[[quoteright:292:[[Webcomic/MacHall http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/MAchall.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:292: It's a depressing thought.]]

->''"When I look back now''
->''That summer seemed to last forever''
->''And if I had a choice''
->''I'd always wanna be there''
->''Those were the best days of my life."''
-->-- '''Music/BryanAdams''', "Summer of 69"

You're miserable. You're unpopular. Your erstwhile Best Friend Forever just got a look from the AlphaBitch and charged off to join the GirlPosse without a backwards glance. The JerkJock is harrassing you to prove that YouthIsWastedOnTheDumb. You have too much homework and you've put it off too late. You have no time and no qualifications to make money, so you can afford nothing. Most of your little money is spent to keep you in the hellhole that is your high school.

So your parents burble, "These are the best years of your life!"

A StockPhrase frequently deployed by [[NostalgiaFilter nostalgic adults]], who want to think that GrowingUpSucks but childhood was good. Generally indicates that AdultsAreUseless, as few if any stories exist where the adults are actually right to say this. When an adult is reflecting on the best years of ''his'' life, the trope is GloryDays. (Overlap is likely.)

The only person for whom this is actually true is the FutureLoser.

The {{Anime}}/Japanese culture equivalent is ''seishun'' (springtime of your youth). Generally played even more melodramatically (and parodied ''all'' the time).

And besides, whoever it was first said that school days are the best days of your life clearly never went to school or [[VisualNovel/SchoolDays saw the show]]...


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/ExcelSaga'''s BaseballEpisode features a heavy parody of this.
* The opening of ''Manga/KimagureOrangeRoad'' plays it straight, specifically using ''seishun''

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'':
** Mostly invoked by Calvin's dad.
--->'''Calvin:''' People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children.
** In another strip, Calvin asks his dad what the "Halcyon days" of one's youth might be ("Is Saturday one?") and is told that these are awarded retroactively from the position of cynical middle age. Calvin leaves disgusted that apparently you never know you're having a good time when you're having it.
* A ''ComicStrip/LifeInHell'' comic panel titled "The Beginning of Wisdom" has Bongo responding to said phrase with "You mean it gets '''WORSE?!'''"
* ''ComicStrip/{{Frazz}}'':
** A girl recounts how her father had told her this. She had countered that this probably said less about school than about his actuary career.
** On another occasion, a child asks for and gets assurance that it's not true.

* In ''FanFic/ThoseLackingSpines'', Vexen takes an opportunity to air his frustration with high school, and he and Lexaeus have a back-and-forth about it.
-->"They say high school is the best four years of your life," Lexaeus shrugged.\\
"Who's 'they'?" Vexen sneered. "If those four years are to be the pinnacle of my life, I might as well go and jump in front of an oncoming train."\\

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/TheBestYearsOfOurLives'' uses this concept via irony. The three ShellShockedVeteran spent their best years fighting UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, and come back to their former lives. One of them finds out that his wife is cheating on him, and she is unrepentant:
--> '''Marie''': ''I've given you every chance to make something of yourself. I gave up my own job when you asked me. I gave up the best years of my life, and what have you done? You flopped!''
* All of the adults in ''Film/FridayNightLights'' remind the football players that high school is the best years of their lives. However, most of them are {{Jaded Washout}}s who are pinning their failed hopes and dreams on the players. More than half the team continuously buckles under all the pressure, in addition to having to deal with their own problems.
* In ''Film/ViceVersa'', the overbearing, stuffy father says something like this, and wishes he were a schoolboy again. Unfortunately for him, he's holding a magic Indian stone that grants wishes.
* The movie ''Film/ShowMeLove'' (''Fucking Åmål'') has an inversion, which somehow has the exact same horrible effect. Agnes' father tries to be understanding, and says she shouldn't worry -- things won't always be this bad, you'll be a lot happier in twenty or thirty years... Even the low end of that wait is more than double Agnes's current age (she's 16), so it would seem like an eternity. Also, the wording makes it sound like things won't improve ''until'' she's in her mid-thirties or later. Between the two, that's plenty of reason for a teenager to despair.
* In ''Film/Clerks2'', while they're in jail near the end of the film, Randall says he thinks of his time working at the video store as the best years of his life. Among others things, like getting to watch movies for free, he got to hang out with his best friend, Dante.
* Much of ''Film/DazedAndConfused'' shows how decidedly un-idyllic high school was for the characters in the film. Nevertheless, its release in 1993 was the first inkling of a wave of 70s fashion and music nostalgia in the 90s amongst young people in the United States...
-->'''Pink:''' All I'm saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life -- remind me to kill myself.
* ''Film/TheWorldsEnd'' starts with Gary King talking about a high school escapade which was the best night of his life, and ends with him [[spoiler:revealing what viewers had long since realized: That it never got better than that night.]]

* Creator/GustaveFlaubert's ''Literature/SentimentalEducation'' invokes this at the finale when Gustave Moreau and Deslauriers, the two main characters look back on their years of friendship and youthful hijinks and finally remember an early misadventure where they gatecrashed a brothel, early in their youth before going to Paris:
--> '''Gustave Moreau''': I believe that was the best time of our lives!
--> '''Deslauriers''': Well perhaps. But yes, I too believe that was the best time of our lives!
* Used by the narrator's stepfather in ''Space Station Seventh Grade'', though the narrator can think of several reasons why being twelve sucks.
* In the Creator/StephenKing novel ''Literature/LiseysStory'', one of Lisey's sisters comments to Lisey that they want to get together like "the good old days"; Lisey has flashbacks to her sisters treating her like crap.
* In the book ''Film/FridayNightLights'': the narrator thinks this will be the case for many of the football players, who are heroes of the school and the whole town in high school, but most of whom will spend their days in an oil field following graduation. This also happens in the film.
* In Michael C. Bailey's ''Literature/ActionFigures - Issue One: Secret Origins'', Matt assures Carrie that the jocks and cheerleaders are the people this is true for.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Lois the mother on ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle''. Although occasionally she would flip flop and tell Malcolm that being a kid sucks but it would all get better later.
* Summed up by ''Series/RabCNesbitt'': "School days? Best days of your life, if you are a fucking sadomasochist!"

* "Have no fear, these are nowhere near the best years of your life" in the country song "Letter to Me" by Music/BradPaisley.
* "Summer of '69", as quoted above, by Music/BryanAdams (who was 9 years old in the eponymous season.)
** The lyrics were written by Adams' then-songwriting partner, Jim Vallance, who was 17 when the song takes place.
** And whether the 69 refers to the year, the sex position, or both depends on [[FlipFlopOfGod Bryan Adams' mood.]]
* "Wasted Years" by Music/IronMaiden, which was written largely as a response to several extremely hectic years of non-stop touring, with breaks only to go into the studio to record their albums. Made even more ironic given that the album the song came off of (''Somewhere in Time'') is where many Iron Maiden fans consider the seasonal rot for the band's work began.
* Attacked by Music/PinkFloyd in the song "The Happiest Days of Our Lives", which is about abusive teachers in an English boarding school and serves as a spoken intro for "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2".
* The Ataris, "In This Diary"'s refrain goes
-->Being grown up isn't half as fun as growing up
-->These are the best years of our life
* Music/{{Nirvana}}'s "School" is a {{single stanza|Song}} criticism of this quote (the only lyrics of the song are "Won't you believe it, it's just my luck", "You're in high school again" and "No recess!"). However, according to WordOfGod, Kurt wrote the song as a TakeThat to the Seattle grunge scene--he had to suppress his more creative instincts and stick to by-the-book {{Grunge}} for ''Bleach'' to fit in and get noticed.
* The Ex Pistols (a Music/SexPistols soundalike band) recorded a song called Schools Are Prisons which included the lines:
--> They took the best years of my life
--> And made it so I couldn't decide

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/DinosaurComics'': [[http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=799 i peaked in high school]].
* [[http://the-qlc.com/loserz/go/181 This]] ''Webcomic/{{Loserz}}'' strip.
* As seen in the page image, ''Webcomic/MacHall'' brings up the topic when one of the characters points out that since middle school was hell, and he's spent most of college in a dark cloud of depression, high school really WAS the best years of his life. So far anyway.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Cruelly, cruelly mocked by ''Website/TheOnion'' [[https://local.theonion.com/best-years-of-area-mans-life-apparently-never-going-to-1819566489 here]].
* At Website/{{Everything2}}: [[http://everything2.com/title/Life+does+not+end+at+high+school Life does not end at high school]].
* ''Webcomic/SurvivingTheWorld'' had [[http://survivingtheworld.net/Lesson1.html this]] to say.
* The Loner's Journey blog has a post [[http://speculara.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/30-things-i-learned-in-school/ 30 Things I learned in school]]. Number 19 states "Anyone whoever said 'High School is the best time of your life' should be convicted with assisting suicide and get mental help. Immediately."
* Website/{{Cracked}} mocked and deconstructed this trope in several different articles.
** John Cheese in particular seems to hate this phrase, noting the insanity of telling someone dealing with peer pressure, relationship problems, anxiety, raging uncertainty and, in many unfortunate cases, mental illness that can lead to suicidal thoughts that their lives are only going to get worse. He has repeatedly made a point of saying that things can and do get much better because You gain freedom to decide Your own fate and are no longer bound by anyone else's mistakes or rules. His article ''5 Reasons Life Actually Does Get Better'' informed teens that, while They may feel that They can't survive High school, [[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming They will and things will improve]].
** Also subverted by Dan O'Brien's article "4 Things I Wish I'd known as an awkward High schooler" where he notes how awful and strange high school is and his article "4 Signs of adulthood for reluctant grown-ups" where he talks about the benefits of adulthood that await after high school.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Daria}}'': Daria and Jane once reflected on the dreadful likelihood of this. (It seemed less dreadful after some ComedicSociopathy a moment later.)
* With a BadIsGoodAndGoodIsBad spin in the ''WesternAnimation/WackyRaces episode'' "Race To Racine," after Muttley sabotages Dick Dastardly when he supposed to sabotage the Ant Hill Mob, Dastardly opines "And after giving him the worst years of my life...where did I go wrong?"

[[folder:Real Life]]
* TruthInTelevision: Parents say this all the time to high school kids.
** People often say this to elementary schoolers and below too.
* This phrase, often verbatim, will show up almost every high-school graduation season, in things like ads congratulating the current graduating class. No one ever seems to notice the fact that you're saying the best years of your life A) likely weren't that great and B) just ended.
** Which really makes you wonder, "If the best years of your life have already ended, then what exactly are you living for now?"
*** Parents think that it's helpful to tell their children the real world is tough, but the truth is that it is harder to try something new if you think it's going to be difficult, as you expect yourself to fail. If on the other hand, you expect to win, you are more likely to keep trying until you do.
* Recently, the trope has been inverted with the "It gets better" project, which promises gay students that their school years won't be the best years of their life.
** Similarly, many creative people feel that the restrictions of school prevented them from actually growing up and expressing their talents properly, and when they leave, they are finally able to do what they want without people criticising them for it.
* "The best two years of my life" is something of a StockPhrase among returned Mormon missionaries. You can almost distinguish Mormons who have been on a mission from those who haven't by their reaction to this phrase. Those who haven't will typically consider the phrase to be too much of a cliché to be used seriously. Returned missionaries might agree, but then they'll get that slight smile and far off look in their eyes...
** People who spent their childhood living in another country and liked it will often find that it becomes the best years of their life because they can't have it back.
* On the jokey side, but still:
--> College! Best seven years of my life!