Small children are often described as having sponges for brains. They mop up new information with alarming speed and breadth as new neural pathways are created to handle everything from motor skills to speech to manipulating the tall people who make funny faces at them. If you've ever seen a kid learn something, it's pretty amazing, and will likely make you think he or she must be the smartest kid in the world. This is why all but a handful of parents are deluded about their babies, but I really can't blame them. I'm pretty sure all the babies I've met are going to band together to form a race of super humans.
Adult brains just don't have that same capacity, but I think sponges are a pretty good analogies for brains overall. At this point, I would say my brain is more or less saturated. I'm not saying this to complain, but because I find it interesting (when I remember to think about it). Over the past several months, I've been Busy (capital B) with work and travel while still trying to talk to people I like and keep my house from smelling bad. The nature of my work has changed, too. I'm doing more and more middle managing, which means that instead of sitting quietly and sliding into Code Land (this is where programmers go when we stop blinking or responding to you), I'm constantly moving back and forth between Code Land and this wild and unorganized place where I have to get concepts out of my head and into the heads of other people. Preferably without freaking them out or sounding like an idiot. Here there be dragons. Oh, and while this is all going on? I should probably remember what I'm doing and what other people are doing so that I can refer back to these things later and, eventually, learn from them.
When a sponge is saturated, you just squeeze it out over the sink to free up some room. With a brain, well, that's kind of a disgusting visual. And while there's probably some room for squeezing information out of a brain, I've already squeezed out the obvious things like celebrity pregnancies and the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow. Now the information I'm not retaining feels more important. In order to stick with the sponge analogy, I'd say that the goal isn't to squeeze out the water/information to make more room. I want to absorb it, making it part of the sponge, thereby resulting in a larger sponge. You with me?
OK, maybe that analogy has outlived its usefulness. What I'm really noticing here is that there has been a change in the amount of information I'm able to retain. I think this has three primary causes: 1) I don't have enough time to reflect upon the events of my days, 2) the constant switching of topics has reduced my focus on any given topic, and 3) my brain is getting older along with the rest of me. So to improve, I'll have to make some headway with #1 because #2 isn't going anywhere and #3 is just plain inevitable.
In all, things are looking good on that front, given that I've found some time to idly muse about sponge-brains. It's been a delightful way to spend a rainy afternoon in a café in Portland.