It’s exactly twelve o’clock, and I’m headed out my office door. Destination: specifically unknown, but technically Halfway Between Here and There, defined in further detail. Objective: produce story-telling content, including an image and words for today’s narrative.
Spoiler alert: prior to discovering the narrative for today—I’ve returned from lunch to write down these words—the working title of this entry was An Expedient Makeshift Stopgap, but I didn’t feel that really packed much literary punch, and it certainly had nothing to do with the following insight, gleaned from my lunchtime wandering and walkabout, which I wish to now share with you.
Now, on with the show…nostalgia will destroy you.
Take a moment to absorb that overly dramatic title into your system—yes, nostalgia wishes to bowl over you, snatching any and all sense of your identity, in its wake of death and destruction.
What I really love the most is that it has taken me nearly one year of daily thought and reflection to arrive at this conclusion.
Before we dive in, I’m guessing that a formal definition of the word couldn’t possibly hurt at all.
Nostalgia: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.
I’m nostalgia’s biggest fan, and that sentiment can be verified by reading all 306 previous stories in this year-long project of mine. One of the objectives of this introspective project is to rake over my personal past, stoking the coals in my bed of memories, searching for smoldering nuggets that can lend logic, reason, understanding, or education to My Future Self or My Future Children-as-adults. On the surface, that seems like a harmless institution of thought, I assure you that darker side of logic hides within the shadows.
Really, each era has its own false nostalgia. We all put a picket fence up around something. For my generation it was the ’50s, and for other generations it will be something else. Change is scary for everyone, as is complexity, contradiction, and an uncertain future ~ Gary Ross
Phrases such as “the good old days” or “do you remember when?” or “oh, how I miss…”, are sugar-coated and covered in excessive tasty, rainbow sprinkles. Pictures of our past, or the way things used to be, are an easy place to escape to when modern-day life rears its ugly face. If nostalgic memories held a majority percentage of reliable truth, that would one thing, however that’s not the case. And the root of problem.
The problem with relying on nostalgia for commentary is that people only remember the good things ~ Richie Benaud
Sketch a timeline of your life, fill in the slots of your life with all of the perfect memories that you can conjure, and be sure to insert the corresponding heartache. It’s doubtful that you have accurately represented the memories, and you’ve probably rearranged them or omitted specific facts—the entire picture is falsely remembered. That’s alright, I believe that it happens to everyone. I don’t think that we intentionally decide to selectively choose this memory or that memory, but our mind may pick and choose the seemingly best parts of our lives—all of the better parts of our own narrative, curated memories, that seem so much more appealing than our actual story.
It is one of the paradoxes of American literature that our writers are forever looking back with love and nostalgia at lives they couldn’t wait to leave ~ Anatole Broyard
The result is an inaccurate baseline, from which we compare and analyze new choices for our life. The difficulties of your past may be downplayed, providing a false window of comparison. When the past always looks better, we cannot faithfully make choices to better our lives in the future. The end result is a continuous mental roadblock, with personal progress halted, in favor of comfort and security of the ways things used to be. We become paralyzed by fear that our future will never be as good as the past, and then the cycle repeats.
I am not a medical professional or self-help guru, so my opinion is purely my own. I cannot honestly say that nostalgia holds zero importance in my life or the decisions of my future actions, nor can I justify throwing away all nostalgic sentiments that I may have on a daily basis.
There is a delicate balance, indeed.
However, I think the solution to the problem lies halfway between here and there. Healthy personal growth should include a strategy of keeping one foot in the future and—simultaneously—one foot in the past. This should open the door to possibilities and opportunities that were otherwise obscured.