As I was plowing through my first box of Thin Mints of the long-awaited Girl Scout Cookie season, I couldn’t help but wonder: is it just me, or did Thin Mints taste better about 20 years ago? Then, as I thought even harder (scary, I know), I had to ask myself, “OR, has becoming a real ‘grown up’ just made me so jaded that I can’t even enjoy the taste of a crispy chocolate wafer dipped in a mint fudge coating like I used to??”
Even though it’s awfully deep for a Wednesday, I’m going with the latter, because it’s going to help me prove a point.
As I look back to when I was a kid, I remember the sun shining brighter, the summers lasting longer, the hugs feeling tighter and the lemonade tasting sweeter than it could ever taste now. Now, part of that was probably all of the real sugar I allowed myself to have back then, but still.
But, something I’ve noticed, especially lately, is that memories have a sneaky way of toying with our thoughts and our emotions. When we take an inventory of all of the experiences we’ve ever had in all of our years on earth, USUALLY the most beautiful ones float to the top. It’s how humans are wired. It’s biology. It’s what keeps us coming back for more every day and not locked inside our houses afraid to make another awkward encounter with your next door neighbor like you did last week. Memories, and the way our brains preserve the “special” ones, can be a very beautiful thing. But, (I know, the dreaded but,) they can also have a way of gaslighting us into thinking less of our current selves, which, dear reader, is bullshit.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of mental auditing about where I am versus where I “should be”. To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit of a mess. I’m overwhelmed with recent decisions I’ve made and I’m constantly questioning whether those decisions were the right ones. Newsflash to me and everyone reading this: they definitely were, I’m just a classic over-thinker. ANYWAY, as I’ve been going through my mental audit, I find myself looking back and retracing my steps to see if I’m even on the right path, or if I got lost in the woods somewhere along the way. I’ve been comparing my current self to a past version of me who was “more fun”, a “better writer”, was more “motivated” and had “bigger goals”. My apologies for all of the quotations, but I don’t usually use them unless I’m doing a Chris Farley as Bennet Brauer impression, which I happen to be doing right now.
My memories of past self, especially as I compare them to my current self, which I am pretty critical of (in a mostly healthy way), look wildly different from each other. Taking a quick glance into the rearview mirror, past me does look more fun, more fit, more alive and more driven. But, deep down I know if I actually turn this car around and pay a visit to that girl, there is much, much more than meets the eye. I WAS that girl. She was a mess (no offense past me), and I KNOW how she was feeling. I also know that I am so extremely proud of her for all of the growing up she’s done. And I KNOW she’d be proud of me for everything I’ve accomplished since I’ve left her. There are stories the picture in the rearview mirror simply can’t begin to tell.
Even in motherhood, I find my own memories gaslighting me into thinking I could be doing things better. Any time I am struck with a serious case of baby fever, or the memory of one of my sweet babies as a newborn pops into my head, all my brain will let me remember are their milk drunk smiles, their chunky thighs and the way they fit perfectly onto my chest during lazy afternoons sitting at home on maternity leave. And of course, for all of the sweet memories it allows me to remember, there are double, maybe even triple, the amount of memories it is trying to block from me. The sleepless nights, the painful boobs I did NOT see coming, and the severe anxiety that kept me from feeling like myself for months. It’s all right there, hiding in plain sight amongst those sweet memories that are displayed in beautiful gold frames sitting neatly on a freshly dusted shelf.
While I know our brains are built to protect us from those experiences, to revisit them can be such a great reminder of the hard things we are capable of overcoming and the tremendous growth we’ve experienced. Remembering it all: the good, the bad AND the ugly, prove to us that we can get through anything, and we can get through it again, especially if it’s a baby who’s on his or her way in July. Surprise!
Most importantly, though, the person we are today is a product of every experience we’ve had, even the bad ones, which is pretty damn beautiful if you ask me.
So, even though earlier me said the Thin Mints may have tasted better 20 years ago, I think I really just allowed myself to fully enjoy them back then, and I’m going to do the same right now. I deserve it.
Yep. Just as I thought. These Thin Mints are just as sweet…Come to think of it, they might even be a little bit sweeter.