My family has always been big on memories, both making new ones and holding on to the old ones.
One of my mother’s primary hobbies is scrapbooking, and as a result, many of the bookshelves in our house are laden with thick, heavy photo albums. Over the last break I decided to flip through some of the albums, mainly because I was struggling with the concept of “free time” at that point.
So many memories were in those books. Of course, those photos aren’t the same thing as actual memories. But actually, memories are a lot more like photos than we may realize.
Our memories are often very much like those photos: glossy, occasionally out-of-focus, and often overexposed.
The problem with our memories is that we often remember only what we want to. Just the best bits. Like snapshots from a photo album.
We like to remember the fun rides and atmosphere from Disney World, but not the teeming, shoving crowds and Florida humidity.
We like to think about the nice, tranquil campground in Pennsylvania, not the day at that campground when someone stuck a piece of gravel up his nose and had to go to the emergency room.
How often do we hear about “the good ol’ days,” or “the way it used to be.” I’m not that old yet, as many people often enjoy reminding me, but I often fall into the same trap of thinking about how much better things used to be.
Some things have gotten better. Some things have gotten worse, but that’s just how life tends to work. The same, but different. I may have a bit more knowledge, experience and responsibility than I used to, but has anything really changed that much? Actually, things do change.
Or maybe the real question is, whether or not things used to be better, what good does dwelling on that do for us?
The word nostalgia translated from the Greek roots that form it literally means, “the pain of going back.” So often that’s exactly what our reminiscing becomes— a pointless longing for something long gone.
As enjoyable as reliving the past can sometimes be, we often end up not wanting to leave it when we do. But was it even that great to begin with?
Our memories have great value to us, and rightfully so: memories are what make us who we are. They are what our reasoning is based on. Our memories are our histories.
We should treat them as history. No more. No less.
We can learn from them. We can build off them. But there is no point in wasting time on the beautiful, terrible impossibility of dwelling within them.
Especially when I have so much still to do.
I will always love going through old photo albums and journals, telling childhood stories, and revisiting some of the favorite bits of years before still stored in my head.
I will often, like a clichéd old man, catch myself thinking, “now those where the days.”
And they were.
But the days this year aren’t so bad either.