Tonight my father and I were reminiscing about old trips we’d taken in the days of my youth. He was telling story after story, starting each one with “Do you remember the time…”
I noticed an interesting phenomenon. My father’s memory of my childhood years is naturally more acute than my own recollection of it. I honestly didn’t remember a lot of the stories he told. But the pattern that emerged became clear – I remembered all the “good” stories and didn’t remember all the “bad” ones.
He told me about a family road trip where I apparently had an absolutely miserable time, and I didn’t recall it at all. But the story of the camping trip when I was eight and caught a snake all by myself I could see like it was yesterday. The times my father and I got in screaming matches – all forgotten. The times we looked at the stars by firelight and when we built my tree house together – vividly recalled.
So in retrospect, I think back very fondly on my early years, even though they had the same ups and downs as anyone’s. It’s possible that the natural way of things is like that, except I know lots of people that seem to only remember the bad stuff. Miserable or misspent youths, failings in their adolescence and early adulthood, even slights from last week. Those same people will callously dismiss a gentle reminder of a good event in yesteryear, as if it attacked their perception of their own misery.
The reality is, of course, that our lives are filled with good and bad. Taken in a true accounting, there is less distance between the most miserable life and the most joyous one than we care to admit. That leaves you today with a choice.
The past has brought you to this moment, but the ship only sails one way. It has no further power over you, so you can become the kind of person who dwells only in the darkness or you can draw strength and power and inspiration from your moments of light, however few they might in actuality be.
I know, in a general sense, that my father and I had rough years. I am very grateful that my memory of those times is faded and indistinct, but I can remember with great clarity the time we built a wooden race car together.