Middle school was a time that for most of us can best be described as: chaotic. Bodies were changing, interests were developing, identities were forming. On top of that were sports, schoolwork, family dynamics, and evolving technologies. All of these things and more contributed to the chaos.
You might think that the memories which stand out most today involve a crush or one-upping a rival, or some social accomplishment. That makes sense. Discerning social complexities was the overarching theme of that period in our lives. But that’s not what stands out for me. For me, it was a paper.
The smallest details make all the difference. An accessory determines an outfit. A passing compliment can turn a week around. A typo in the wrong place can prove fatal. What’s amazing is that the larger aspects of a situation are not what we remember. That’s not what we care about.
It’s the subtle nuance that matters. It’s the smell of perfume over the date itself. It’s the heated seats over the make and model of the car. It’s the hole-in-the-wall gem over the city. We remember details, because that’s what makes the memory.
“Kenneth, I really liked your paper, because you kept eluding to the next paragraph before you started it.” I’m paraphrasing after all this time, but the point Mrs. Bennett was making is that a good paper leads the reader.
Writing was never my strong suit. One could argue it still isn’t. All the way up until I took the GRE, my test scores consistently showed my linguistic skills as far lower than math and science. I did not enjoy English as a class, nor literature. There’s no reason why, after all this time, I should still have a connection to that moment and that one sentence. Or perhaps that’s exactly why this detail has stuck with me.
It’s the smallest details that make all the difference. That one line from Mrs. Bennett in 6th grade has rung through my mind more often than the catchiest pop song. Most every time I’ve picked up a pen since, that tune has played between my ears. It’s been vastly helpful and encouraging for me over the years, but it means so much more.
The smallest details make all the difference. You and I are the ones creating all these details. You and I have the power, whether we want it or not, to create moments like the one Mrs. Bennett created for me. But there’s a catch.
I’ve given a positive account. If you say the right thing at the right time, you can make a positive difference in someone’s life. There’s a B-side to this track, however. A negative detail can be just as powerful. A scowl, a passing degrading comment, responding inappropriately to a situation. There’s an immense responsibility in those details! There’s an immense responsibility given to each of us.
We remember details very well. Subtleties are what make moments memorable. The falling of a leaf, the way your significant other brushes hair out of your eyes, the way a boss undermines your work. You and I are in control of the details. You and I can make all the difference. How will you?