Nostalgia is a peculiar experience. It has a warmth to it, a hint of innocence. I think most of us have this longing for the past, but the accuracy of our memories is not very good. We tend to paint a picture in our minds of the past in such a selective way that we remove most of the negative parts that display the realities of that time. The past is comfortable because we already went through that experience. We know the outcome and hence there is no ambiguity about the future. Looking retrospectively at our lives is akin to watching a movie that we have already watched. We know what the ending is going to be like, and therefore don’t feel the emotional strain of all the trials and tribulations that came with it.
It is especially interesting for me to explore the nostalgia that I feel when thinking about various people that I cross paths with. I notice how my mind will drift seamlessly to their face, or something they said, the way they looked at the world. Upon reflection, it is those ordinary moments that appear to have had the most impact on me. Those small indiscriminate seconds, changed my view ever so slightly. Some everyday moments, driving on the highway or walking to the store, maybe talking about the most mundane things seem appear in my mind as the most important. These little moments pop up at random times during the day. They appear and disappear like an evanescent wave in my consciousness.
Maybe it is precisely because they are so simple and ordinary that makes them important. It is in those moments that we are just being ourselves and others being themselves. In times of great stress or even great pleasure, we might not be our complete selves. I suppose we are being a version of ourselves, but not our most basic, present self. The self that we are when we’re just sitting on a chair, getting lost in a book and forgetting about every other facet of our lives.
Nostalgia also appears to be an addictive experience. We really like being in the past. Some people might even live there. The problem arises however, when we forget that it is not reality. Reality is not something to escape from, but rather something to fully immerse ourselves in. Nostalgia is the past, wrapped with our hopes and dreams.
It shows a skewed view of our history and the history of those that we are spending our scarce time with. We create an illusion of who we were and what happened to us. We either demonize those that we spent our time with, or we will idealize them. We create stories out of events that we can’t quite remember and fill in the blanks with what we want to be true. It is very important to remember that our minds are story creating machines. We love to tell a story about our life in order to form a coherent picture of the events we lived through and why we are who we are today.
This being said, nostalgia is part of the human experience. We should allow ourselves to indulge in it from time to time. Revisiting old moments that we shared with those that we love is a privilege, and plays a part in making life a wonderful experience. It is a gift from our mind. However, once we are given the joy of the past, we must move on to the present.
Nostalgia will only present joy to those that do not spend too much time there. After we are done with that tiny moment of nostalgic experience, we need to come back to the now. We must stay in the present, because reality is only here now, and we’ll never truly be alive unless we are alive in the present. Not the future, nor the past.
It is only in the present that we can truly connect with those that are here with us, enjoying this journey, one small beautiful moment at a time.