Goldfish Memory

I have the memory of a goldfish. I know this because my sister tells me this regularly.

The term “goldfish memory” came about because supposedly, goldfish only have a memory span of a few seconds. We used to believe that every time a pet goldfish swims around its bowl, it recognizes nothing. That’s been disproven; by now scientists believe that goldfish can remember events anywhere from five months to several years. But “goldfish memory” has stuck.

When my sister complains about my goldfish memory, it’s usually because I have no recollection of something she remembers vividly from our childhood. Sometimes, she says, I used to remember this because I’ve talked about it with her before. But then I forget.

I forget random details at work, too. I never forgot about assignments or tasks when I was in school, but at work, there’s just stuff that falls off my radar. I use a planner to write out all my tasks each week and have an ongoing list of projects on a sticky note that I move from page to page, but I still forget small tasks and details. It’s gotten to the point where I annoy myself sometimes, although no one has ever said anything to me about it (I’d remember that, because honestly, how embarrassing).

I know that a lot of my memory issues are because I don’t pay attention. Often when I end up talking to my sister or husband, I’m doing something else at the same time, like making dinner or walking the dog. It makes sense that I miss details at those times, and I try to notice when I’ve stopped paying attention to what someone is saying and bring my mind back.

I have wondered, though, whether something is wrong with me. Is everyone forgetting as much stuff as I do and just lying about it, or is my brain kind of off? Perhaps I have a mild case of ADHD, which can manifest in women as forgetfulness. Maybe it’s a hormone imbalance. I go down the dreaded Web MD rabbit hole sometimes, reading about what can cause memory issues – the kind that aren’t life altering, just annoying.

Much like with other areas of my life, though, I think I’m just being paranoid. It’s more likely that my addiction of scrolling through social media has shortened my attention span too much. Less scrolling and more meditation would probably help.


  1. I think everyone has a bit of this. I’m amused at what my brother and I don’t share in the way of memories. It could just be a reflection of what you find important vs not so important.

  2. It’s not just you. Ask me about pop culture, a movie or a band or a book or a musical or comic book and my brain will provide encyclopedic detail. Ask me what I did last Tuesday at, say, seven in the evening, and I will have no earthly clue. My brain just never seems to prioritize my own life over random trivia.

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