As far as I can remember there have been people who touted the “good ole days” as the best of days ever. Everything from fried chicken to motor vehicles was better in the good ole days. I used to laugh and remind my grandmother that outdoor toilets and oil lamps were part of the good ole days. Of course, my point was the good ole days probably weren’t as great as she made them out to be. (That was immaturity on my part.) The pandemic has caused many of us to look back and lament the good ole days with the same fervency that my grandmother ascribed to the years of long ago. This gave me the thought that I should evaluate the good ole days for myself as I joined the chorus of those singing the praise of the “good ole days.”
In the midst of this worldwide pandemic, socio-economic downturn, civic unrest, and political propaganda, its easy to look back to the so-called better days. Days when everyone who wanted to work had a job. Days when we could whet our appetites with whatever type of entertainment we preferred. Days when purchases didn’t require deliberation. Days when our political opinions were just another component of general conversation. Days when fear did not tarnish our faith that bigger, brighter, better days were ahead of us. Yes, the good ole days when we took our freedoms and privileges for granted. Yet, I ask myself, were those days all that I thought they were? Were they as good as you thought they were?
As I reflect and consider the things I miss most, before social distancing and sheltering-in, there are some things that I would love to recover. Things like meeting my friends for brunch or planning a personal retreat at a resort or the monastery. Things like jazz at the High Museum or hot buttered popcorn at the movies. These social and personal choices were rewards for putting in a hard day’s/week’s/month’s work. I deserved a break from the rat race. I deserved to splurge every now and then for the things I wanted for myself or my loved ones. Your list may have been different from mine, but the sentiment may be the same or similar. There are components of the good ole “normal” days that we all miss and long for, and its hard to imagine that we may not be able to recapture those things. Yet, is it possible that we have gained something equally as valuable to fulfill our lives in the post-pandemic days ahead. (I’ve got to believe there will be a post-pandemic era.)
When I reevaluate the good ole days, I find there are some important insights to be gained. There were too many days when I didn’t have time to spend with the ones I love. There were long periods of time when I didn’t have meaningful conversation with those that I consider an important part of my life. There were too many times when I couldn’t and didn’t take the time to define and refine my personal goals. There were times when even my health took a backseat to my workload. There were far too many times when I moved through the day/week/month mechanically. Habitual routine was the only guiding force. In other words, everything about the good ole days wasn’t really great like outdoor toilets and lack of electricity.
The fact of the matter is when my grandma and other elders spoke about the good ole days, they rarely talked about things. They talked about relationships. They were recalling days when neighbors were really neighborly; when family was central to community; when children were the center of dreams for a better tomorrow; and when everyone had time for one another. I remember hating traveling with my aunt when she delivered her Avon orders. She wouldn’t just drop them off and collect her money; she would have conversation with every customer, asking about their family, their crops, sometimes even their pets. Every transaction was a social event and in my mine it took forever. If the pandemic has taught me nothing else, its taught me to value the time I invest in relationships.
Whatever the post-pandemic normal holds for us, I hope we will not lose the perspectives we have developed during the pandemic. I hope we’ll look back in reflection to the “good ole pandemic days” and recall how good it was to watch out for one another. I hope we’ll hold on to all the avenues we used to maintain relationships and establish new ones. I hope we won’t just return to the rat race, but we will take time for self-contemplation and self-care. In the same way that my grandmother wanted to bring aspects of the good ole days forward into modernity, I pray we will bring our community/neighborly habits forward into the new normal as well as improve upon them.
So perhaps the things we used to do because we deserved a break will become the things we do for a well-lived life. Perhaps the choices we make to vacation, retreat, socialize or enjoy entertainment will not be things we force into the schedule. Perhaps they will be planned as part of the schedule to enhance relationships and communication with those that we love. In the midst of our busyness let us not loose the lessons of the good ole days. Modern conveniences should allow us to enjoy life more, rather than increase our productivity to the point of not living.
Take the time to reevaluate the good ole days. Maintain the best parts of them regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. Stay safe, stay sane, stay in community.