A random thought popped into my head the other day. I remembered sitting in a restaurant with an older gentleman, having an interesting conversation about his career as an Army Airborne Ranger. I didn’t know this man and I didn’t remember how I got there.
I still remember the conversation like it happened last week.
And it finally dawned on me—as I thought through this memory—this man was my driver. I was going on a mission and he was driving me to the airport. Since he was a retired military man, he easily found a position with the Air Force base I was stationed at, taking people to and from the airport. He loved driving so it was a great job for him.
He was a tall, slender, black man — slightly balding, but he chose to keep his gray hair, which made him look even wiser than he already appeared. Though he was older and slender, he looked like someone who could “take care of himself”… but I soon came to learn he preferred to take care of others.
He had finished his military service over 30 years before our conversation, and he told me all about what it meant to be a black man in the military when he was in.
His stories were intriguing — some happy stories and several not-so-happy stories.
When we were done eating, he tipped the lady cleaning the restaurant — not a common thing to do at a fast food place, but I loved the sentiment.
Almost everything he said and did was interesting to me. He seemed like someone I could always learn something from, even if we talked for a year straight.
I appreciate that memory and that conversation.
But when I really thought back to that day, which was almost 10 years ago, I remembered my attitude. I didn’t want to get into the car with some stranger. I remember waiting for the driver to show up, and before I had even met him, I was nervous about spending an hour in the car sitting there with someone I didn’t know. And that was before I knew we were going to be eating lunch together. I was frustrated I wasn’t allowed to find my own way to the airport. I was new to the military and new to making instant friends as I often do now in the military.
But my initial thought of this memory was pleasant.
How many times do we look back on sweet memories that, when we think deeper, weren’t so sweet at the time?
This was a memory with a stranger who quickly became a friend, but we do the same thing with memories of close friends and family.
For some reason, it’s easier to appreciate the moment when we’re not in it.
We may think back to a memory of a loved one and cherish it, but when we think deeper, realize we didn’t even want to be there at the time. But what if we’ve since lost that loved one? The memory is so much sweeter than it seemed to be at the time.
I’m not trying to just say “live in the present and appreciate things.” Plenty of articles will say that, and I have said that before. But it’s more than that.
What if we thought about every situation we were in as if it will be a memory one day?
Whether it’s “being forced” to see a family member, who gets on your nerves, when you’re at a family holiday or whether it’s something truly unpleasant like changing a flat tire in a blizzard… it’s rare that we look back on a memory and think about how bad it was. Sure, it happens, but it’s not typical.
We tend to remember the good when we look back, but often we only notice the bad when it’s happening.
If you view every experience as if it will one day be a memory you look back on, you’ll live a little differently. A little more intentionally. And much more happily.
Just an idea. I hope you can use this story and this idea to live a more intentional and happier life. If not, no big deal. That’s your decision. But I’ve looked at plenty of old journal entries and laughed at how frustrated I was when I wrote the entry. Especially since the overall memory is a good one.
Maybe we should live a little more like how we remember.
Further Book Reading
- Don’t Just Teach Your Kids to Set Goals, Teach Them to Do This
- Alarming Studies That Show How Advertising Affects Your Kids (And How to Protect Them)
- How to Raise Grateful, Selfless Children
- Stop Saying Adoption is Expensive
- Large-Family Minimalism: How We Declutter 5,000 Things a Year
- 10 Practical Steps to Start Practical Minimalism