Once Upon a Time by Navina Anand

‘Once upon a time’ began an acquaintance at a party…. And I groaned inwardly trying not to let my dread flit across my face. This is not your ‘Once upon a time’ fairy tale that we listened to with such wonder when we were little. Did the unfair fairy god mother die of being poisoned? Did the Princess become queen? No… the once upon a time we listen to as adults are all these boring stories from people who feel very compelled to share their words of wisdom once they have crossed a certain age and have assumed that they have arrived. Therefore, the world needs to know about their stories of success. I groaned inaudibly as my inebriated acquaintance began his story of wisdom.

No wonder kids want to run away when their parents start lecturing. No wonder middle aged people tune out senior citizens when they begin their ‘Once upon a times’. It is so mind numbingly tedious and boring. Why is it that what is so scintillating to the narrator makes the listener want to scratch their eyes out? Is it the “I” focus? Is it the retelling of banalities that have taken on some golden hue because they happened in the past? Is it the insufferable underlying pomposity! What is it that makes us WANT TO share our wisdom? What makes us think that we are so special? And not only are we special, it is important to tell the whole world why we are special.

I have two theories on this. First, I think people who talk more about their past than their present are people who feel their present is not as exciting as their past. Or their future is not looking as promising. Whatever is exciting on the resume has all happened in the past. So, they want to relive it by sharing those stories with other people – for their own benefit. For their own nostalgia.

The second theory is the smug satisfaction of material success or the belief that having lived a few decades on the planet has somehow endowed us with a unique wisdom which we DO NOT SEE in the people around us. They need to be educated. It is not enough if you savour that whiskey, you have to educate the person next to you about the story of that whiskey’s origin. Everybody should know that you know a lot. It is a power trip- an attitude that says ” I don’t care if my audience is interested in this, but since I know all about this, I should share this amazing information”.

Yes. I am in that “age bracket” as well. And I hope to god to bestow upon me the wisdom, or a friend to slap me across my face when I launch into my “Once upon a time’. Better still, I hope to have enriching experiences of the ‘present’ to share and have a good time instead of having to dig through my past to relieve those old stories that nobody cares about. People. This is a public service announcement. NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID STORIES OF INFINITE WISDOM.

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