It’s funny how as we get older we think back on the “good old days,” back when apparently trees were made of candy, when rivers were made of chocolate milk, and when every day was a Sunday. Sound familiar? I’ve always thought that distance creates a certain kind of fondness, even when we should know better. Our memories get hazier as time goes by, though, and our minds fill in the blanks with good things because we don’t like being ourselves. Imagine if someone had videotaped every single second of our lives and played back each one of those “good old days” and we were faced with the reality that is much less sterling than our recollections now. Would we want the truth, or would we instead want to keep embracing the embellishments?
When I was a kid, I remember reading the story of Pinocchio. It fascinated me that a wooden boy made by an old guy could have hopes and dreams, but it totally blew my mind that his nose would get longer when he lied. That would have to be pretty embarrassing, I would think, when he’s trying to make new friends and improve as an individual, that one little lie would do that to him. It makes me think of people I know who lie all the time (I can sense it, seeing as I was one of them). How would they live with themselves if, say, they turned a bright shade of blue every time they told a lie, and everyone knew that was the reason?
As we get older, too, the achievements that we made become almost otherworldly. That shot we made in the championship game was from half court to win it. We won the spelling bee with the word “asceticism.” We grew ten inches in ten days. As human beings, we tend to remember things in a unique way that is pretty close to the lies told by Pinocchio. But who do these lies really hurt? My theory is that we need these lies to sustain our own self-image, so that we aren’t depressed all the time about how ordinary our lives really were.
So, the next time you hear someone say something you know isn’t true about some piece of nostalgia, don’t forget that everyone doesn’t have the positive self-image you have. Let them have their moment. You know, unless it’s at your expense, since you were really the one who made that last second shot in the championship game.