“True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories.” ~Florence King
Living in the past is something usually discouraged. In fact, I have even warned of the dangers in previous posts. There is good reason for this. Often times we fail to appreciate the present, because we are so caught in the magic of the past. The same can be said about always looking to the future for satisfaction. Getting too caught up in either realm should be avoided, if merely because the only real period of time we have is the present. With that said, at times it is good to inject a moderate amount of nostalgia into our lives. In fact, if balanced properly this desire for a former time can be a door worth opening for a number of reasons.
Feelings of the past can help put things in perspective. The great thing about nostalgia is it brings us back to a time in our lives that was much different from the present. It can help remind us of past hopes, fears, and aspirations. We are able to compare the circumstances then to those now and realize that even when it seems as though little progress has been made, we’ve actually come a long way. Even though we may feel like we aren’t making any headway towards the future, similar feelings long ago proved to be unfounded and that maybe these will too. Which in turn gives us more confidence than a vial of Felix Felicis before a Quidditch .
Nostalgia can remind us who we are. As we get older life seems to get increasingly busy. Often times, it feels like the best we can do is react to circumstances as they arise. This can lead us to a point where we are overly engaged, but unsure of why we are doing the things we do. Slowly our identity becomes lost to us as if we were suddenly assimilated by the Borg. By reflecting on the past we are reminded of the defining things that use to bring us joy. While most of us develop over time, we still maintain certain core beliefs and values that continue to characterize us throughout our lives. Thus, by reliving some of the more enjoyable moments from our past we are able to recapture what embodies our individuality and refocus our priorities based on this realization.
Nostalgia enables us to forget our worries…if only for a while. The positive emotions associated with past experiences can make all of our present concerns seem unimportant. While dangerous if done too often, in small amounts looking backwards allows us to charge our batteries by thinking of the things that use to make us happy and remembering that some can be relived in the present. Take Star Wars for example (almost made it through without a reference and we can’t have that). For most of us, the reason this movie has such a special place in our hearts is because we grew up watching it. We have seen every lightsaber duel and heard every suave Han Soloism a dozen times. Which is why, when someone who didn’t grow up watching the movies finally gets around to seeing them, they don’t always understand the fanaticism individuals like myself express. At its core, that is what makes nostalgia so wonderful. We can relive experiences from our youth and forget about our present concerns. If only for a moment.
While one should never lose themselves completely to nostalgic feelings, occasionally capturing the emotions and thoughts that derive from such a state mind can leave to a more satisfying life. The lessons and memories of the past have an ability to put things in perspective in a way sometimes difficult when caught up in the present. In addition, it can remind us who we are when we lose our way. Finally, it can serve as a distraction when present concerns and worries threaten to overwhelm us. While it is important to stay focused on the present, every once in a while we all need to jump in our personal DeLorean and relive the finer moments of our past.