Everyone remembers the “good old days.”
Times of friends and fun. Times of simpler living and less worries. While each person’s definition or recollection of what the “good old days” were can vary widely, nearly everyone, no matter their age, can remember them. For some, it was the 1980s or 1950s or another decade of the past. For others, it was a more recent period in time. But everybody has one: that time they look back on with nostalgia and fondness.
Why is this?
It’s rare to come across someone who can honestly tell you that they’re currently living out their “good old days.” This somewhat vague, idyllic concept is almost always something that has occurred years or decades prior. I’ve always wondered why this is often the case. Why are there so few people out there who can tell you that they’re enjoying the best times of their life right now? Why are all the good times seemingly confined to the hazy memories of yesteryear?
Before I attempt to answer these questions, I want to point out that I’m not writing from a place of condescension on this issue. I’m certainly not immune to the nostalgic syndrome. While I’m just 25 years old, I often refer to the 1990s and early 2000s as my own “good old days” and look back on them with a particularly warm feeling of endearment. This is fairly common among other “millennials” my age. After all, our childhoods were undoubtedly a simpler time. With less real-world, “adult” responsibilities to concern us, life was more about leisure and entertainment.
I still remember most of everything that made my childhood so great. I was born in 1992 to excellent parents who loved (and still love) me very much.
That’s most certainly the most important part of this puzzle, because without a good family undergirding one’s past (and present), there is little hope for the ability to look back on the past with any kind of partiality. I feel almost guilty about it. How is it really fair that I was so blessed while so many others are not so fortunate? At any rate, I had it good. I was doted over. I was idolized. I was spoiled.
My mom, not too long ago, texted me a photo of myself at age 2 or 3 on Christmas Day. I was positively buried with presents.
I can imagine this had something to do with being a first child, but even that is not enough to explain the sheer number of cool stuff I received on a consistent basis. We’re talking clothes, toys, and other gifts out the wazoo. I can remember a good deal of it. I had video games, a computer, a swingset, rocking horses, VHS tapes, books, and a whole assortment of other toys. I was absolutely blessed.
But even as I got older and my sister Mary Katherine was born, I still had it good. Sure, she put a stop to the undivided attention I probably received, but that was okay. I loved my little sister.
She became my best friend. Some of the best segments of my personal “good old days” were the times my sister and I would hang out together. We invented games and played them together. We built pillow forts. We picked up stray cats and named them. We ran around outside until it got dark. This isn’t to say we didn’t fight at times like siblings inevitably do, because we did. But overall, we were pretty inseparable.
As I progressed into my pre-teen and teen years, things were still great for me. My life was defined by video games, music, and hanging out with friends. In my small, rural hometown, the selection of friends was fairly sparse, but I still managed to develop great relationships with a few close buddies. We traded video games and CDs. We pigged out on pizza rolls. We stayed up late, built bonfires, and swapped funny stories from church camp. It was fantastic.
Then adulthood inevitably came and seemingly washed away the “good old days” like a tide sweeping a beach. Little by little, things got more hectic. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, school became more difficult and life became more defined by preparing for the future than by enjoying living in the moment. I longed for the good times, but still kept going like anyone would. I got through it all. I made it with the help of God and family.
And here I am today, writing this post. Life is good. I have a job, a wife, a house, and a cat. I have a family who loves me and a new niece who is absolutely adorable. But still, I find myself looking back on all those times I had in the 1990s and early 2000s. Why is that? Why is it that life today, while great, just can’t seem to hold a candle to all those times I had back then? It’s a complicated question, but I think I know the answer.
It’s all about attitude. I know this has become somewhat of a cliché, but it’s the truth in my opinion. I think that, by and large, the “good old days” we look back on are made to be that way by our fallible human minds. Sure, these “good times” are often characterized by less responsibility and more “fun,” but they shouldn’t be able to beat the here and now, given that it’s the only time we’re guaranteed to have. This isn’t to say that we should only “live for today.” We should always plan for the future and remember our good times of the past. But we should also recognize that today is the first day of the rest of our lives. What we do and think today can have a major impact on the quality of our life.
For instance, who’s to say that, by making a few positive changes in your life today, you couldn’t come to look back on 2017 as the “good old days” we all hold so dearly? I think it could happen. I understand that, for people my age, 2017 is likely a year in which you have more stress and responsibilities than you have had in the past – especially as a child. Maybe you have more worries and obligations now than ever. But should that really matter? Are you willing to allow the simple fact that you’re an adult to steal your joy? You shouldn’t! There’s nothing that says the here and now can’t be great. It all comes down to your attitude and current paradigm.
Paradigms are discussed at length in the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. I read it a while back and I would highly recommend it for anyone looking to change their life for the better. In fact, it’s probably worth re-reading if it’s been a while since you last gave it a look. In his book, Covey talks a lot about how we see the world, or our paradigms, and how we can shift these to look at things in a different way. A “paradigm shift” is ultimately what he calls for to achieve a different, more positive outlook on life. This is required to also begin implementing the “Seven Habits” he prescribes, but I won’t get into that here.
At any rate, you can think of a paradigm shift as change in your way of thinking that alters how you look at yourself, others, and the world. Think about all the folks who lived out their entire lives thinking that the sun orbited the earth. (This would have been in the 1500s and prior before the Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo made his discoveries.) Can you imagine what a paradigm shift it would have been for them for a modern scientist to go back in time and explain that it is indeed the earth that orbits the sun? It would radically change the way they look at the universe.
Not many of us may have the problem of still thinking the sun revolves around the earth, but I would say many of us do have the problem of thinking that the world revolves around us. This could be considered a very selfish or self-centered paradigm. Some studies show that more than 70 percent of American adults think of 18-to-29-year-olds – “millennials” like me – as selfish. This is an alarming statistic. Regardless of whether or not “millennials” or young people are actually self-centered or narcissistic, they are perceived to be by most of the adult population. Why could that be?
Personally, I think the answer is, in part, too much nostalgia. Simply put, too many of us are looking back on the past, longing for those times of lots of fun and no responsibility, without taking on the here and now. I can’t be too wrong in thinking this: Facebook and other places on the internet are filled with 1990s nostalgic content. In fact, there are entire websites based on the concept. Take Buzzfeed, for example. It’s a site that caters to “millennials” and routinely posts 1990s nostalgia. They certainly know their target audience, but is it healthy to constantly be living in the past? I don’t think so.
Is this to say remembering the “good old days” is necessarily a bad thing? Not at all. The point I’m trying to make here is just that for most of us, our paradigms need a shift. We would all be better off to stop confining our good feelings to the past. It’s possible, with a simple change in attitude, to start viewing today as the “good times.” It might not be easy, but it can be done. There are several practical ways in which we can stop looking to the past for our happiness and start deriving it from today.
Remember what was good about the past and revive those things
This might seem counterintuitive at first, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong about the things we used to enjoy from our past. Instead of just looking back on them as dusty, forgotten relics, why not rediscover them all over again? For example, maybe there’s a certain activity you used to enjoy from years ago. Bring it back! Do you fondly remember riding bicycles with your siblings? Try getting a bike or bikes now and riding with your spouse or current friends. Perhaps you could look on eBay for that video game you loved so much as a child. There’s nothing wrong with embracing the things you loved as a child and incorporating them into your adult life. It may give you an opportunity to rediscover something “old” and start enjoying life more now by making it “new” again. You could even share these things with your kids (if you have them) and introduce them to a new generation! Keep the memories alive by remembering that not everything is lost!
You would be amazed at how much this can help. By taking the focus off of yourself, you can achieve a major paradigm shift and be much more content with your life. Stop making life all about your happiness and start making it about others’ happiness. After all, giving back is one of the biggest sources of joy one can have. How can you do this, though? There are lots of different ways. Volunteer at a camp or boys and girls club. Pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive-thru line. Do something nice for your spouse or family member or friend. The possibilities are endless. The key thing to remember is that it’s not all about you. If you keep this is mind, you will be much happier in the long run.
Embrace the future
Here’s the big one. It can be scary, but looking forward to the future is one of the most important things you can do for your own contentment. Realize that God has a plan for you. Can you look back on a time in your life when things weren’t going well at first, but they ended up working out? I know I can. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to find a time in my life when anything didn’t work out for the better. Recognize that everything works together for good. If times are bad, it just means that they will soon get better. And if times are good, enjoy that fact! Live in the moment every once in a while. Put the cell phone down and enjoy your life. We’re only given one, after all. Why not live it to the fullest?
What are your thoughts on nostalgia and the past?
Do you think we tend to look back on the past too often?
What are some changes you can make today to improve your life?
Wrapping things up
I hope this post has, at the very least, given you something to think about. Far too many of us are living in the past. And it doesn’t have to be that way. With a change in attitude and help from others, we can stop longing for good times and bring them into the present. You can make today “the good old days!” Just give it a try!