The Good Ol Days
I was sitting with someone recently at a work event, and I was talking about my newborn.
“Enjoy it,” he told me. “I wish I had. I was so stressed about everything when my daughter was born. Now I realize, those were the good ol’ days.”
It happened again, around the same time. My wife and I were singing to our son and a relative who was staying with us said: “Ah, how wonderful. You’ll remember these as the good ol’ days.”
The good ol’ days.
I was trying to place why this didn’t sound totally new. And I realized that before the baby was born, when my wife was pregnant, people would often say: “Ah, enjoy the quiet house, and the time you can spend with your spouse. You’ll think of these as the good ol’ days.”
And before that, come to think of it, before my wife was even pregnant, at our wedding, when we were just talking about possible kids one day, friends would say: “Well, enjoy your time together as a couple. Some day you’ll have kids, and these will be the good ol’ days.”
Man, and I remember in college, when we took our first writing class, and the teacher was explaining how the writing we would do in this class would only affect us and no one else, and how that would never be the case in the professional world. And so he said: “Think of these as the good ol’ days. When you’re writing for an audience of one, me.”
Actually, I remember being upset about the batteries on my game boy not working for about 20 minutes on a car trip once, and my dad turned to my uncle and said, “man, kids. They make such a big deal about the smallest things. They have no idea what’s to come. They don’t know that they’ll look back on these years as the good ol’ days.”
So at every single important moment in my life, someone has pointed out that I’ll look back on the present one day wistfully. I’ll bet I’m not the only one.
And it makes us feel nice in the moment, but the build up of these kind of statements over time can be toxic. Dangerous even.
Because we’re so focused on how stressed and overloaded our future self will be as they review the past. We’re concerned that the future self will wish they had been more appreciative of what our past-self had. We assume that it won’t slow down, won’t get better, that there won’t ever be a moment of rest, of relief.
And maybe we’re right, but all this interplay between time and perspective makes us miss the point entirely.
That this kind of thinking puts an intense focus on the past and the future, but completely ignores the present moment. That the good ol’ days are right now and will always be.
Joy and tragedy will come and go. Things will get more complex over time, most likely.
But unless we stay in the present moment, unless we subscribe to the idea that there are good ol’ days happening right now on our journey, then we never actually get to appreciate how good these days really are.