Prompt 006: Ye Olde Glory Days
6. Why do you think some people only focus on their "glory days," their great successes from the past? How might you keep yourself from looking entirely backwards in the future?
I remember seeing some social media posts from old acquaintances of mine, around the time of my 20th annual high school reunion. I distinctly remember one of my old classmates mentioning that she felt, "things were so much simpler back then," alluding to when we all were of high school age. I think that was the clearest articulation of longing for "glory days" that I'd seen in quite some time (cue the jokes about "those most popular in high school peaked back then").
I think this is due to people being unable to reinvent themselves. As time persists, people change: they become older. They lose and gain interests, loves, skills, abilities, possessions, attitudes. For those who long for the glory days, they feel that what they lost is better than what they have now. Sometimes they live with regret because they think their loss is to a greater degree their fault, while those who are simply bitter or wistful take the perspective of one with much out of their own control. To them, the forces of Fate, or Destiny, some supernatural being (or maybe a couple, or several of them), or just Luck have a greater influence over their lives than they do. Depending on what they see as the root cause, they will feel a certain way about it.
There are some who suffer from dementia or some other mental illness or degradation, and they may not know that they're "living in the past." That's simply unfortunate. But in the case of someone who consciously longs for those glory days of the past, there can sometimes be hope of turning their gaze towards the future, or at least the present. Material reality is undeniably a significant factor of course (poverty, abuse, conflict, addiction, slavery, and more), but even within the worst of environments there can still be a glimmer of hope for the future.
One strategy in combating the longing for one's glory days is to maintain curiosity. It is important to still want to know something in addition to what one already knows, for example. Noam Chomsky mentioned in one of his treatises on Socialism that even if something has already been done, someone other than the originator can still find satisfaction in doing it themselves. So "reinventing the wheel" isn't such a bad thing to do, if one can find some satisfaction in it.
Please understand that I don't mean to confuse the idea of longing for one's "glory days" is not the same as being discontented with one's current state and/or prospects of the future. One could come from a shit life, and be objectively better off now than they were then, but that doesn't mean they're trapped and always looking rearward to the past, as if it were better.
Reinvention is at the core of people who are in transition, even if they don't realize it. I remember reading in Alison Cardy's book -Career Grease- of the "Hero's Journey." In it there are four phases: Stagnation, Inspiration to Change, The Journey/The Struggle, The Celebration/The Accomplishment. Those who long for the glory days seek out that last stage of The Celebration. They're currently stuck in the Stagnation phase, lacking some impetus to change. To change for the better, hope is needed. If it's a change for the worse, it's likely due to some unforeseen accident or tragedy. The expectation is that those don't happen too often, however, they are just as likely to kick-start the next phase as something positive. Maybe more so, since if taken to extremes, negative occurrences can lead to death.
That former classmate of mine was Stagnant, and needed a "spark" to usher in the next phase. They needed to find Inspiration. They needed hope.