The Good Old Days

I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve already left them.” — Andy Bernard

Everyone can relate to this feeling — this longing for the good old days that we are sure have passed us by. For some of us, it was high school, where we lived like kings and queens as big fish in small ponds or maybe we didn’t blossom until college where that tinge of awkwardness that kept potential suitors away floated into the ether and we came into our own. Late night parties and staying up until 4 in the morning just to talk because we could.

In my mid-30’s, it’s easy for me to look back on those times and reminisce about that one time we packed 9 people into my green Dodge Avenger (3 in the front, 4 in the back, 2 in the trunk) for the 10-minute drive from our small Iowa college town to the only place that was open that time of night — the truck stop diner that never closed across the state line.

I like to think that I enjoyed those times of my capricious youth to the fullest, but even then I remember the times where I found myself sad and longing for the past or for the future.

What is it about us as humans that keeps us from savoring the moments of our life like we would each morsel of a 9-course meal prepared by a master chef?

When we are in our lives, we’re often sidetracked by just that: life. Life sometimes gets in the way of us finding beauty in ordinary. The one person who I never saw this in was Michael Scott, played so brilliantly for 7 seasons by Steve Carell. Everyone has had a Michael Scott in their life: that bad boss who just doesn’t understand the line between friendship and management. The guy who inevitably says the wrong thing, not out of malice, but out of a desperate attempt to be liked.

(Michael was always the heart and soul of The Office and why they continued the show after he left is beyond me.)

The thing about Carell’s portrayal of Michael that was so damn endearing despite his many peccadilloes was that he was one person who seemed to live in the now…to enjoy his life at every aspect. Sure, he got depressed at times, but his zest for life and the people around him made him such a likable character who, despite his obvious flaws, was just good. He believed he was an amazing basketball player and the World’s Best Boss (according to Spencer Gifts) and he fell head over heels in love with a woman who WAS THE MODEL IN AN OFFICE FURNITURE MAGAZINE.

When the executive producers decided to make Andy the boss after Michael left, I think that they hoped that he would find that same wide-eyed appreciation for his life, but even in his relationship with the adorable Erin Hannon, he couldn’t see past the end of his nose.

In the finale of the show, seeing Andy say this quote resonated with a lot of people. I remember watching the episode live accompanied by Twitter (an irony that is not lost on me) and seeing so many people tweet out that quote over and over and over again. We all have that same longing for understanding what is good about our lives and appreciating it in its time rather than six months or years or decades after the fact.

But what I’ve found in my life is that you just need to make a decision to start enjoying the mundane. Find beauty in the normal. And embrace your life wherever you might find yourself. Sure, it might not be the place you thought you’d be at 36, but it sure hasn’t sucked up to this point either.

“I went to the woods to live deep and suck the marrow out of life.” — Henry David Thoreau, as quoted by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

So live deep and recognize that even at the worst, you are alive in the most amazing time mankind has ever seen.

Here’s to the Good Old Days that are yet to come. May we find ourselves enjoying them.

Cities as Living Things

I saw this video from Mindrelic (via Cameron) and I just fell in love with it.

Last week, Alli and I saw Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris, and I adored it. It was one of those movies that just makes you smile the whole time. During the movie, there is a conversation between two of the characters where they talk about the life of a city that is independent of its inhabitants — that a city lives and breathes like an organism does.

Now, I’m no fan of Woody Allen’s, but this idea was something that I really remembered from the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the film (by far my favorite of Allen’s 586 films he’s made) and if I took anything away from it, it was this idea that we much like the blood cells of the living organism that is the place that we inhabit…we have a structure and life all our own, but we contribute to the life of something larger.

Old sweatshirts and silverware

I have this sweatshirt that used to be my favorite article of clothing.

I wore it all the time in college because it defined who I was. On the front, it says: “GRACELAND VOLLEYBALL” in traditional college capital letters. It’s gray with navy writing — an unremarkable sweatshirt, but it was my favorite. It was comfortable and I loved it.

I haven’t worn that sweatshirt in at least 5 years.

It’s not that I lost it. I know exactly where it is.

It’s not that it doesn’t fit me anymore. It does, even though it’s a little more snug than it used to be.

I just doesn’t define me anymore.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I will always treasure the time I spent as a member of the Graceland Men’s volleyball team. It was an important part of my life and the friends that I made are still a big part of my life. They always will be. But as time has put its distance between me and that time of my life, the sweatshirt has been replaced by a 3-button navy pullover sweater from Old Navy. That’s my go-to item for comfort these days.

Sweatshirt and Silverware

As I was emptying the dishwasher today, I was looking at our silverware. Next summer we will have been married for 10 years and the silverware we chose is still perfect. It’s practical and sturdy and works both for everyday use and for nicer occasions.

What was it about the silverware that made us realize that we’d still love it 10, 20, 50 years from when we got married? It’s classic and it isn’t fussy or fancy and I guess that’s kind of what Alli and I try to be in our relationship.

All of us have things in our lives that are like the sweatshirt and the silverware. Things like the sweatshirt are meaningful to us at a specific time and they remind us of good times, but their importance wanes. My volleyball sweatshirt shaped me quite a bit more than the silverware did personally. But the silverware will be around longer and probably be more functional to me over time.

A lot of relationships in our lives can fall into one of these two categories. Some are like a comfortable sweatshirt — keeping us warm and giving us identity, but they have an expiration date. Others are unassuming and functional like silverware — constant and sturdy and long-term. Both are important to us for different reasons. An interesting sidebar is that the close friends I’ve made through volleyball…they are examples of the sturdy silverware in my life.

It’s funny what you think about when you unload the dishwasher.