Just keep going until you achieve it
When I was five years old I began to develop an unusual talent. Sick in bed with chicken pox, I missed an entire week of kindergarten from Monday, February 28 to Friday March 4. How do I remember what the dates were? Because that is the unusual talent.
At times that week I felt too sick to be up and play with toys. It happened that my Uncle Billy had given me a 1966 calendar. I laid in bed and connected each date in the block to what would be on Prime Time Television that night. By the end of the week I realized that I knew each day of the week for the entire year.
From that week forward I made mental notes each day of what the weather was, what happened in school etc. and what was in the news. I wondered if there would be any way to use this talent to make a living or contribute to society. However, I did not find that it related to any type of job. In 1988 when the movie Rain Man was out I realized that I had the same gift that Dustin Hoffman’s character Ray Babbitt had but without the autism.
I always wanted to do something with my ability to remember dates. I am one of those people who remembers every day of my life since age six and I am now 54. It’s called Hyperthymesia and only 50 people in the world have this ability.
When I was 14 years old I wanted to show off my ‘talent’ in a talent show we had in my junior high school. However, the vice principal told me that he was afraid the kids would not appreciate it.
One day I heard about the study at the University of California. They were studying people who have Hyperthymesia, or as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. On Wednesday February 11, 2011, at age 50 I was given a battery of tests that have now been used in reports. They are looking at additional ways to use the knowledge that I and about 50 others provided.
What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?
In 2005 when I turned 45 I thought I would write a book my Hyperthymesia. It took me until 2007 to write and get it published.
One of the drawbacks of this condition is you remember all the bad things that happened in addition to the good things… and you remember as if it was happening now. I’ve interviewed people who had traumatic memories.
What were the specific obstacles that you faced?
Whenever I was interviewed on radio and television, I was always asked questions like, ‘What date did I see a particular movie? What day did a certain news event happen? There were many people who thought my gift was neat, however, I get an occasional person who thought it was scary. They always watched how they acted around me.
Were there people that tried to discourage you?
I was careful about who I told about my desires so that they could not discourage me.
How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?
I am religious and philosophical. It was exciting and a relief because now I know I did something with the gift. I participated in a study and I wrote a book. Doctors are still looking into Hyperthymesia. One is writing a doctoral dissertation. The results of the study are used for information, education and to find cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
What advice would you give to others who are contemplating finally living their dream?
It’s important for them to examine what beliefs they have that make them believe that they can’t do something. Tenacity is important. Just keep going until you achieve it.
If you believe in God, praying helps. Pray with confidence that you dream will happen.
There are people who visualize their dreams and imagine that the dream is already achieved. Your brain comes up with ideas about how to do it if you visualize that it has already happened.
To read Frank’s book, Heal Your Memories, Change Your Life, click here.