Milestones and Memory

Today I want to talk about milestones – about those significant times in the life of a person or group. The obvious important passage we all have is a birthday. At the first of the month, it was the beginning of a new year. Many mark that event with resolutions to change something in the days to come.

Everyone has times like those in their lives. However, those normal events are not what make us what we are. Rather we each have milestones unique to ourselves that have shaped us. Sometimes these were huge – marriage, children, an important new job, or something sad like a terminal illness.

Often, however, the events were small and seemingly unimportant, and it is only looking back that we see their significance. For instance, some examples from my own life. When I graduated from college, I needed a job to pay school loans, before I could pursue the career I planned on. I happened into a job in a library, and my life took an unexpected turn as I fell in love with the profession, and went on to get my masters. I occasionally stop and remember the unexpected direction my life took, and am grateful that it did.

I remember the day a young woman I barely knew offered to take me shopping for a present for my little brother. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just met the woman who would become my dearest friend. Much later, I worked at a job where one particular person had it in for me and made my life miserable. She taught me both the difficulty of forgiveness and how it brings peace.

I hope today you will reflect on the significant events in your own life and acknowledge how they shaped you into what you are.

Quotes about memory and milestones

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.–Nelson Mandela

I think one of life’s great milestones is when a person can look back and be almost as thankful for the setbacks as for the victories.–Bob Dole

My path has not been determined. I shall have more experiences and pass many more milestones.–Agnetha Faltskog

Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.–Susan B. Anthony

When you have a life milestone happen, it’s good to step back and reassess the things you thought you knew about yourself.–Emily Yoffe

Life is all about evolution. What looks like a mistake to others has been a milestone in my life.–Ameesha Patel

Celebrate each season, for you too, are transformed with the turns of the earth.–Arthur Dobrin

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.–C. S. Lewis

How we remember, what we remember, and why we remember form the most personal map of our individuality.–Christina Baldwin

Memory is not about what went on in the past, it is about what is going on inside us right this moment. … It is made up of the stuff of life in the process of becoming the grist of the soul.–Joan Chittister

Memory is the crux of our humanity. Without memory we have no identities. That is really why I am committing an autobiography.–Erica Jong

Memory is the place where our vanished days secretly gather. … The past seems to be gone and absent. Yet the grooves in the mind hold the traces and vestiga of everything that has ever happened to us. Nothing is ever lost or forgotten.–John O’Donohue

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Libraries Remember Day

September 11 is a day we remember many things about the attack on the World Trade Center and other buildings. It was Bill Erbes of Bensenville Community Public Library who started libraries Remember Day. He suggested other libraries join his being open 24 hours on September 11, from midnight to midnight, as a remembrance of not only that terrible time but of the part libraries play in preserving freedom and history.

What may not be widely known is that the American Library Association adopted a patron’s bill of rights way back in 1939. I have abridged it, but you can read the full document here.

  1. Library materials should be available to all.
  2. Libraries should provide materials presenting all points of view, not limiting them to a particular belief system.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship.
  4. Libraries should work with all groups concerned with freedom of speech and information.
  5. The library should be open to all users.
  6. Is about making library public spaces and meeting rooms equally available to all.

This has led libraries to do such things as make sure a patron’s record is private. Most library systems break the link between patron and items checked out after they are returned so that no one’s reading habits can be used against them. Libraries provide access to the Internet so that all can access available information. Libraries fight censorship in all its forms.

Libraries also preserve history, collecting source documents, cataloging, and housing them so that they are available for researchers and others. Even in this age of instant information, we need libraries to help sort the wheat from the chaff, nd to provide a long, historical view.

Neil Gaiman has called libraries “the thin red line between civilisation and barbarism.” Libraries remember even when the powers that be don’t want them to.

Quotes about libraries

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.–Ray Bradbury

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you.–Keith Richards

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.–Walter Cronkite

The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.–T. S. Eliot

To Whom It May Concern: Welcome to the library where no one will tell you what to read or tell you what to think…. Meanwhile a book over there on a shelf will be glancing at you sideways getting up the courage to ask you out make you laugh make you cry make you fall in love.–Meg Rosoff

A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them.–Mark Twain

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.–Lady Bird Johnson

Libraries are about Freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.–Neil Gaiman

The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.–Carl Rowan

Libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information.–Barack Obama

Knowledge sets us free, art sets us free. A great library is freedom.–Ursula K. Le Guin

I go into my library and all history unrolls before me.–Alexander Smith

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National I Forgot Day

Yesterday, I posted this quote to my email list: “I did know once, only I’ve sort of forgotten.” by A. A. Milne (from Winnie the Pooh, of course), not realizing that today was National I Forgot Day. Funny how things work out sometimes! (By the way, if you are interested in getting an inspirational quote in your inbox each day, you can subscribe at

This holiday was invented by Gaye Anderson, when she was having a period in her life when she was having trouble remembering things. There are several ways to use this day.

First, sit down and think about things you may have forgotten – birthdays, anniversaries, etc. – and send a card or make a call to the person, explaining why you are suddenly contacting them today.

Or, perhaps it’s a day for you to stop beating yourself up about not remembering a few things, and give yourself permission to simply forget them – for today, or forever.

Third, if there are things that happened in your past that are poisoning your present, this is your official permission to forget them. Let the past be the past. Deal with what you can, and forget the rest and move on. Seek professional help if needed.

So whether you are someone who needs prodding to remember, or someone who needs to let thing go, or someone else, celebrate this holiday in the way that helps you the most.

The graphic is from the National I Forgot to Remember Website.


Quotes about memory.

The charm, one might say the genius of memory, is that it is choosy, chancy, and temperamental: it rejects the edifying cathedral and indelibly photographs the small boy outside, chewing a hunk of melon in the dust.–Elizabeth Bowen

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

How we remember, what we remember, and why we remember form the most personal map of our individuality.–Christina Baldwin (One to One)

If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.–E. Joseph Cossman

It is memory that provides the heart with impetus, fuels the brain, and propels the corn plant from seed to fruit.–Joy Harjo (Conference)

It would add much to human happiness, if an art could be taught of forgetting all of which the remembrance is at once useless and afflictive … that the mind might perform its functions without encumbrance, and the past might no longer encroach upon the present.–Samuel Johnson (The Idler)

Memory has the singular characteristic of recalling in a friend absent, as in a journey long past, only that which is agreeable.–Charles Dudley Warner (“Fifth Study” Backlog Studies)

Memory is not about what went on in the past, it is about what is going on inside us right this moment. … It is made up of the stuff of life in the process of becoming the grist of the soul.–Joan Chittister (The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully)

A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.–Elbert Hubbard (The Note Book)

Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.–Willa Cather

A strange thing is memory, and hope; one looks backward, and the other forward; one is of today, the other of tomorrow. Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter, it paints pictures of the past and of the day.–Anna Mary Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses (in My Life’s History by Kallir)

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