These are the good old days

St Johns churchyard, York Mills, Toronto, Ontario

When we lived in Baku, on days when life proved particularly challenging, such as the water or power being off for longer than usual, when loneliness and culture shock overwhelmed us or we pined for foods from home (broccoli, lettuce, Kraft Dinner), we would end our moaning with a wry smile and say “One day, these will be the good old days.” We laughed then, but over time memory is kind, and sooner than expected we looked back fondly at our life there, even the things we struggled with the most.

By the time we got to Egypt I was getting wise to this, particularly as I had realized that these assignments were very unpredictable in duration. I knew I had to make the best of every day there. So like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter I started consciously storing up memories, both good and bad. While bemoaning the dusty, broken and often totally absent sidewalks in what must be one of the least pedestrian-friendly cities, I took time to notice the beauty of the jacaranda trees and take pleasure in exchanging a “sabah el nour” with the taxi drivers at the end of my street.

Later in Dubai, life was much more comfortable, but I still took care to pause and consciously note a special memory. Sometimes it would be something beautiful, like Tai Chi practice on the breakwater, under a new moon with the waves gently lapping below us, and sometimes it would be something mundane, like my daily trip to the grocery store in the late afternoon just as the heat was abating. Either way, I knew that at some point in the future I would look back on that moment and say, those were the good old days.

I’m aware that what I’m extolling is called seizing the day (carpe diem), living in the moment, and is something that we all should be doing, no matter where we are. But for expats it’s important, particularly for those who are highly mobile and know their days in that particularly place are limited. Many of us try to pack our time full of exotic trips and special experiences, but it’s also important to soak up the everyday events, the little things that piece by piece make up the jigsaw of our lives.

Right now I go out to work 4 days a week. Each morning I walk to the subway through a pleasant, leafy residential area and pass this very English looking churchyard pictured above. It’s a beautiful walk, made all the better by the changing seasons, something I missed very much while living in the Middle East. I’m very happy in my job and have no plans to leave, but I also know that nothing lasts forever and neither will this daily ritual. So each morning as I walk, think and listen to the birds sing, I remind myself that these too are the good old days. Some things don’t change, even for repatriates.


17 thoughts on “These are the good old days

  1. Lovely piece, again, Judy. I have consistently tried to do the same—carpe diem—so as to have a moment of beauty in the present and fortify a future good memory. Your positive and beautiful attitude are, no doubt in my mind, why you are repatriating so gracefully.

  2. These are the images that sustain us – the unremarkable, the mundane – carved into our minds through repetition they allow us space to absorb every detail and secure it with a string of emotion to our consciousness so that they take on an ethereal glow. These beautiful balloons of captured moments buoy us through difficulty and bob in the memory long after moments and people have passed. The good old days 🙂 A great reminder to be aware and grateful – thanks Judy

  3. This is so true. Finding small moments and things of beauty and wonder everyday no matter where we are (no matter how dusty and chaotic!) is so important.

  4. Carpe diem is essentially practicing mindfulness, continuous observation and taking things in without immediate judgment. (Okay, well carpe diem also implies going full tilt to get the most out of life, but it’s the other side which reminds me of mindfulness.) Life has shown you that by doing so, you store up your memories, good and bad, special and quotidien, but memories nonetheless. Beautiful reminder, Judy, thank you.

  5. Pingback: These are the great previous days | Posts

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