• Robert Prendergast

Am I Still in The Good Old Days?

Picture by: Wix

People seem to have difficulty seeing eye to eye on most topics. Some people love an argument. Well at least we can all agree on one thing… that ‘Someday’ by The Strokes is the greatest song ever made…


…Great! Now that’s decided. Let me highlight the opening line.

“In many ways, they’ll miss the good old days”. The Good Old Days? I’ve said this phrase many times before, having done so almost always with irony thinking back to playing football in year 6 break times.


I have had a handful of moments in my life where I’ve had the thought that everything is perfect, and I don’t want it to change. I try to actively avoid this because as soon as I think it things begin to go downhill. Yet it still manages to reappear from time to time.


I had this feeling most recently a few months ago. I left London for 4 months during lockdown as many students did. This meant I left all my friends and the life that I had built for myself and loved. I had the final months of my University experience taken away from me. But I managed to return to enjoy the last 6 weeks of my tenancy and those 6 weeks made up for everything. Everything was perfect and I never wanted it to end. I had my friends under the same roof! The sun was shining. Football on every day! I was in the city I love. I was dating and falling in love. Remember when food was just suddenly half price? Doesn’t that seem like it didn’t even happen now!


But things have changed. I have since moved back home and had my 23rd birthday. I have been constantly reassured that it is “a great age” and that I have my “whole life ahead”. But I woke up on that day, the first in years where I’ve not been living with my friends. Not lived in London. Not been a student. No longer having the feeling of love. In a world now plagued by restrictions. Having so many people I love and have shared a journey with up until now and not being able to see them. Being told I should probably retrain from the career I have just spent £27,000 on a degree for. Despite not being alone in feeling this way, I feel completely alone.


Now I find myself heading towards the twilight of 2020. With the feeling of melancholy as I look back on my life vastly outweighing the level of optimism I have looking to the future. I think of all the great times I’ve had, and find myself asking:


Am I still in the good old days?


I’ve searched for an answer to that question, and I keep looking because so far I haven’t liked what I have found.


I turn on the Tv and see Footballers in their teens, whereas earlier that day I had to google how to use the washing machine. I look on my social media feeds and see people I went to school with buying their first homes and starting families. Listening to music from people younger than me is a bizarre feeling, and it’ll only get worse, when I wake up on my next birthday and realise I’m the same age as Bob Dylan when he wrote ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. It’s going to be hard to process.


I sit here awaiting my next move in life. Since my return to living with my parents I have worked many jobs, most recently a temporary role in a hospital, one that I managed to sulk my whole way through. The only thought I had for the entire time I was there was that I used to work in a Film Museum for two years. How is that possible? Even then I found ways to complain about it. But now I think of that job and it seems almost close to perfect. Yet now that is gone, and I am working these temporary jobs here and there just to get by.


To quote Andy Bernard in The Office. “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them”. I don’t know what’s worse, having this feeling? Or the fact I just used a quote from the American version of The Office over the British one.


I now find myself in this mindset that I have peaked. That everything from now on will be a less enjoyable version of what has come before, and that maybe I am cursed to become one of those people who is always chasing yesterday. Thoughts I do attempt to shake. But its hard to look positively at a world where you’ve only just realised that Student discount doesn’t last forever.


Over the last two months I have tried to see the world in a more positive light, but I am constantly pulled back by the thought that maybe the best days are behind. I handle these thoughts by doing what any person in my position would do…get drunk in my room, double text the Ex and play songs that took me back to a time I could never go back to.


I decide that maybe this time could be a gift, when else would I be able to have so much spare time to focus on writing? Yet even this article would then go untouched for over weeks.

When telling people my goal is to be a writer, the cliché advice that I always get is the same whether it comes from an accomplished writer or someone who has never written a word, “write what you know”. So I do this, I write what I know. I write about lazy Sunday afternoons with my friends, doing nothing but enjoying each other’s company. Watching Premier League highlights at 2am. Dodgy nights outs in shady places we should never go, but go again the next week. I write about dating and falling in and out of love. A time where the routine mistakes I would make were all part of the plan.


But right now, I barely write. Because all these moments now make me feel too sad. That all the good things that I know are behind me, and by writing them I am making a hopeless attempt to cling on to a life that has already let go of me.


People always say you shouldn’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself….but why? I’m so good at it. Plus the advice of not feeling sorry for myself seems like a direct contradiction to the ‘write what you know’ rule.


Things did begin to look up for me. I accepted a job in Spain, working at a school in Zaragoza. Not the best paid job, but it didn’t matter. For a few days my mind stopped thinking about all the moments in my past and managed to look forwards. This was the first genuinely positive and clear thought I have had about the future for some time. It felt good. Really good!


Granted, I had to turn down the role. In hindsight I should have read the reviews for the company I would work for prior to accepting the role. I was willing to look past most of the poor reviews. But any school where the owners gets compared to Hitler is cause for concern. Unless it’s a school for mediocre artists.


So I find myself back to where I was. I let the feeling of hope for the future I had dissolve. There was really only one thing left to…

Drink in my room and double text the ex.

Is there an age where I will grow out of this kind of behaviour?


I hope so, but not that night. I have the same sort of replies I usually get. Not completely dismissive, but just enough to keep me foolish enough to think something will work out. One day I hope to find out whether being called “sweet” is a good thing or completely patronising.


I honestly have no idea what I thought it would achieve. I mean she lives in Manchester and I’m here in the South West. I think it may be genuinely illegal to meet right now?

I bet if this were an early 2000’s romcom the idea of going to see her would seem romantic but in reality it would be criminal and a bit creepy. I like to think I would be the kind of person to do the cliché running through an airport to tell a girl I love her. But if that happened in reality I’m sure it would have a huge amount of legal issue. That being said, if there is anyone in the world capable of making a romantic gesture be mistaken for an act of terrorism, it’s probably me.


The reason for why I do this still alludes me. I can find no better reason that it being just a desperate hope to take to back to the past.


The morning after I make this mistake I find myself thinking of the hospital job I had a few weeks before. Bizarrely finding myself missing it despite having moaned the entire time. This opened my eyes. There could only be two reasons for this:


1) It wasn’t as bad as I thought, and being convinced that my present and future will never be as good as my past robbed me of any joy I could have had.


Or


2) The way I look at things in my past is hugely biased. I manage to perceive all my memories as greater than they really were.


Either way, it showed me I have to change the way I am looking at my life. Calling all these moments behind me ‘the good old days’, is robbing me of the mindset that great days are yet to come, and by thinking this way they won’t. They won’t come if I don’t let them.


I take comfort in the fact that surely I cannot be the only person who does this?


There is a real talent to being about to take all the moments in your past and work out how to learn from them and what to forget. I realise I don’t even want to go back to times in my past. I don’t want to go back to past relationships. And although I love my friends, I don’t want to go back to living together and spending days doing nothing. I look back at it with complete joy, but I don’t want to return to it. I need to move forward. Slowly my outlook is changing. Not yet fully changed. But changing.


Sure I miss being a student, but thank god I don’t have to do another group presentation any time soon.


In a moment of darkness, my friend Camilla gave me the advice, “hope is the last to die”. Words that have stuck with me. Even though it does sound like she took it from a WW2 film. But I suppose sometimes that all we can really do. Hope tomorrow is great. As I head towards winter knowing it will be tough to make it through keeping a positive mindset, I think about tomorrow more than yesterday. These are good thoughts. Hopeful thoughts.


When I do have moments when I stumble and I find myself craving to go back into the past, I know I always have one fallback. Put on Someday by The Strokes! I can sit back and not even think of the past or future, but in the present for 3 minutes and 7 seconds, everything is ok.

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