I have mixed emotions about “On This Day,” Facebook’s collection of all posts and activity from one particular day year-to-year.
A past post will be featured on the main page with a banner at the top of the page saying, “Hi, Gina! Remember this post from 8 years ago today?” And the “See More Memories” button at the bottom lets you see all the other photos and events, like a memory bank. Inevitably, when this notice pops up on my feed, I get an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, combined with a whopping heart pang. I think I’m suffering from the four stages of This Can’t Be.
Stage One: Denial. Last week, Facebook’s memory moment showed a post I made six years ago, talking about taking my son shopping for clothes for his Grade 8 formal. Now here we are in 2018 and not only is he out of middle school, but he graduated from high school, and in just a few weeks, will be graduating from college! He barely resembles that wide-eyed little boy shopping for ties in 2012. Now he’s all grown up, ready for life after college, working, with an intelligent and beautiful girlfriend, and a sense of self that is evolving all the time. Seriously, what happened to the last six years? Poof.
Stage Two: Regret. I admit it, some of these posts make me wonder “what if.” Time waits for no one and neither does disappointment and heartache. Every single person in my posts has experienced devastating losses and painful lessons, a reminder how quickly life can go from blissful contentment, to mind-numbing shock in a nanosecond, or, in this case, a Facebook feed.
It’s the old “if I knew then what I know now” reflection. Would I have done anything differently if I could? Sometimes the answer is yes. Yes, I would’ve spent more time with that family member who is no longer here. Yes, I would have gone on that trip with my friends after all, the one I made an excuse to skip for reasons I can’t even remember. Knowing what I now know, would I have slowed down and just enjoyed the here and now (which, in each post, was then and there)? Absolutely.
Because at the end of the day, there isn’t a single post of me in front of my computer or my TV, where I convince myself is a perfectly acceptable place to be when I have a few free minutes. That will never show up in my on-line memories, which is something I should probably consider when I opt to do that rather than meet a friend for coffee.
Stage Three: Humbled. It’s not all morose. If you just went on the number of photos I’ve posted of my adventures out and about, you’d surmise I’m rarely at home doing nothing, if not a social butterfly. And, in a way I guess I am at times, just not the pub-crawling kind (thankfully, social media didn’t exist when I was in college).
Most of my feeds are celebrating special moments — graduations, engagements, babies, birthdays, fundraisers, stuff like that. And of course, sports. If someone didn’t know me, they would think, based on my Facebook posts, that I was a professional sports agent or promoter of some sort. And how great is that, to be able to look back years from now and see all the happy times we spent with people, watching our kids and laughing together at the world? Evenings spent getting ice cream after a baseball game and being cognizant enough to take a picture of a group of friends sitting together at a picnic table. The older I get, the more profoundly appreciative I am for these times.
Stage Four: Ready. Here’s what I know: It does me no good to get hung up on what I didn’t do or should have done or wish would have never happened. I’ve come to accept these posts as emotional instructive. When one appears — “On this day, two years ago, Gina MacDonald, here’s where you were!” — I lean back, soak in the photo or read the comments left by friends, and remember to try to spend more time making memories than reviewing past ones.
This is for no other reason than to have them to check on Facebook in a few years’ time.