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White Boards and Memory Boards

Sarah Laud outlines the importance of understanding your own memories and their impacts.

By Sarah LaudPublished 17 days ago 6 min read

My kitchen table was covered with needles and a series of small syringes. My mom sat at the head where she pushed the needles onto the tip of the syringes. She injected the clear liquid into the port that was implanted right above the cancer site. Every six hours she did this. When my mom wasn’t turning the kitchen into a make-shift hospital, she had drains hanging from her torso from her five surgeries. And when the drains weren’t hanging there, like ornaments on a Christmas tree, she was stuck in bed or on the couch too weak to move from chemotherapy. I delivered toast and tea with sugar to her side every mealtime as this was the only thing she could stomach. The memories of my mom’s cancer, the fear, and the worry are still present today. However, now I am sitting in a college classroom years later staring at a white board in front of me.

As I stare at it, the white board looks simple. A white piece of plastic, sometimes porcelain or enamel-coated steel, is nailed to four long inch by inch pieces of wood; one on the bottom, one at the top and two at the sides so that a large square is formed, the size of a banner or small billboard. This standing platform is typically used as a surface to write on. However, white boards hold an incessant capacity of knowledge, power, and even a little bit of mystery.

White boards are used by teachers all over the nation. Installed in almost every classroom, white boards serve as a vehicle for creativity and knowledge. Teachers stand before students, marker in hand waiting to paint the board with whatever knowledge is to be instilled to the next generation for the day. 50 minutes go by or an hour or two or three. Students scribble in their notebooks or dance their fingers across keyboards copying down the information to be recited later in an upcoming exam or paper.

At the end of class, when all the students have left, the teacher takes a grey plastic cube of felt and rubs the marker off the board. The teacher wipes away the marker in sections so that they don’t have to travel back and forth across the board’s length. They ensure that every fleeting remnant of blue or red or pink or orange or brown marker is removed from the white surface. Sometimes, the teacher uses the small white bottle that contains a clear, plastic smelling spray. Its contents are sprayed over the sections the teacher traveled along, then rubbed with a paper towel or rag to whiten the colorful hue left behind.

Upon entering that classroom, unknown to you were the contents that were splayed over the board prior to your own class. After leaving the room, what would next be transferred onto the same board is unknown. Sometimes, you arrive in class and there are phrases or pictures strewn about the white surface that you look at and try to unveil their meanings.

A whiteboard is a lot like memory. When erased, a white board becomes a clean slate. Everyone deserves a clean slate at least once in their lives, when their history catches up to them and overwhelms their present and their future. However, a clean slate is hard to obtain. Accepting your past and moving forward with a clear headspace is something you must fight for. And the journey will be hard.

I remember crying on the steps that led to the office of my high school guidance counselor, waiting for her to arrive. It was the morning after my mom was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery when the doctor found that her body was to start shutting down soon. Cellulitis — a complication from surgery and treatment caused a deadly infection. Screw the cancer, it was this that was about to kill my mom. As I sat on those steps, I felt so small. And that’s when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and Zoloft became my best friend. Now, every time I open a pill bottle I have flashbacks to that day on the stairs.

Nothing will ever be fully erased. The contents once written on a white board are in someone’s notebook or binder or saved on a file on their computer. It is locked in their mind waiting for the next moment when they can recite that knowledge. Somewhere in your psyche, your history is stored. The memories of before will always be with you, no matter how hard you try to forget about them. There may come a moment when you feel that all you want is to have that part of you erased, like it should no longer be a part of you.

Some people find that their past suffocates the present and the future. These people work hard to find ways to keep their past and the accompanying memories from following them. They fight so hard to forget. And sometimes these people are successful. Even for a fleeting moment, everything in the past dissipates like it was never there or seems to have been resolved until suddenly, whether it’s right after that fleeting moment or some time later, the past will come back in ways that are not always predicted.

A white board will never be clean of the contaminants left by markers on its surface. No matter how hard one scrubs or how much cleaner one sprays on the board, there will always be something that contaminates its pure white surface. Maybe it’s the “th” in the word “the” that’s sitting in the upper-right corner. Or it’s the black pieces of felt that accumulate on the very edges of the white board from the erasing working hard to get the marker off. All those little imperfections are signs of students on their way to becoming scholars. They are the memories of knowledge instilled in the younger generations. As hard as it is to leave these little imperfections, sometimes you just have to accept and work around them.

Some memories are like those marks left on the white board that make you itch to get rid of them. But are memories and what encapsulates one’s past always imperfections? There is a misconception that “the past” is something negative, something that puts a damper on people and who they are in the present. And because of this, people do whatever they can do to bury the past. However, there may come a time when you realize that you may not want to forget. You may want to hold onto the memories of your past. And it may hurt, but somewhere these components of your past make who you are today. And that’s what is worth fighting for. Not forgetting, but embracing whatever is in the past as forever being a part of what you are and who you have become.

mental health

About the Creator

Sarah Laud

Sarah Laud is an accomplished student and a competitive horseback rider with over a decade of experience.

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