Well, that was one hell of a year! I got married to (mush alert) the love of my life, Jordana Aronovitz, moved to a brand new (and very adult feeling) apartment, entered my second year working at Facebook and shat my pants for the first time ever (Thank you, The Jinx). This time last year, I’d be lucky if my bed had sheets. Now, we have 800 threads, and not a single thread less. What are we, peasants?
Perhaps now is a good idea to caveat that the thoughts expressed here are purely my own and in no way represent the view of my Employer. Though I am available for hire as a freelance Facebook status updater.
I’d like to propose a challenge to myself and to my readership. All 6 of you (Hi, Grandma! Sorry for not calling last week, will check in soon, love you! Yes, Jordana’s doing very well. Why do you always ask about…Hello?…Hello?)
I present to you, late as usual, my New Year’s Appeal. I am not asking for money, as I’ll leave that to my local Orthodox Rabbi. After some hiatus, and a hiatus from my hiatus, I am committed to putting out original pieces of writing throughout the year. My struggle has always been to write consistently (and consistently well), and so I’ll be leaning on everyone to make sure that I keep up to my end of the bargain. My posts may range from personal experiences to musings on Kanye West to my latest thoughts on Season 20 of Bachelor, and hopefully, a combination of all the above. So long as there is productive, thoughtful dialogue and critical feedback, my hope is that, through an interactive community, we can build a nook of creativity, a positive exchange of ideas big and small. Please comment below, if you feel so inclined. Here we go…
As Jordana always reminds me, it’s challenging to reconcile the unbelievable year we had with the state of the world today. Attacks abroad, terror at home…and that Chipotle scare. Is nothing sacred?! It sure is a sorry state of affairs if we can’t even get a burrito right.
As I sit, perched above at my new cherry wood dining room chair, struggling from way up here to keep a pulse on the goings-on with the plebeians down below (and struggling to have my feet reach the floor), I am reminded of a much simpler time. I remember it as if it were this past summer. In fact, it was this past summer. Before the shootings in California. Not that one, the other one. Before Paris. No not that time, the other time. Before Trump. No not that thing he said, the other one. Before that innocent Black man was wrongfully killed by the cops…Alright, alright, so things may have been ‘doom and gloom’ for a little while now. But that’s not to say that things weren’t a bit less complicated back in the day…Or were they?
To that I suggest we wake up and smell the rose-colored glasses. We tend to romanticize the past as some bygone era sprinkled with unicorn horn dust, magic in a bottle the likes of which today’s world couldn’t possibly understand. Or more to the point, recreate. Finding a Baby Boomer who isn’t prone to talking about ‘back in the day’ is about as rare as finding a millennial who isn’t prone to talking about literally anything to anyone who’ll listen. But, what is it about ruminating on yesteryear that is so compelling? History tells us it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Well, at least not craft cream. It’s posited that time distorts our memories as we get further from them; we only recall the positive experiences and block out everything else. The Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll before the AIDS, addiction and hair bands. To romanticize the past could very well be our brains playing tricks on us – faux nostalgia as stand-in for our past that may never have been as bright as we remember.
But, on the contrary, Boston College psychologist, Elizabeth Kensinger, suggests that we tend to remember the bad times before the good. Using 9/11 as an example, she offers that we process negative emotions more easily, and hold onto them for longer. By that logic, we are more likely to remember where we were when we heard the news that day than who was there to offer a helping hand or crying shoulder. What then of the good ol’ days?
Is it that we gloss over the details and only recall the good times? Or, do we only remember our shortcomings and pitfalls? Perhaps, memory is in the eye of the beholder, and what’s most important is to live in the moment. After all, if the youth of today glamorizes the past as much as those who lived it, does it even matter what things were really like? Vinyl sales are up, 80’s and 90’s dance parties are more popular than ever and we’re all a little freaked out by the Russians. No need to be nostalgic for the past; we live it in the present.
Unfortunately, no matter how many times Hollywood pulls the wool over our eyes and attempts to reboot every quasi-successful film franchise ever made, they can’t turn back the clocks in real life. Today’s world is a terrifying place, and you can’t change anything but the channel (or close the tab). That said, when the going gets tough, it’s often easier to form strong relationships with a stranger, to give more of yourself to someone else. But you really learn a lot about a person, or a country for that matter, during the times of bounty. To take solace and strength from the unity we feel in the days after tragedy, like in Brussels, is vital to our survival. But, to hold onto that feeling, and let it inform our day-to-day lives going forward is the true challenge, and ultimate opportunity. Jon Stewart famously recalled, in his first broadcast after the twin towers fell, that the only thing that gave him hope instead of despair was that his downtown apartment now had an unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty.
This is how Jordana and I, and everyone else on a bit of a lucky streak can truly be grateful for what we have, while acknowledging the fragility of our collective experience. Even in the face of tragedy and worldwide uncertainty about the future, we find potency in the love we feel for our friends, family and each other. To understand that in the good times and the bad, we should dig deep, tap into our shared reserves of optimism, and hold our heads high.
After all, today’s ups and downs may just be tomorrow’s good ole days.