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I do not pine for the days of my youth.

The best years of my life came with a bit of lengthening of the tooth -- when the epiphanies, the realizations, the confidence, the wisdom, the don't-care-what-they-think-ness began to hit.

I say this in light of yet another interesting story showcased in my daily newsletter from Curiosity.com: "The Reminiscence Bump Is Why You Pine for the Days of Your Youth."

"Quick, name three important milestones that happen in a person's life," begins the December 2017 story by Ashley Hamer. "We bet retirement and having grandkids weren't on your list." Well no. I'm not retired ... and the way my industry is going, I wonder if retirement will come in the nice, neat package I've seen others enjoy. Biology gone bad prevented the appearance of children, so no grandbabies.

But, goes the story, it's likely that we'd name things that happened in our teens and 20s--thanks to "the reminiscence bump."

Hamer cites a study back in the '70s in which undergraduate college students, after hearing random words, recorded the memory that the word evoked in them. The students recalled more recent memories ... which doesn't seem to be that big a surprise, considering they'd probably just left their folks' homes a year or so previous, before which their lives consisted of braces, acne, unrequited crushes, clashes with parents/teachers/coaches, and prom wear that they probably would have rather forgetten.

OK, let me shut up and get back to the reminiscence bump. Things got more interesting in the 1980s when graduate student Scott Wetzler wondered if studies of older folk, identical to the study of the '70s youngsters, would yield the same results. He gathered the data from researchers who'd conducted the experiment with oldsters. "Instead of a gradual decline in memories as the events got more distant, older adults showed a "bump" in the number of memories they recalled right around their 20s," Hamer writes. Um, which any youngster with a grandparent would readily confirm, having been a captive audience of Memaw's/Pepaw's oft-repeated tales of their college years!

The older folks also reminisced about their teen years. Among them, unsexy braces, acne, unrequited crushes and ugly prom wear morphed into misty water-color memories that involved first cars, adventurous school-skipping excursions, leading the football team to victory.

And the studies kept coming. A 1999 study revealed that people are more likely to remember important public events from this time in their lives. A 2007 study found that people tended to come across their favorite books and movies during early adulthood. Respondents in a 2014 study believed even fictional people would have their most important experiences while young.

Scientists speculate that the bump is due to the fact that we experience so many "firsts" (car, love, etc.) in our teens and 20s; that it's a time when we were at our most wild and free; that it's a time during which we "found" ourselves, identitywise.

"There's nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, it's good to realize that those memories are subjective," Hamer warns. "The world probably wasn't the best it's ever been when you were in high school and college. You just remember it that way."

As for myself, uh, no.

Not to say all my teen and young-adult memories are bad. But I still tend to cringe when thinking of that period in the Talkmistress Timeline. I went from being a severely bullied child to a still occasionally bullied, geographically isolated, sheltered-by-the-folks nerd who dreamed of young adulthood, thinking it would be everything it . . . wasn't. Yeah, right: I've lamented multiple times in this space about my 20s being a major bummer, bringing with them weight regain, one bad romance after another, continued lack of confidence, continued loneliness/didn't-fit-in-anywhereness, bad family relationships ... and the beginning of that "14-year spring break" from college thanks to a nearly full-time job, partying and plain old burnout. I didn't have it together much better in my 30s, but at least I finished college in that decade.

My best memories began in my 40s, and I'm sticking to that. The only way in which my reminiscence bump corresponds with the bump revealed by these doggone studies comes via the wish for the biological advantages afforded by yesteryear combined with the swagger and sass accumulated today.

Remember when we wrote letters? Forget that. Just email:

hwilliams@arkansasonline.com

Style on 04/14/2019

Print Headline: Teens, 20s not best of memories

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