You Had to Be There (Lesson #12 From "No Bare Feet and Other Lessons From the Caddie Yard")

Dec 20, 2023 by Mike Magluilo
Lesson #12: You Had to Be There

Jimmy Buffett put out a live album in 1978 called "You Had to Be There." Like so many of his songs, he captured the essence of human experience in a simple phrase. 

It was a phrase I heard often as a caddie. We endured waiting for loops by telling stories of the adventure and nonsense we got up to since leaving the caddie shack the day before. Kids would rub in the awesomeness of their experiences with the punchline You had to be there

I haven’t heard the phrase in a while. Perhaps my life doesn’t have as many peak experiences as when I was a teenager. 

It turns out it’s not just me. According to Google, use of the phrase has declined more than twenty percent since 2012. Thanks to the phones in our pockets, social media and ZOOM, it appears you actually no longer have to be there.  

That doesn’t mean we’re creating experiences worth remembering. 

The memories that stick with me, the ones I tell my sons about, all involve being with analog versions of other people—and the peak emotions experienced together. Good or bad, comfortable or challenging.  

Like caddying in the rain, riding bikes to the pool, the stressful work projects, the nights with friends that took bizarre turns. The love and heartbreak, the chaotic family holidays, the births and deaths. Cycling uphill, running into the wind, and cold water swims.

You can’t phone in a “best time ever,” a Papyrus card only goes so far, and wearing a VR headset is no way to walk around town. No one is going to say twenty years from now, “Remember that great video call?” There’s a reason fifty thousand people pay to run the Chicago Marathon together. 

There’s a place for social media, virtual meetings and text groups, but the stuff we’re going to laugh and cry about at our friends’ funerals will be the bold, technicolor moments shared in person while they were alive. 

So, as the end of the year approaches, may you be with the people most important to you, and may 2024 bring a few peak experiences in the company of others.