Seems like a pretty solid rule. Especially these days.
But this isn’t a post about these days. Oh no. It’s not about the pandemic. And it’s not about last night when the so-called president of the United States freely and shamelessly used a racial slur on live national television; an action that surely endears him all the more to his base. Nope. None of that malarkey today. Not having ANY of it.
It would be far more amusing to talk about the five foul-mouthed grey parrots in a British wildlife park who taught one another to swear and then had a jolly good laugh about it. The naughty British avians had to be separated, but it wasn’t because anybody complained. In fact, the CEO of the park claimed quite the opposite. “When a parrot tells you to fuck off, it amuses people very highly,” he said. “It’s brought a big smile to a really hard year.” Even so, they felt that the birds might be a bad influence on the children visitors.
So with that sloppy segue in place, what I’d really like to talk about is children. More specifically, about being a child. A kid. Do you miss being a kid? It sure seems it was a simpler world when I could break into a wild run with no objection from my knees or hips; when my biggest complaint was that I was bored; when I could have illustrious “conversations” with otherworldly creatures deep beneath the sewer grate; when the rules were as simple as “I licked it, so it’s mine.”
Here’s the thing though. Humans have a legendary capacity to romanticize the past.
Sure, when I was a kid, I could spend hours drawing cartoon characters and could easily hop around the floor on my knees. Neither skill would prove to be terribly helpful as an adult. The former because it led me to foolishly believe I could someday make a living as a cartoonist and the latter because, well, no one I know really needs to be able to hop around on their knees. But I’m not gonna lie – I enjoyed them both. As such, it’s SO easy to remember childhood as all sugar cubes and Puff the Magic Dragon. Yes, for the more astute and experimentally-minded readers, those are drug references. Because there are times when being a kid feels as magical as being on hallucinogens.
But peel back the glittery and shiny epidermal layers and you’ll reveal the seedier underbelly of being a kid.
Of course, I can’t speak for your childhood. I can only speak for mine. And I was very lucky to grow up in a home environment where I felt loved, valued, and safe. Even so, I found navigating the world outside my home terrifying. I was socially awkward, which is why I found such camaraderie among the imaginary sewer grate community. And I was frequently bullied – one time to the point of walking to school for two years rather than cower in fear from the mean girls on the bus who hated me for reasons I never understood.
I guess I just didn’t have the right look. The other girls in my neighborhood all seemed to have skin that tanned in the summer months and long straight blond hair that “feathered” – an enviable feature in the 1970s. With my pale and freckled skin, buck teeth, and curly red hair that left me sporting an Irish Afro from April through October, I bore an uncanny resemblance to Napolean Dynamite. At least, that’s how I saw myself. Of course, that character didn’t exist in the 1970s. But you get the point.
That’s why I cringe when folks wax poetic about the good old days; about how things were so much easier back when; about making things “great again.” Because the reality is, if we’re willing to look honestly at our past, nothing has ever been great for any extended amount of time. And certainly not great for EVERYONE. Even in those periods of your life when things were better, they probably weren’t as great as you remember. And you can bet that someone else was likely having a hell of a time. It’s important to remember that any given time, your worst day may look like someone else’s best day.
So each time I get nostalgic for the halcyon days of my youth, I smile. Because yeah, there were some good times. But there were some really bad times too. THAT’S HOW LIFE WORKS. And believing in a return to a fictional past gilded in gold and perpetually in the rays of an eternal sun is the domain of a madman and nothing but pure folly.
I’d prefer to stay in the moment, thanks.