Recently, a Facebook friend reposted something about selective memory. As we get older, we are more likely to remember positive things and forget negative things. According to this post, the reason many older adults with grown children think that children of the present day are more poorly behaved than their own children were is because these older adults have lost the memories of their own children’s misbehavior. That, as well as other things I’ve been thinking about this weekend, reminded me of something I wrote a year and a half ago on my personal Facebook. Much of the rest of this post has been adapted from that, although I’ve added some new material as well, particularly at the end.
On that day a year and a half ago, I heard a hit song from my college years on the way to work and had the song stuck in my head all day. You already know what song I’m talking about, unless either you didn’t read the title of this post, or you aren’t old enough to remember 1995… but click play anyway. And if you don’t remember 1995, then by all means click play, because you missed a great song.
I’m not complaining about this at all. It’s a great song, and to me, it has gotten better with age. Although I never disliked the song, I seem to like it better now than I did back then; I’ve never owned the album that it was on, and I just acquired the song a couple years ago, to add to the playlist for my 80s and 90s video gaming events. That got me thinking… why do I like the song so much now? I think there are two reasons. (I’m not going to discuss the lyrics here, by the way. There are several suggested interpretations, and I’m not sure which one resonates with me the best.) One reason is definitely the music. The song has a very unique sound to it, an intriguingly haunting combination of electric guitars and strings, with no drums, that makes it stand out from the other big hits of the grunge era.
But there’s more to it than that. Specifically, nostalgia. The song brings back memories of my early college years… sometimes when I listen to this song, and others from that time period, I can picture myself driving and/or riding my bike around Davis and the surrounding fields of Yolo County (yes, that’s really what it’s called), or walking around campus between classes, or singing worship songs with Intervarsity as a new Christian. My freshman year of college was a major turning point in my life. I had a whole new world to explore. I was in a new town, and I was in a new place in life, learning to live on my own. Every few months, I had new classes, new friends to make, new things to learn. And that makes me wonder… why do I long for those days? Was life really better my freshman year of college? Would I really choose those days over what I have now?
I think part of what is in play here is selective and distorted memory of what my freshman year of college was like. I’ve already remembered one key point of this incorrectly; after I started writing this, I looked up Glycerine on Wikipedia, and it was actually released in November 1995, which was sophomore year (although the album containing it was released freshman year, so it’s entirely possible I may have heard it at some point, either in a friend’s dorm room or on a radio station that played album cuts and not just singles, before it reached its peak chart position). That doesn’t really change anything I said in the last paragraph, though. But seriously, I remember the new friends, I remember the bike rides, I remember my new found faith, but I choose not to think about the loneliness that plagued me some nights, the rejection from women, or the times I felt on the outside of cliques. Another reason I tend to have good memories of college was because it’s something I was good at. And I’m not very good at real life. I knew how to be successful in college: study hard, read, and go to class. Getting good grades was pretty easy for me. Real life doesn’t have simple directions to follow like that. I can’t get better at real life just by working harder.
Nothing lasts forever, and I don’t always do well with that. People get older and change. Culture and technology re in a constant state of flux. Some friendships and relationships weren’t meant to be forever. And I don’t always do well with that. My life was very unstable in my 20s: graduating from college, being forced to leave a job, and leaving another job voluntarily because I felt like a geographical change would be the best way to leave a toxic non-work-related situation, among other things. Although I did just start a new job in 2014, other things have stabilized significantly in my 30s. I’ve been in this house for almost six years, and at my current church for almost nine years (since I was still in my very late 20s). But other things have changed around me. For example, the first couple years I was at my current church, I had a group of friends I often sat with, and we would often go out for lunch afterward. That almost never happens anymore. Many of those friends have moved away, and the rest now have children, around whom their entire lives rotate (for good reason). Many of the regulars at my first 80s and 90s video game nights aren’t around anymore, for various reasons. I still do swing and blues dancing, but many of the people who used to invite me to dance parties at their house aren’t in the area anymore, or don’t dance anymore.
There is absolutely nothing I can do about any of this. I can’t stop change. I have two choices: I can fall into a hole of being antisocial, unwilling to change and complaining about the world. Or I can embrace a willingness to change with the world, finding that balance between what to hold on to and what to let go of. I can continue some of my traditions, like inviting people over for 80s and 90s video games, but I have to accept that it will never be the same as it was five years ago. However, change doesn’t have to be bad. I have made new friends through these events as well, when old friends bring other friends with them, for example. And I can try new things too, new hobbies and new activities. I had more of a sense of adventure once, and I have to find a way to resurrect it, because I can’t keep going like this without it. I know I have to do something, and I hope I figure it out before it’s too late, because the world is changing, and things will never again be like they are today.
Don’t let the days go by.