A good friend of mine recently turned 30. To celebrate, we threw him a surprise party at a mutual friend’s house in Connecticut. It was one of the first truly nice days of spring, and rather than stay inside, people grabbed food and drink, and headed for the patio in the back yard. There were a lot more kids there than I expected, but I guess this is 30. Even so, clouds in the sky were sparse, and my buddy’s giant dog ran around the yard at full tilt. Friends and family were there, and we told jokes and stories, even playing some rap songs much to the delight of the birthday boy. We sat around a fire as the day ended, and played songs from our youth, songs that reminded us of a time when life was maybe just a little less complex.
On the drive home that night, with the sun setting in my rearview mirror, it dawned on me that this had sneakily been one of the best days of my life. I had enjoyed the company of those I was with, I rarely looked at my phone, and the weather had been perfect. I didn’t know everyone there, but once the party got going, my social anxiety lessened considerably. The grill was on all afternoon, and I even made a half-decent four-layer dip. The day had been relatively simple, but it had been everything I could have wanted it to be.
For most of my twenties, I was in the red. I could sit there and compile a top ten list of the worst days of my life, and there would be snubs. However, when I looked at my list of good days, the best days of my life, none immediately sprang to mind. I had had good days don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t think of a time when I truly said, “This day was perfect.” Memories of my Dad’s boat and weekends spent on the lake came to mind, but there was no singular day that stood out. Although I have a tendency to over-romanticize things, and although the idea of the perfect day could be a total myth, I knew that I had to make a change. It was time to even up the score.
A few years ago when I was living in Brooklyn, my stepmother called me while I was walking home.
“Adam, I have something to tell you,” she said. My mind immediately went to a ridiculous place.
“Oh Adam, (your stepbrother) said the same thing!” she laughed. She told me that her soon-to-be husband had proposed, and that they would be getting married in the near future. She knew that her getting remarried was a little bit of a loaded topic, but I could not have been happier for her.
“We’ve been through some hard times. It’s time to celebrate the good times,” I said.
Celebrate we have. This past year, I officiated my sister’s wedding, and without a doubt it was one of the happiest days of my life. I worked hard on writing the ceremony, and practiced it twice a day in the week and a half prior to the big day. I wanted my delivery to be absolutely perfect, and I even included a few jokes and puns that the bride and groom didn’t know about. I saw so much family that day, even my mother’s sister who lives in Oklahoma. People didn’t stop dancing the entire evening, and people repeatedly told us what a wonderful wedding it had been.
I cannon balled that day with my first ever marathon a week later. After finishing the race, I met up with some friends to grab a beer and some food. I was absolutely elated to have finished, and to be able to share my accomplishment with friends capped off what was already a wonderful day. In just one week, I had added two days to the good column, and I knew that I would carry those memories with me for the rest of my life.
It’s been so helpful to have positive memories to draw upon when I’m in my darkest moments. Not only do they help you to realize that there have been moments in your life when you’ve been truly happy, they remind you that you can indeed achieve that level of happiness again. When you have one of those amazing days, you know the recipe for how to get back to that feeling of joy and jubilation. I know that no race will ever be as fulfilling and cathartic as running my first marathon, but if its even have as enjoyable, you’ll hear no complaints from me.
Life is a balancing act in so many ways. When you realize that you’ve taken a lot more losses than wins, it’s incumbent on you as a person to make a change. Once you start adding good days and positive memories into the mix, you can start to tip the scales a little bit in your favor. You never really forget the worst days of your life, but hopefully the more good days you accumulate, the more these days recede into the background, becoming something you think about less and less over time.