As I write this, I’m in the company of my dad’s younger brother. We didn’t really have a relationship when I was younger, but now that I’m in my twenties we’ve forged one on the back of storytelling. He often makes a trip from his home in Spain to Ireland to visit his children, stopping off in London to visit his brothers; and with him he brings more tales about the mischief my dad used to get up to when they were younger.
My dad, the stick-thin teenager who used to roll his sleeves and shorts up in the way of George Reeves. Who used to pick on boys twice his size, fell into a well and somehow lived to tell the tale, and electrocuted himself when he went to check a bulb without turning the power off. I love hearing these stories. They make me laugh so hard it hurts my side. These, for them, were the good ol’ days.
But then my head turns to coffee dates with old school friends last month. Where conversation quickly turned from the lives we were leading now, to the lives we were leading back then, when we were surrounded by drug addicts, teen pregnancies and screaming matches to rival EastEnders. It takes me back to conversations with my cousin, curled up on her bay-window, talking about the times we shared before. It didn’t matter that the majority of our memories around this time were arguments and loss, insecurity and anger. It was these times that we were reminiscing over.
That’s not to say that our lives have worsened over the years. We each have our struggles but we’re happy in the roles we play. We’re finding contentment, happiness and purpose in our roles within our work, our family and our friend-groups. For me, I’ve become more stable of mind without the sycophantic friends and abusive family members. I’ve opened myself up to healing when I once wouldn’t have bothered even trying. Still, for us, these were our good ol’ days.
I wonder if it’s simply a matter of perception. Like when, on your second time on the ice, you fall in the middle of a practicing hockey players, zipping and zagging around you, taking no notice of the girl they’re narrowly missing. At the time, you’re fearful. You start to imagine their skates running over your fingers like that accident you witnessed the last time you were on the ice. You panic. But ten years pass, and now you just remember falling on your bum in front of all your friends. You remember the cold seeping through your leggings, the wet patch that you would laugh at for the rest of the session, then complain about when you were forced to walk home with it.
Or perhaps it’s like the time you got kicked out of school for standing up for yourself against a teacher. No longer do you feel the shame or anger. Now, you find it funny that you forgot to unplug the keyboard before trying to throw it at him, or how the book hit him square in the chest – the perfect aim. You reminisce about the way the second teacher had your back. That he understood why you felt the things you felt and knew that you reacted in a way that mirrored your own circumstances at the time. You feel grateful, because he was one of the few that knew you could fulfil your potential. He was one of the ones that believed in you.
Will these days, the ones we’re living right now, become the good ol’ days in another ten years? Twenty? Thirty? Will these days be the ones we reminisce about when we’re all old and grey and telling stories to our own great-nieces, great-nephews, grandchildren?
And if so, can we do that now? Is it possible to change the underlying track to the songs that make up our lives? To take away the writhing in our hearts, maybe we need to change the tone of the music. Add in a high energy beat we can’t stop tapping our foot to, and a guitar solo that makes our heart sour? The same lyrics, but just a change of music. Will it put aside the overwhelming feels of anger, sadness and hurt, and change our perspective? Will we be happier? Will we be living the good ol’ days and actually know it?
It’s worth a shot…