Firsthand | experiences with aging

By Lynn C. Anderson

As we age and encounter more challenges while traveling, it’s good to bear in mind that our worst experiences often make the best and funniest memories. Remembering is one of these challenges. 

Several years ago, I was returning to San Diego after having spent the holidays in Minnesota. My daughter Stephanie had given me a jar of her incredible homemade jam that I put in my carry-on luggage. During the security check at the airport, the TSA agent removed the jam from my carry-on, and told me I couldn’t take it with me. I had forgotten that jam would be considered a liquid or gel and had to be three ounces or less.  

My sad face was evident as I explained that this was a gift from my daughter. The TSA agent took pity on me and said, “Well, I guess it’s okay since it’s frozen.” It was not frozen, but I realized what he was doing and responded not with “Yes”—since I didn’t want to lie to TSA—but rather with “Whatever you say,” and I was allowed to take the jam with me. Needless to say, I have been very careful not to forget TSA regulations since then.  

During my decades-long personal and professional engagement with international education, and thanks to speaking several languages, I have managed to see a good part of the world, find my way, and not feel like a foreigner. Despite that, I have managed to almost miss trains, get lost, mix up words and cause embarrassment, and be clueless about some customs. This has gotten worse over the years, but also makes for good stories.  

I recently heard a presentation by a psychologist who said it isn’t that we forget, it’s that we fail to remember. We set down our keys or glasses randomly without thinking to ourselves, “I’m putting my keys on the kitchen counter,” or “I’m putting my glasses on the table by the recliner.” Without giving our brains this information, she said, there is nothing for our brains to remember. 

Being intentional about remembering can help contain forgetfulness. 

Also, before you start wondering, “Am I doing things right?” you should ask yourself, “Am I doing the right things?"