The Convolutions of Nostalgia

Keeping up with Kai
The Convolutions of Nostalgia

In the constantly changing world and seemingly endless hustle of our lives, where technology continues to advance at an unprecedented rate and our everyday schedules change, there exists a timeless sense of our pasts that gently holds some of our most cherished memories. Defined as a longing and wishful affection for our younger years, nostalgia serves as a powerful emotional reminder that connects us to important experiences, places and people that have shaped our lives. Whether it be some random childhood picture book or a photo of you trying to blow a bubble for the first time, everyone has experienced nostalgia. 

As many of us high school students approach adulthood, we look back on the film of our teenage and childhood years, reflecting on the many experiences that have been with us as we walk through life. We’re once again transitioning into a new chapter, on the verge of falling off a cliff that can never be climbed again. This feeling of loss forces us to cherish our moments and our memories with others. When the present seems unreliable and stressful, when the future seems especially uncertain and scary, nostalgia offers a lending hand. Nostalgia is why we rewatch television shows that we loved as children, why we scroll through our camera rolls and love the AI generated memories our iPhones hold, why we reminisce on happy times with relatives during holiday reunions. We look back at our moments longingly, remembering the warmth and happiness that we felt during those times. We solemnly wish that we could go back and relive our childhoods, when responsibilities didn’t exist and everyday was exciting. 

Nostalgia is also so attractive because it promises to create a community of shared memories and moments. Everyone in your generation, whether you’re a millennial, gen z or baby boomer even, shares similar memories of nostalgia. For students, who are currently swimming through the currents of higher education, we may look towards old Scholastic book fairs in remembrance, the street printed carpets that we played with Hot Wheels on in reflection or the little plastic bears that we used for elementary school addition and subtraction. No matter where you are in life, no matter how wealthy or how different your career paths are, people who hail from similar generations will share universal memories of the past. We all begin as little children, unknowing of the world around us, and we all learn together, pioneers of our own lives but teammates working to make sense of life. 

What many ponder about when thinking about nostalgia, is whether it’s only associated with good memories. ‘Nostalgia’ in Greek is defined as “the pain from an old wound.” It can be a powerful drug, capable of painting over the more negative moments of one’s past while somehow still granting a warm and inviting glow to the happier aspects. It’s interesting, because it makes you think that things in the past were better than they actually were, dominating the battlefield of our memories. Some believe that nostalgia isn’t even real, rather your memories distorted by time and a longing to relive our younger lives. 

Obsession with the past can stain your present and future. If nostalgia has begun to taint your present and sabotage your future, you’re overlooking the defining features of the past; that it has already happened, the ink is dry and these memories were just a piece of what you are now. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but if it isn’t working out for you, make new memories. Try talking to new people, ask yourself questions that you’ve never had time to think about. The past may seem great, but that doesn’t mean that your future can’t be anywhere near similar. Even so, nostalgia doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Like most things, as long as it doesn’t dominate or affect other aspects of your life, nostalgia can be a good thing. For a person to have not experienced nostalgia at all, means that they have no affection for their past. Most successful people hold onto their meaningful memories. To simply let go of times gone by would be to reject yourself both the roots of your being as well as the times in your life which you lived, and grew. You are the coming together of your past, and it is dangerous to try and remove extra pieces from the puzzle that is your identity. Sometimes nostalgia exists only to remind us that our lives have been better than we have realized. 

Nostalgia has its place in everyone’s life. There’s no point in trying to make everything make sense right away. We should try new things and make new chapters of our current lives that we can be nostalgic about. The future is full of endless possibilities, and we cannot take that for granted. 

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