Lacking Memory

I mentioned on my Home page that I am somewhat mentally impaired.  One of these impairments is that I have an exceptionally poor memory.  In a sense I have far fewer memories than most people.  I have a relative who has Down Syndrome who remembers people and events better than I.  That’s how bad my memory is.

I can hardly remember my phone number and address and frequently get the numbers reversed or scrambled or mixed up with other numbers.  When told a phone number I cannot remember it.  I must write it down and have it repeated several times to make sure of accuracy.  I only remember names of people I have known intimately for some time but may forget their names if I haven’t seem them for some years.  I’m very bad at recognizing faces and have great difficulty pick out my wife and children in a crowd.

My short term memory is greatly impacted, so much so that I’m not sure if my long term memory is any good since little ever get there.  I have little visual memory so cannot remember people and people’s dress accounting for why I have great difficulty picking people out in a crowd or remembering scenery I have just seen or passed by.  I would make a terrible witness to a crime.  Thus I cannot draw or paint since I have such limited visual memories of physical scenes.  I can watch movies and TV series over and over again because I forget much of the plot.

That is not to say that I cannot remember anything.  I remember concepts if I am given the opportunity to understand them.  In spite of my mind being so limited in physical images I can visualize simple isolated objects that I conjure up in my mind.  I think my mind gets confused with seeing so much background imagery that I cannot focus upon the image of interest.  For example I very often cannot find thing I am looking for.  Frequently they are right in front of me but I cannot recognize them.  I need the aid of my wife to find thing I need at the spare of the moment.  This is often a source of great frustration as I usually perform an extensive search before asking my wife for assistance.  Perhaps this is symptomatic of autism as well.

As a student at school I was always at the bottom if not the very bottom of my class.  I could barley read (dyslexia) or write since I read so little.  I have not finished a book since college.  I could not spell worth a darn; thank goodness for spell checker now days.  I was a “C” student at best.  I lacked math and science skills, something that I had to later deal with as an engineering student in college.  It took me 10 years to get my Masters degree as a full time student.  However one thing I had was PERSISTENT.  Once I set a goal I would not quit.  I always loved science and wanted to be an engineer like my uncle and I never gave up that dream no matter how difficult it was or how long it took.

Engineering, especially electrical engineering was very math and science intense.  I had difficulty understanding basic arithmetic, but algebra, calculus, differential equations, statistics and other advanced mathematical concepts as part of the curriculum were simply beyond me.  I’m not sure how I passed this classes.  Most certainly I had to repeat many of them accounting for taking 10 years to graduate.  I remember pleading with my statistics professor to give me a passing grade after the final since this was one of the last requirements for graduate school.  Then there was physics, quantum theory, organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, material science and all the other science requirements, most of them very math intense, to cope with.  Again I had to repeat some of these classes.  Again I’m not sure how I eventually passed these classes.  But I did love science and often visualized various physical concepts to understand them better such as quantum mechanics and electronic circuits.  But I lacked the mathematical modeling skills to understand them in depth.

As a professional engineer I found that most of what I was taught in college wasn’t needed for my job.  Computers greatly aided me in modeling engineering designs.  My ability to visually model simple concepts in my mind helped me immensely in my professional career and I was able to perform at work way beyond my physical memory limitations.  My persistence to create and realize my ideas using crude visual physical concepts was the secret to my professional success.  I was never able to achieve high level technical tasks but I was quite successful in areas where I had a fairly good visual grasp of simpler concepts.  Engineering suited me very well since for most of my career I worked rather autonomously with minimal interactions with people, another skill I grossly lacked in.

So in spite of the lack of memory, I have been able to compensate for my deficiencies and come out a winner in life.  My writing skill has vastly improved since I now write much more than before, especially on this blog.  But I still must repeatedly edit my posts to correct and improve the wording and spelling.  Most people are unaware of my deficiencies since I have managed to compensate for them or cover them up so well.

I have achieved more than many without such a deficit.  I have persistently put in the work and effort and have been amply rewarded.  But it has been a lot of hard work.  However it’s been an overall great and rewarding life and well worth the effort.

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2 Responses to Lacking Memory

  1. Victor Kuan says:

    Frank: This symptom is common as aged. I do have same on numbers and names, without the smartphone where I have stored all the phone numbers I am lost. When I am introduced the names of gatherings, I won’t remember them anyway. Lucky I do remember my home address.
    What I am doing to make my brain works is to play some games of mahjong on the iPad by trying to remember which have been thrown or saved and which are the dangerous one with high risk of losing the game.
    Good luck.

    • fgeefay says:

      I was born that way. In Y.W. I was almost at the bottom of the class in Form 5. You and my brother who is 2 yr. younger then I skipped to Form 6 and took the GCE. You never saw my report card with all the red marks or knew that I had to take a special math test over again not to repeat Form 4. In college I was also at the bottom of my class.

      I now use this blog to exercise my brain writing articles to express my thoughts and opinions to keep my aging brain cogs from rusting.

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