Chi Chi Rodriquez (remember him? that cute little golfer dude in plaid pants?) apparently said:
I don't exaggerate. I just remember big.
I'm right there with ya, Chi Chi, except I'm more likely to remember things better than they actually were rather than bigger.
My mind simply does not retain stuff I didn't enjoy. Frankly, it doesn't retain a lot of the stuff I DID enjoy, either. It also seems to convert unpleasant experiences to pleasant ones before it stores them away. That's sort of a fascinating and useful programming feature, in my opinion. Can't relive a terror or be haunted by regret if I don't even remember what happened!
So it makes sense that I don't put much credence in memories. My own, for sure, but also those of others. Memory is frightfully subjective. Same with history, which to me, is just a collection of some people's perspectives that got recorded somehow.
I'm suspicious of stories, too, even first person accounts. Once the moment has passed, they are are simply narratives of a memory. Even just one minute later. Oh heck, even IN that moment, we all selectively screen out a ton of data. Our nervous systems can only process so much. The instant we try to communicate something, we have limited it. It's perfectly natural.
My theory is that memories and stories tell us much more about the personality, beliefs, and outlook of the person who is sharing them than about actual events.
By listening to your stories and memories, I can get clues about what is important to you. Do you tell me how it looked, how it felt, or how it sounded? Do you describe the people or the surroundings? Include information about individuals, relationships or systems? Use the language of feelings or thoughts?
Do you project intentions as if you know the perspective of someone else on the scene, or just report what you have observed from your position?
Lots of info there. And none of it has to do with what actually happened back then. so I guess memory and history are useful to me after all, not as a window to the past, but to contribute to my understanding of the perspective of whoever is sharing them with me.