Recently we released a ‘Slow Down and Simplify’ issue of Mindful Melody inspired particularly by country music and its message that we should all take some time to appreciate the little things in life. Having based a whole issue of my writing on this theme I’d have thought I’d be a pro by now, but I’m actually quite the opposite.
In a modern world where everyone else’s success is constantly broadcast on social media and we are being encouraged to always just want that little bit more, it can seem that we are never going to be happy with where we are at. This isn’t a new thing, and it isn’t a rare thing. We all go through that age in our lives where we go from scoffing at people telling us youth and school days are the best of our lives, to then telling people younger than ourselves. Year after year doubters turn to believers as young people hit their twenties and realise that everyone wasn’t lying to them - only to be laughed at when passing the wisdom to those younger than themselves. Realistically though, what are we supposed to do with that information? It isn’t like I’d have really done things differently, and the highs and lows would have still been highs and lows even if I was accepting of the fact that these were the good days. It seems less to serve us in enjoying the present but more as a warning that it is all downhill from here.
Taking a broader look, it just seems that we are all programmed to want something that we can’t have, or at least not now. I find myself in my early twenties with a life of uncertainty in front of me and it is terrifying. I often look at people in their 50's, settled into a house with a nice car and a good job and find myself longing to just skip to a part of my life where I have a similar state of stability. I am sure, however, that people in their 50's often look at those of us in our twenties and envy our freedom, our youth and the fact that we have so many options ahead of us. It really is a cruel part of life that every part of it seems inferior until we get to the next part – then we look back with fondness and envy. As Andy Bernard so eloquently put it in the finale of my favourite show - the American version of ‘The Office’ - "I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them." It’s such a simple sentiment, yet it strikes a good chord with all of us. Thinking about it realistically, though, it is impossible. The good old days are the good old days because we aren’t living them anymore. All of our problems that seemed so big at the time have probably been and gone by now, so it’s easy to look back and say, ‘Why was I so worried?’
It seems that in the journey of life we are all so focused on the destination, or where we have already been. My envy of people who are settled into the golden years of their lives is simply me worrying about my own destination. I have no idea where my life is going, where I will end up or what I will be doing and that is terrifying to me. So many people my age are so consumed with trying to establish a good career, working for the next promotion, then the next one immediately after that. It seems that we have let our lives become controlled by this idea of a destination and a laser focus on the quickest way to get there.
This is why country music is so special, and why I get so much from it. The idea that we should enjoy the ride is a novel one to many of us but it is the key to leading a happy and stable life. If we spend our whole lives looking for the next thing, then the fact of the matter is that we will never get there. Nothing will ever be enough, and the moment we achieve one thing, it will be about accomplishing something else. I myself am guilty of this – constantly birthing big ideas and striving for the next phase. If we want to get some enjoyment from our lives, and, as Andy suggested, enjoy the good old days whilst we are in them, we need to learn to be more appreciative of the journey we are on.
There are so many small wonders in our lives that are happening around us all the time. A sunny day, time with family, time with friends, even down to a good cup of coffee. This is the here and now, and if we spend all of it worried about what happens next we will lose it. In terms of mental health too, I often feel like I will never be happy as I have an awful habit of thinking the grass is always greener. I am never settled where I am and put so much pressure on myself to achieve the next thing. If we spend our whole lives being unsettled and unsatisfied with things as they are now, what can we expect for the future? We put this pressure on ourselves that once we achieve the next thing we will be happy, but ultimately once we get onto this hamster wheel it is very hard to get off, and we will then be focused on what is next. I can’t really offer much encouragement or advice on this, seeing as I am extremely guilty of it myself. However, what I have been trying to force myself to do more recently is to take a second and look around. Be thankful for what we have right now and for the things we love in our lives. If we don’t allow ourselves to settle, we may never reach our destination. So, enjoy these days, because it may not feel like it now, but one day they may be your good old days.
Buy print editions of Mindful Melody Issue 8 below!