Confront, Embrace & Harness Your Nostalgia
Nostalgia is a topic that at first thought gives me the warm and fuzzies. Immediately I’m harkened back to all of the fond memories I’ve held from the past. I see the laughter filled days with my family and the risky nights with my friends. I can feel how I felt at each significant moment with such clarity it’s almost like that moment was recurring in the present. Then I’m reminded that there is something a bit bittersweet about nostalgia. When you allow yourself to fall back into times that have long gone you’re no longer making use of what is happening right now.
If you haven’t already noticed by my tone, today I’m getting a bit more personal. As I mentioned in my last post about my Ithaca visit and road trip today is all about nostalgia, confronting it, embracing it and harnessing it for the better. My time spent in Ithaca was almost transformative. When we initially decided to go up for a visit I just assumed that it would be a nice chance to show off my old stomping grounds. I didn’t realize that revisiting that place in my current mindset would impact me so much. A isn’t even aware of how many feelings were coursing through me during that time but I guess he will be now. Hah.
Everything from the way the air smelled to the clear night sky to feeling out of breath as I went up and down steep hills was incredibly familiar to me. Still, as I walked the same streets that 17-21 year old me walked, and as I ate the same food that I used to it was almost like I was walking in someone else’s shoes. Thinking about all those cherished memories and acting out those old times evoked very different sides of my personality.
Of course, I knew that it would feel different being back in the place that was my temporary home. I just didn’t realize in what way.
Since I’ve been back I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and confronted my emotions. I’m not someone who wishes they were still in college. When it was time for that chapter to end I was ready for it. I didn’t have the advantage of foresight so I wasn’t aware of all the obstacles that would await me but, at the time, I wanted a change of pace. It was important to me that I try to figure out what exactly was bothering me. Was it that I changed? Was it that my life isn’t where I thought it would be at my age? What was the root of it all? After thinking and thinking on this almost to the point of exhaustion I don’t have a clear answer. Still, I was able to pinpoint that change and expectations had a lot to do with it and I took that and my nostalgia head on.
Diving into my nostalgia left me with some uncomfortable feelings and underlined some personal flaws that I have. Nonetheless I wanted to embrace everything I was going through and come to terms with it. I don’t handle change very well and I don’t deal with failed expectations in the best way either. I’m someone who likes to control the things within my world or at the very least have such a deep understanding of my surroundings that I can never be caught off guard. You’re probably thinking to yourself “Well that’s impossible” and it is. Still, it’s in my nature to try to protect myself and change prevents me from being able to know what I’m up against. When I returned to Ithaca I was confronted by the fact that everything had pretty much stayed the same except for me. I had changed and it wasn’t in the way I always thought that I would. I’m not saying that I’ve evolved into an awful person or anything but I had to embrace that even though my plan for myself hadn’t happened I still turned out ok. Life is messy but, as clichéd as it sounds, I have a lot to be thankful for.
Right now I’m not the person I thought I would be. I’m not living where I imagined I would, working where I thought I would or even marrying who I thought I would. Still, I’m over the moon with the people in my life, especially A and all of the exciting things happening around me at this very moment. I’m only 26 and there is so much life left to live. I may not have achieved all of my goals but I’ve certainly come a long way. The past, and my time at Ithaca will always mean a lot but it served it’s purpose and instead of looking back on it with a rosy perspective I’m going to make the conscious effort to look forward. For me, giving into nostalgia feels good in the moment but if you spend too much time in the past it’ll take your focus off your future. I’m choosing to harness all of my past expectations and use them as motivation.
This isn’t a PSA on nostalgia or a rant against it. It’s simply my realization that I benefit more from using nostalgia as fuel to lead me to the next destination. Leading up to my Ithaca trip I had fully given into cherished memories of late nights long gone. I had fallen so far into it that I didn’t realize that in a way I was no longer taking advantage of the present. I’m sure many of you think lovingly on a past experience and then move on but I’ve also learned over the years that if you’re feeling something most likely someone else is too. So, if you’ve ever had a moment like this where your nostalgia got a bit out of hand I hope this resonates with you. If not, I hope this window into my mindset gives you insight as to who I am below the surface. Pretty pictures are nice but they only tell the curated story, not the entire one.
What are your experiences with nostalgia? How does it impact your outlook on life?
NOTE: Look out for s special Sunday (10/11) post coming your way!