The Evils of Nostalgia

Posted: October 5, 2013 in Essays
Tags: , , , , , ,

You know what I miss? Chores. I miss chores and curfews and nagging parents who bought me gas and fed me and did their fair share of both screwing me up and loving the heck out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I think individuation is vitally important to the future psychological health of a person. But, seriously, there was a magical refrigerator full of free food.

However, magical icebox aside, I’m not sure if I truly, literally miss that time in my life or if it’s that tendency we have of recalling only the good about things that happened more than ten years ago, and romanticizing said things. (Have you actually watched She-Ra lately? Not… that… I was a fan of She-Ra or anything.) In fact, I’m pretty sure that time in my life probably had as many (although different) challenges as I face now.

Image

So… This was a thing.

Life is purportedly about forward motion and personal growth and such, but I always have that feeling that I’m not quite there. (Which, probably, is because I’m not quite there.) And earlier life experiences had so many definable goals. You stopped crapping yourself, you finished Kindergarten, you became a teen, you got your license, you graduated high school, you stopped being a teen, you could legally drink (so you stopped), you graduated college. No wonder we often look back on that time with such nostalgia. We constantly felt like we were achieving goals and accomplishing… life, or whatever.

After all that, it just becomes about the daily grind. It becomes about doing that which is supposed to last. You find a steady job, you get married, you have kids, and you keep doing those things forever. The next serious ‘end’ we have to look forward to is retirement, then… eventual death. In essence, our lives teach us for twenty years that life is about attaining goals and then stops giving us goals. So, maybe it’s not just the free rent I miss (But, sweet Zeus, do I miss it), but the comfort of accomplishment.

So, I suppose, if the idea of wandering aimlessly through your job, marriage, relationships, etc. doesn’t appeal to you, as it doesn’t appeal to me, we could set our own goals.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason I love to write. Very few things are more satisfying to me than finishing a post or a short story or, after months or years of work, a novel. It gives me something to point to as an accomplishment. It’s something I finished. With all the things in life that we grind away at, maybe we need things such as that. Maybe it’s why we need books and movies and binge-watching sessions of Breaking Bad on Netflix. When we do those things, we feel as though we’ve done something. Maybe the never-ending cycle of bills and groceries forces us to do things like create blogs and add to the already tremendous glut of memes. We want to feel like we’re contributing to the greater whole of mankind. We want to feel like, at least in some small way, our lives matter and our voices are heard. We hunt and garden to provide and prove ourselves competent, we don’t eat meat to show ourselves that we have a moral center, and we build tediously accurate scale models of the Death Star to show our appreciation and to regain that feeling of having finished something. I think we create these moments to stave off that feeling that we are on a treadmill. We are always trying to break that long, long lifeline into manageable chunks.

The problem is that even the chunks that we create are forgotten almost as soon as we create them. We’re always looking forward. We stare into that long, long line’s horizon and spend our hours wondering what is just beyond. That could be part of the reason we get so frustrated with life. I think the answer is being present. It’s living in the now. It’s enjoying that book you’re reading (or writing) and not worrying over what the next book might be. It’s tasting your food. It’s experiencing each moment with your families, because those moments build lifetimes. Perhaps part of the reason we look back with such nostalgia is because we never fully appreciated the good while it was going on. If that’s true, and nostalgia is more sinister than just recalling the good, then I say create a life where you’ll never experience it again. Create a life in which you suck so much of the joy out of every moment that there’s nothing to go back for.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s