Are ‘Perfect Moments’ Overrated?

By: Campbell Petschke

Pondering the What Ifs. Life and the desire to see what's next | by Blake  Gossard, ELS, MWC | Medium

Currently listening to: Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice


As a kid a lot of things just fell seamlessly into place. You see your friends, stay up late on weekends, hide your DS under your pillow when you couldn’t sleep… Any news that you heard would mostly conjure up either happiness or dismay. The anticipation of doing all your homework through the week just so that you can celebrate Fun Friday. It’s not like the anticipation withered away when it came to the day itself, you were just as excited during the 40 minutes of free time. Then when you got picked up and got asked how today was you’d be shaking at the knees waiting to talk about your day as you strap yourself in the back of the car.

Little moments like that meant a lot as a kid. Even the bigger moments felt like victories and definitely shaped my character. For example, the fourth grade field trip to Springfield was everything I could’ve asked for and went perfectly according to plan. I woke up at five in the morning just to ride the super comfortable travel bus while eating snacks and watching movies with my friends and then have the next day off? How could this go wrong? For a long time it was probably the best day of my life.

Going to the movies was something that I adored doing when I was younger and still do. Something about at home viewing doesn’t do much for me for new films. If I’m gonna be on my ass for two hours it’s definitely not gonna be in the comfort of my home. No. It has to be in a semi-new leather seat that creaks just from grabbing your heavily buttered popcorn, sitting at the spot where sound comes in more from the walls to your left than the right, and with a butt-load of people that are either equally as excited or want to cough, fart, or be a crying child from trailers to credits. Damn, I miss the theater…

Where am I going with this? Basically the more you reflect on the past the more you realize how good it was, even when it wasn’t. Regardless, I feel like the more that we waste time expecting things to be good or bad, the more we come to find out how good it actually was during that time. I always tell my friends that 2016 was one of the worst years of my life, but looking back on it now I think of how much simpler things were. That’s the thing though too. You never really realize how hard or easy something was in retrospect until you’re faced with something current. Those perfect moments that we all seem to crave don’t exactly calculate to what we expect until those days have passed. At least for me.

The Days to Follow

Back on Christmas Day 2020, Pixar dropped the movie Soul on their streaming service Disney+. Soul is a film that I heavily anticipated for years. It was teased by the company ever since I was in early high school. Trailers dropped the summer prior and my excitement only grew. The animation looked REAL, the concept was finally put to screen, and the ambiguity only raised more questions. Sign of a good trailer. The day finally came about and after watching the film I ended up just LIKING it. I was disappointed from the direction that it took halfway in. If you’ve seen the film before I’m pretty sure you know what I’m referring to.

*SMALL SPOILER FOR SOUL AHEAD* If you haven’t seen the movie, just skip this following paragraph.

The irony of this situation is that well… that’s kind of what the film is about. The lead character, Joe, waited his whole life to play piano in a professional jazz band. It finally comes about where he gets this opportunity to play with a legit jazz band. Not only that, but he gets to play alongside one of the greats, Dorothea Williams (fictional character). The whole film stresses how important it is for Joe to get to this destination because it very well may change his life and can finally live out his dream.

After overcoming certain obstacles, Joe performs perfectly. The crowd cheered, he felt great while performing, and was even told how he did great by his hero herself. Once everything wraps up, the band says their goodbyes and Joe is left outside staring with a smile on his face. Moments later though his smile fades. He explains that now that this moment is over… what happens next? He lived out his dream, so why isn’t he happy?

It’s What You Take from What’s Given

So why bring Soul into this entry? As someone who loves film and a script that is more obscure than the average Hollywood blockbuster, I thoroughly love perspective. Analyzing film and interpreting it in your own vision is so cool. Very grateful for the existence of video essays on YouTube. Only problem is the YouTube algorithm thinks you want conspiracy theory videos after watching these essays for some reason. There’s only so much to gain after watching a whole series of videos on why Paul McCartney is actually a clone and not the same one from the 60s.

ANYHOW, there was one that I saw for Soul where the man narrating the essay said to let the film sink in before you come to a solid conclusion about it. So that’s what I did. I thought about Soul for about a week. Talking to multiple friends and family about it really helped gain more perspective too. I realized that after many conversations about the film that maybe I was too quick to judge it. There’s so many great moments and many times where I expected something else. The greatness passed me by and I didn’t even know it.

One show I’ve adored these past few years is Ted Lasso. If you’ve seen the show before you know it’s very heartfelt, but human too. After the finale of the second season, I saw Jason Sudeikis was interviewed by GQ. In this article about him, Sudeikis says a quote he heard from Michael J. Fox that I wish I could staple to my forehead.  “ ‘Don’t assume the worst thing’s going to happen, because on the off chance it does, you’ll have lived through it twice.’ So…why not do the inverse?”

Man. I fucking love that. Why waste your time thinking whatever happens is going to be the worst? If whatever you’re doing ends up being good it’s a nice surprise, but wouldn’t you rather go into it feeling optimistic? Instead, if it’s the opposite and you go in looking forward to this activity only to be let down, at least you had hope. Hope is what carries you throughout the day, week, month, or even year (ugh sorry… I don’t even like Friends). It poses a good question of being realistic too. I’ve shared this quote with a few people and most of them have said the same thing…

Shouldn’t You Be Realistic?

Yes. Of course you should. We’ve grown up so far into our own lives that we should know how to go about MOST situations we come across or at the very least how we can cope with it. I would argue in return though that if you are able to use your better judgement and/or moral compass that you have the power to figure how to overcome the potential disappointment.

I had a very hard time standing up for myself as a younger kid. I was concerned that if I disagreed with someone that they wouldn’t be my friend. In middle school I wouldn’t say I was bullied, but as a skinny, sort of nerdy, white kid I was definitely a target for some. There was a kid on the bus that for a few weeks would do the junior high prank and tap my shoulder over the seat and then when I looked back pretended like nothing happened. Enough was enough. The next day on the bus ride home, this kid did the poking shit again. I immediately turned around, put on my best ‘really dude’ face and uttered the worst thing you could say to middle schooler in the early 2010s. “You gotta stop touching me man. That’s pretty gay.” A collective “OHHHHHHH” surrounded the front half of the bus. The kid was embarrassed and put up the hood of his neon green hoodie for the rest of the ride. Ever since then I never had a problem with standing up for myself.

This was so overdramatic I can’t stop laughing while writing this. Before moving on, I also want to say there’s nothing wrong with being gay or LGBTQ+, I’m an ally. Being associated with the word gay at that age though was enough for an ignorant kid to weep.

I bring up this story because obviously I didn’t expect things to change if I expected the best going onto the bus the next day. Things are only going to change if you do something about it. In turn, this is how I learned to be more optimistic. The more you learn from bad, the more you figure out how to make it into something good.

Being realistic is definitely an important aspect of life and carrying yourself throughout your days, but you can be realistically pessimistic or optimistic. If you’ve ever heard of the Law of Attraction or even the golden rule, essentially both teachings are similar. You attract what energy you put out to the world.

What Happened to the Perfect Moment?

To all of you who have read this far, thank you. This will all make sense in a few paragraphs.

Being realistic and optimistic go hand in hand for looking for that perfect moment in life. I’m nearing my mid-twenties. There’s been so many times where the “remember when” game comes up in conversation nowadays. Especially with friends I’ve had for years and years. Times where we all reminisce about the ‘good times’ back in high school or even college. Not all of the times brought up are positive ones. Sometimes they’re funny or even traumatic for some of us. I refuse to live down the time I confused Steph Curry for convicted murderer Steven Avery in class for example.

A handful of these stories bring back a lot of great memories and a lot of really bad ones too. High school was a seriously confusing time. I had a lot of really awful moments my junior year of high school, but I had a very tight knit group of friends that started coming about that year. Even through all the bullshit of teachers who really didn’t care about their kids’ academic successes, relationship dramas, balancing out work and social life… it was truly great. That’s the thing though, we hear so often that we never realize how great our lives are or what we had until it’s no longer in front of us. That is why I never lose hope.

Disappointment is a part of life. It’s something that you remember just as much as the brighter times. I hated my two years at community college. I constantly felt tired and lonely. Here I am almost five years later reminiscing about how I liked being able to go out after school and try new foods from restaurants I had never tried before. I also liked listening to new albums on the way to school since it was a twenty minute drive. That’s something I didn’t have at my university, a place that I adored.

So while life isn’t always perfect in the moment, I like to think that disappointments and shitty moments make for good stories. Things become more vivid once they’re gone. My dad has said before that he’s afraid to visit some specific movies from the past that he loved in fear that the feeling he associated with it once will not feel the same. That’s what’s great about life. You can revisit memories in your mind all you want, but you can’t ever physically be there again. That good feeling is with you for as long as you want it to remain. Bittersweet as that may be, you’ll always feel for the times of the past and even hope for the future. That perfect moment isn’t going to just appear. If you expect something to be precisely what it is and nothing more, then where is that excitement for the next thing going to come from?

I know as a kid I really struggled in elementary school to be motivated for the next day, but man what I wouldn’t give to be that small again and have the friends that I did. I can constantly wish to relive those moments, but like the movies from the 80s for my dad, are they really going to be that special if it happens twice? What makes the ‘perfect’ day or moment is the fact that it was something new or that things didn’t go according to plan. I know that one day I’ll look back and hope for another day like this one.

“Life is what happens while we’re making other plans”. – Allen Saunders

Published by cpetschke

College student, writer, music lover, listener, learner.

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