Try asking an elderly person to recall their most pleasant memories, and there’s a good chance that a solid amount of them will come from a time period between the ages of 15 and 30.
This is the time frame when six of the ten most crucial events in a person’s life usually happen, according to a 2004 study: school, college, getting the first job, falling in love, getting married, and having children.
The psychological term for this phenomenon is “reminiscence bump,” and it helps us understand why our earlier years are so much more memorable than our lives after 30.
As Claudia Hammond wrote in her book Time Warped:
“The key to the reminiscence bump is novelty,”
“The reason we remember our youth so well is that it is a … time for firsts – first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home, the first time we get much real choice over the way we spend our days.”
These vital episodes of our lives stretch our perception of time, and as soon as novelty disappears, life seems to accelerate, according to Dan and Chip Heath, authors of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.
But even though it could come as a saddening realization that most of your greatest memories are behind you, as the authors wrote, it is important to put this feeling into context.
“It would be very easy to create a second reminiscence bump late in life. Just divorce your spouse, quit your job, move to New Zealand, and become a shepherd,” the authors wrote. “Plenty of novelty there, and you’re certain to write a rush of memories. But let’s not confuse memorability with wisdom.”
Simply put, you should constantly be adding fresh experiences to your life (without going over the top of course). As the authors say, “variety is the spice of life,” not “variety is the entrée of life.”
“Nobody dines on pepper and oregano,” they wrote. “A little novelty can go a long way.”
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