As another April bites the dust, it's time that I bring all this "back in the day" talk to rest. But I suppose, all I've really done this month is point nostalgia out. I've looked at how it appears in pop culture to how it appears in even the smallest childhood rituals. So am I to just leave you behind to dwell in the past?
No, I won't do that.
Nostalgia is a delicate matter and in some circumstances, it can actually be rather hazardous. Take an example of an individual being in a place in their life where they're unhappy. Reminiscing about a more pleasant time in their life could throw them into a negative spiral of comparison - their past life in all its glory vs. their present predicament.
And that's where nostalgia confuses me. Here I am thinking about something in my life that made me incredibly happy, but then I'll begin to feel sad. It's one of those rare things that makes you feel oxymoronic emotions. Happy and sad at the same time. While the thought that comes to your mind is a fond memory, it is only a diluted piece of your past now. It's an excerpt of your life that you'll never be physically present in again, and that is rather melancholic, don't you think?
When I think of it this way, I stop looking at nostalgia as an old friend of mine. Instead, I see nostalgia is one of those friends that you can't completely trust. You like them and enjoy spending time with them, but something about them makes you a bit uneasy and you find yourself incapable of being completely vulnerable to the relationship. You're better off keeping them at a distance.
Interestingly enough, if you look back on the history, you learn a bit more of our friend nostalgia's back story. The etymology of the word comes from the Greek words nostos and algos, essentially translating it to "homecoming pain". The concept dates as early as 1688, a diagnosis by Dr. Johannes Hofer, a Swiss physician responsible for slandering our friend nostalgia as an illness. A form of depression, he declared. The longing of home or of the past or what is comfortable, commonly recognized in soldiers off at war or babies sent away to a wet nurse or really...anyone...
We all have memories. We all have a past. And that makes us all vulnerable to the nostalgia epidemic.
So if we can't really avoid it, how can we cure it?
I'll do my best to prescribe you some medicine below...
Keeping a journal, documenting your day, your thoughts, your feelings, is self-therapy. This is one way to live day to day and be in the present. Of course, not every day will be sunshine and roses, but a useful trick is writing down three bullet points of something that was good which happened in your day, no matter how big or small.
Enjoy the current company
People in your life come and go. Accept that friends from your past were a part of your life, specifically to serve you at that point in your life. Maybe you learned something from them. Maybe they enhanced you. And the friends that are meant to move on with you, will. And those that aren't, won't. Accept this. And don't feel guilty for losing contact with people. Respect the friendship that once was and appreciate the ones you have now.
Accept who you are today
Your personal history helped shaped the person you are today. You've come a long way. You've learned so much. Believe that you've become better in some way or another. You've become older, wiser, stronger. Respect the person you've grown into.
Visit the past
Physically take yourself to the places of your memories. See the people. Taste the foods. It might be hard to relive, but it's also a form of closure. You may discover that the place has changed just as much as you have. We have this idea that time stands still. That when we leave a place, it freezes while we move on with our lives. It's a cold approach, I suppose, but effective in seeing that maybe what you used to have is not so much better after all. Or maybe the local ice cream shop is still just as delicious as you remembered...
Hope for better
If today isn't looking so hot, and all you can think about is how good yesterday was, you need to cling onto that hope that tomorrow will be kinder.
With all this in mind, here are some articles for further reading, analyzing: