Like with a story. When you're reading a story for the first time, everything is new, fresh, unpredictable; but the second time, it's familiar, and you know where it's going. You know when the author is just teasing you with a storyline and when they've revealed the real answer to all the questions. You know what the characters are doing and have done and will do, and your understanding of why they do the things they do is broader and better.
It's the same in real life. When things end well, everything that led up to it is suddenly much, much more wonderful. Basketball practice sucks, until you're looking back on it with a trophy in your hand; then you can look at it and think: That's what I had to do, and this is where it got me. It was worth it.
It's not as fantastic in the reverse, of course. The intensity and passion of an affair--all the good things--turn bitter in the mouth once the hammer falls.
I suspect that all that is down to the fact that the human brain can't really remember pain or pleasure: it can only remember desires and aversions. It's hard to remember the exact taste of chocolate, but it's wonderfully simple to say to yourself, I like this. I shall try it again sometime. Similarly, we can't recall how badly fire hurts when it touches us; but we're quite good at remembering not to touch it later. We think in words, not sensations.
I'm experiencing a lot of that at the moment. For the past four weeks, my dorm has been practicing for Airband, which is a Taylor tradition where 10 teams of students dance and lip sync to a song being played over speakers, for the enjoyment and entertainment of basically every living thing within three miles of campus (which essentially encompasses the whole town). My dorm (Gerig) has a long and glorious history of being awesome at Airband. For several years running, they've placed in the top three; several times they've been first. No other dorm has such a lustrous record (as far as I know. For reference, here are some videos of past Gerig performances for Airband, which I have tracked down for you and can be found here and here and here).
Knowing that, we've been working our butts off trying to pull off an awesome dance to this song; an awesome dance that would compare to the awesome dances of our forebears. We had sensational choreographers, dedicated dancers, peerless prop-meisters, and a five-man band that would pretend to play the song while everyone else danced to it (I was part of this last group). Our deadline for preparing was last night, when we would perform for the Airband Auditions (which are meant to narrow down the 20-or-so less-than-bodacious teams to 10 super-mega-bodacious teams). Auditions were just a formality, of course; our dance was super-mega-bodacious, so we were a shoe-in. After Auditions, we'd be able to add in even more jumps and swings and stuff, and make it even more super-mega-bodacious.
'Cause we are Gerig, people. Gerigians are always in Airband. We had nothing to worry about.
Well...we thought we had nothing to worry about. Today we got our results back from auditions.
We didn't make it.
And suddenly the dance that was super-mega-bodacious seems less than stellar; in fact I catch myself, sometimes, thinking about all the things that I could have done better, of all the ways that I must have failed. Surely there was something I could have changed? Something we could have improved?
Perhaps there was. I suppose I won't find out. My point is that, now, looking back, the practices seem less fun, and the excitement seems pointless.
But yet...it was still fun. Amazingly fun. I am so glad I did it.
And dangit, we're going to win next year.