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
— Bryan Adams, Summer of 69
You're miserable. You're unpopular. Your erstwhile Best Friend Forever just got a glance from Alpha Bitch
and charged off to join the Girl Posse
without a backwards glance. The Jerk Jock
is harrassing you to prove that Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb
. 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!"
frequently deployed by nostalgic adults
, who want to think that Growing Up Sucks
but childhood was good. Generally indicates that Adults Are Useless
, 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 Glory Days
. (Overlap is likely.)
The only person for whom this is actually true is the Future Loser
/Japanese culture equivalent is seishun
(springtime of your youth). Generally played even more melodramatically (and parodied all
And besides, whoever it was first said that school days are the best days of your life clearly never went to school or saw the show
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Anime and Manga
- In Vice Versa, 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 Show Me Love (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.
- Much of Dazed and Confused 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...
- The World's End starts with Gary King talking about a high school escapade which was the best night of his life, and ends with him revealing what viewers had long since realized: That it never got better than that night.
- 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 Stephen King novel Lisey's Story, 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 Friday Night Lights: 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.
Live Action TV
- Lois the mother on Malcolm in the Middle. Although occasionally she would flip flop and tell Malcolm that being a kid sucks but it would all get better later.
- Summed up by Rab C. Nesbitt: "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 Brad Paisley.
- "Summer of '69", as quoted above, by Bryan Adams (who was 9 years old in the eponymous season.)
- And whether the 69 refers to the year, the sex position, or both depends on Bryan Adams' mood.
- "Wasted Years" by Iron Maiden, 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 Pink Floyd 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
- Nirvana's "School" is a single stanza 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 Word of God, Kurt wrote the song as a Take That 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 Sex Pistols 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
- Cruelly, cruelly mocked by The Onion here.
- At Everything2: Life does not end at high school.
- Surviving The World had this to say.
- The Loner's Journey blog has a post 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."
- 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, 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.
- Daria and Jane once reflected on the dreadful likelihood of this. (It seemed less dreadful after some Comedic Sociopathy a moment later.)
- With a Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad spin in the Wacky Races 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?"
- Truth in Television: 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 Stock Phrase 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.