This quote from the last season of The Office got me right in the heart the first time I heard it. What do you consider to be “the good old days” of your life? Is there a time you would go back to and re-live if you could – changing nothing, but just for the joy of it?
I used to say I would be seventeen again in a heartbeat. I was a senior in high school, living with my family and attending a boarding school in Germany for Missionary Kids. I had good friends, a crush I could obsess over, and hardly any responsibilities. That was the year we went on a class trip to Rome for a week, and the year we visited my friend’s family in Egypt over Christmas break. My parents even let me go Euro-railing with a girlfriend after graduating. Surely I would go back to seventeen.
But the thing with “the good old days” is that we tend to romanticize them. We conveniently forget the hard parts, the stressful parts, the awful parts. When I look back on seventeen, I gloss right over the heartbreak of seeing my crush with That Other Girl, the stress of choosing the “right” college, the dread and fear I felt when preparing to move to the States on my own. I don’t like to remember the tearful goodbyes at graduation as all my classmates and friends scattered to the four corners of the Earth.
There’s a trick to knowing when you’re living in “the good old days” before they’re gone:
Always assume that you’re living in them now.
Because the problem is that we don’t know what we have until it’s gone. Just like I wish I could shake my pre-kid self and tell her how much free time she has on her hands, we don’t always have the gift of hindsight.
That’s why we should try to embrace whatever life stage we’re in and expect that we’ll look back on these “right now” days as the good ones. That means taking stock of the things we’re grateful for now. Let’s relish the moments that we love, whether that’s reading in the bath, digging in the garden, going out with friends, snuggling a newborn, or playing cards with our kids. Let’s put down our phone, silence the distractions, and give ourselves the gift of focus and lean into the present.
Last week when my parents were visiting for the day, my five year old invited me to hang out with him under a blanket on the couch. I left a sink full of dishes a little unwillingly, knowing I’d have to take care of them after the kids went down during my precious Me Time. But I joined him, and I was happy to see that it made him happy. He giggled under the blanket and when I popped my head out from under our makeshift tent, my mom caught my attention. “These are the good old days,” she said with a big smile. “Okay, but when’s bedtime?” I countered. She laughed because she understands my sarcasm.
But it was a good reminder for me to soak in the little moments, to relish the parts of my every day that I love instead of grumbling about the parts that I don’t.
What about you? What part of your right-now life will you look back on down the road and think “Those were the good old days?”
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