Over the weekend, S and I celebrated the second birthday of one of our nieces. Family and friends came together for the event, everyone there to appreciate the birthday girl.
But not entirely the birthday girl.
The small children present were arguably more excited about a different aspect of this party: cake.
In their mind, birthday parties meant birthday cake.
Isn’t it funny how the human mind makes such strong associations?
It can be fun, attaching memories to objects and events. I associate my engagement story with the shirt I was wearing when S proposed. I associate road trips with the alphabet game – something my family always played. I associate certain songs to a book I was reading, or a city I walked through while listening to it.
Some associations, however, can be painful.
I have gotten rid of clothes because they reminded me of an event that made me sad. There is a song that always reminds me of a friend who died. Some places remind me of friendships lost.
It can be easy to avoid certain things or places because they remind us strongly of something we would rather not remember.
While it may take a while to conquer some of those particular associations, I’ve found that it’s not healthy to alter your life based solely on negative experiences. In fact, there’s a kind of healing in returning and forging new, happier memories on top of the old, bad ones.
We can’t let unfortunate circumstance control us.
Instead, it would be better to consciously make positive associations.
When you go somewhere you’ve been before, take a moment to think back on good memories that took place there. Taking the time to bask in happy thoughts leads us to thankfulness.
Life experiences can become to us what birthday parties are to 2-year-olds: fun with cake.