A good day to forget to remember

Living life transcends sorrow


Jaren Tankersley

Laura Tankersley’s ashes rest near the Continental Divide in Colorado.

I drove home from school on Thursday, Aug. 24, singing a rather bad acapella version of “Very Soft Shoes,” trying to perform the accursed vocal gymnastics required to hit the right notes. As the brick houses which make up most of my neighborhood flashed by and I rehearsed my musical audition material, I remembered I’d forgotten something for the entirety of the day before. Somehow, I’d forgotten Aug. 23 was the third anniversary of my mother’s death.

I took every class as a personal challenge to make Mom proud.”

— Jaren Tankersley

When my mom died in 2014, her death was the defining event of my life. Every time I spoke to someone, I was curt and angry. Every time I was in public, I kept myself to myself. I took every class as a personal challenge to make Mom proud, and ran from class to class so I could do every bellwork before the passing period ended. Every aspect of my day through freshman year was determined by an event which occurred before its beginning.

The above phenomenon is normal. I permanently lost contact with one of the most important people in my life, so it should come as no surprise I took a year to return to a semblance of normality. What is far more surprising is three years after the fact, I should forget it was three years after the fact.

I attribute my forgetful Wednesday in large part to the 2017-18 school year beginning earlier than usual, and bringing with it a tide of homework and extracurriculars, most notably the all-school musical. I spent much of Aug. 23 in glad anticipation for the auditions Thursday, drilling “Very Soft Shoes” endlessly to reach almost-listenable status.

My sophomore year was the first time I participated in the musical, and I was quickly hooked on the experience. Though I was likely the most reclusive cast member, I’d never felt a greater sense of camaraderie and common purpose than I did with the rest of the cast of “Crazy for You.” We all saw each other for hours on end almost every day, and several friendships which have lasted me to this, my senior year, began while running the dance to “Slap That Bass” or choreographing the massive bar fight.

Yet my mind was not only on musical that Wednesday, as I’d spent much of the day editing photos and writing captions for a slideshow of the solar eclipse for this very publication.

I may have forgotten to remember the day my mother died, but I’ll never forget she did.”

— Jaren Tankersley

If the all-school musical gave me a sense of camaraderie my sophomore year, The Eagle’s Tale gave me a sense of purpose. Much as I wanted to be around the 2015-16 newspaper staff, I wanted to work with them more. I discovered I wanted to work hard, wanted to write well for this publication and wanted to contribute as much as I could. I learned how well I could write, and how much better I needed to write to pull my weight on staff. I loved every second of working on The Eagle’s Tale, even the moments when I failed miserably to live up to expectations. I still do.

The Eagle’s Tale and the all-school musical didn’t save me, nor did One Act Play or UIL academics later in the year. I couldn’t have participated in any of those if I weren’t already well on my way toward accepting a very painful loss, and I couldn’t today. The Eagle’s Tale and the all-school musical didn’t and don’t define me, nor do One Act Play or UIL academics. My identity is independent of what I do.

But what I do occupied and occupies a massive amount of my thoughts. The organizations I join, the activities I love and even the homework I mostly despise demand my attention so thoroughly, I rarely give a second thought to the major and minor tragedies or triumphs which color my life. I could easily say this lack of reflection is unhealthy, but I believe it’s a good thing.

I’m happy I forgot on Aug. 23. I’m happy I never once stopped and thought “Wow, three years ago today, my entire family underwent easily the worst ordeal any of us had ever faced,” because there’s nothing to be gained from that. If my mother had been able to, I’ve little doubt she would have told freshman Jaren “You have too much stuff to deal with to mope around. Now get moving,” and she’d be right.

I may have forgotten to remember the day my mother died, but I’ll never forget she did. The tragedy which completely changed my life will always be writ large on my person. Yet I’ve long since finished dwelling on that fact, because I have better things to do. I place more importance on living life than on remembering death.