As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew something was different. The sunlight streaming in through the bay window felt warm, not painfully bright, as it often did. The bird songs were clear and melodic, not the usual cacophony of tweets and chirps.
As I climbed out of bed, I couldn’t help but notice the complete absence of all those typical aches and pains of middle age. No stiff neck. No backache. Both rotator cuffs rotated without a creak. And neither knee buckled – not even a little – as I put my weight on them.
When I passed by a mirror on the way to the kitchen, I almost didn’t recognize the image. It was me, alright. But my morning hair and face didn’t look like a deranged post-modernist self-portrait. I’m sure it was some sort of bizarre illusion, but I could swear I looked years younger.
I walked into the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker, only to be met with a cheery “Good morning!” and a big kiss from my wife of many years.
“What did I do to deserve that?” I asked, surprised.
“Nothing,” she said with a grin, “Just felt like it.”
Okay, I thought; now that was weird. But I wasn’t complaining. No way.
Then I set about my daily attempt at making a decent cappuccino. I’d been at it for years, only to be thwarted time and again with an under or over-extracted espresso and foamed milk that looked like it came out of the mouth of a rabid dog.
But not today. Don’t ask me how, but today, the espresso came out with a nice thick layer of caramel colored crema. Not only that, but the milk turned out creamy and finely textured in a way that only an experienced barista can produce.
I took that improbably great morning drink down to my office, turned on the computer, and got to work. Except for a few calls, a couple of tea breaks, a little lunch, and a midday game of hoops with a neighbor, I put in a solid eight hours and got everything done.
Feeling the fulfillment that only a satisfying day of work can bring, I had a thought. Wouldn’t it be nice to go out for a rare midweek dinner and a movie?
Sitting at our favorite little Italian restaurant, my wife and I sipped a little Chianti and talked. I don’t even know what we talked about, but it was fun, just being together. We enjoyed the food, the wine, and each other’s company. The movie wasn’t great, but it was always novel to sit in a theater and feel like it’s really happening to you.
On the way home, we talked about what a nice day it had been and what we each had planned for tomorrow. It was nothing to write home about, but it was enough to make us happy. When we got back home, we got undressed, climbed into bed, picked up our respective bedside books, and read until we fell asleep.
I usually meet April Fools' Day with a little satire and silliness, but for some reason, I’m just not feeling it this year. Instead, I thought I’d take you with me to spend a day in the past. I’m not sure when, exactly, but it was a time when life was simpler and everything made a lot more sense.
Granted, we do generally view days gone by through a rose-colored filter, and my little daydream is no exception. In fact, I constructed it with copious amounts of over-the-top nostalgia and feel-good fantasy to highlight a point. What made that day so different from today isn’t what we had, but what we didn’t have.
We didn’t have political leaders that were so divisive and dysfunctional that lying is the norm and nobody is held accountable. We didn’t have an obscene national debt, out-of-control government spending, oppressive regulations that do far more harm than good, an insane 70,000-page tax code, or bankrupt states and municipalities.
We didn’t have an entitlement culture where everyone, from the top of the economic pyramid to the bottom, wants as much stuff for nothing as they can get their greedy little hands on. We didn’t have everyone suing everyone else at the drop of a hat. And we didn’t have political correctness destroying our right to free speech and expression.
We didn’t have a broken educational system, a broken healthcare system, or a broken federal government that passed and upheld corrupt legislation like ObamaCare. We didn’t have an obesity epidemic. And we didn’t spend billions on miracle pills, weight-loss systems, nutritional supplements, and homeopathic medicine that does nothing.
We didn’t have reality TV, DVRs to turn our brains into mush any time of the day or night, or a relentless 24x7 news cycle where every tragedy gets blown up into a continuous national news story that goes on for days, even weeks.
We didn’t have a blogosphere, social media, Web 2.0 and all its mindless user-generated content, smart gadgets and apps, computer games, spam, Internet shopaholics, and dot-com bubbles.
We weren’t all so distracted and self-absorbed that we spent 10 hours a day, every day, with our eyes glued to a TV, computer, or mobile display. And we weren’t so disengaged in our lives that we let everything that matters go down the tubes, the way we have.
My April Fools' Day may have been a fool’s fantasy, but one thing’s for sure. There really was a time when none of those things existed. And no matter how you look at it, it was a far better time.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, executive coach, columnist, and former senior executive. He runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting where he advises executives and business leaders on anything and everything. Contact Tobak.