memories from my past that stood out for me. Here are a selection of these vivid memories below, shared because they are hilarious premonitions of the anxiety and questioning of my existence that I’ve come to know and love in myself as an adult:
Aged three? (Mom, I know you read this, so you can confirm my age with me): watching a cafe toilet overflow, being afraid that the entire cafe would flood and we would all wash away. This led to me flushing toilets, then sprinting out of the room so the toilet wouldn’t suck me in
Aged four: sitting on the swing set in the back yard repeating to myself ‘I’m four… I’m four’, trying to understand the meaning of what being four exactly meant
Aged four or five: lying in bed, having an internal meltdown at the realisation that yes, I was going to die one day
Aged eight, being woken in the night to see a lunar eclipse by my parents but not remembering it in the morning and mourning this memory loss for days and days afterward
Oh, what an over-sensitive child I was.
However, in the end I decided to focus on a more traditional way of describing the past: through linear timelines. I tried to create quite simple timelines of different key themes in my life that I thought would tell Giorgia something about myself, focusing on aspects of life that are quite revealing in regards to one’s past: education, employment, location, clothing style, and so on, and tried to plot these different aspects of my life by year.
This week’s data-gathering was an interesting exercise in that I enjoyed seeing how my identity has changed over my life, though there is something slightly bittersweet about re-living some of the more difficult aspects of my past: the awkwardness of being a nerdy little kid, being teased and tormented in my boring Catholic high school, working in service jobs with no employee benefits and no respect, and so on.
Though really, if I’m honest: the negative aspects of my past are a small proportion. What really struck me about this week is that by gathering data on the different aspects of my past, effectively creating a ‘CV’ of my life, it’s forced me to reflect upon where I’ve come from and where I am now. I’ve been privileged to grow up in a good family and get a good education, and so far, things have gone well for me, and I’m thankful for this. If I died now, I’d be happy with my life as it stands.
Though often it doesn’t seem that way, as I worry and complain alot, and often fret that i’m not doing as well as I’d like. Perhaps this week’s card is a counterpoint to the earlier Week of Complaints: as in ‘look how f*cking lucky you are, Stefanie, so just stop with the complaints already!’
THIS IS THE WORST CARD EVER.
Out of all the cards I’ve drawn, this is my least favourite.
I regret the smudgy quality of the pencil.
The colours were a total mistake!
I think that there was something slightly problematic with how I went about presenting this data: since I had so many categories to represent, I didn’t have enough colours to work with so I decided to use the same colours for each different category since the categories aren’t comparable… but still, I don’t know how well it worked. I think it makes the card confusing to read.
This is another one of those drawings where the data is interesting but the visual outcome isn’t very exciting. But how interesting can a card be when there are so many data categories? I guess I still need to figure out the right amount of data that offers both an interesting story for Giorgia to read as well as the right amount of data that offers lots of creative ways to draw it, but doesn’t totally overload the card.
In short: the back of the card is more interesting than the front of the card! I’m happy that Giorgia is holding onto this card, as if it were in my possession I would probably end up conveniently ‘losing’ it.
I much prefer Giorgia’s drawing to mine this week.
It’s interesting that while we both have always been interested in creative pursuits, Giorgia’s interests are more varied and involve ways of creating that I find quite foreign, as I see being creative through music, movement, or through architecture as something that I just don’t think I would ever have the talent for, so am impressed when others do have these skills.
I also like this card because it starts a conversation by raising questions in my mind about Giorgia (and actually writing this is a reminder that I have more to ask her about this card)...instead of being the definitive representation of a person, each week is a starting point to learn and uncover more about each other.