Close your eyes and picture the last time you took a long drive with good friends, enjoyed the ambiance surrounding prom night, or bear-hugged someone you love. I bet those memories stir up inside you what I call one of my favorite feelings: nostalgia. A generous portion of the time spent with old friends inescapably involves exchanging “what ifs” and stumbling over who gets to recount which detail following the initial “Remember when…” in regard to past adventures, laughing at jokes that should have died years ago (but still move you to tears), and collectively wishing you could relive just one day back in whatever you consider the “good ole days.” If you claim to never have said, heard, or thought the words “take me back,” you’re not fooling anyone. You can kindly step out of your denial and join the rest of us whenever you’re ready.
The weirdest part about nostalgia is its reversible power to induce overwhelming sorrow while remembering circumstances in which you felt the complete opposite. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve shed tears over looking through yearbooks circa the middle school ugly stage before preteens could contour, driving by the park that set the stage for so many Friday nights blurred by cheap beer and teen angst, and stumbling upon those overpriced, paper thin graphic tees that inexplicably hyped up adolescents across America for an alarming amount of time. Nostalgia arguably generates one of the most bittersweet sensations known to mankind. You know that urge to set all pictures preceding high school aflame while simultaneously considering posting a #ThrowbackThursday on social media? How about comparing your alma mater to a life-sucking, maximum-security prison even though you still tell people how much you loved the obnoxious incantations, deafening screams, and crowd control needed at your infamous pep rallies? That inner turmoil wages war between the pressure in advancing to the next stage of life and the impending fear of letting go.
To some, reminiscing too often indicates immaturity and remaining stuck in the past. Nobody has ever lived a flawless life. Nostalgia, like scars, remind us where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. People tend to associate the idea of being strong and “moving forward” with refusing to acknowledge memories attached to any hint of unpleasantness. Unfortunately, happiness cannot be fully appreciated without the existence of sadness, and vice versa. All of the good and all of the bad mold our identities and the people we become. Shutting out what you don’t want to deal with never erases it; repression only adds blinders to your life. When the universe knocks those rose-colored glasses off, reality will blow up in your face. By allowing ourselves to reflect, we create room to grow and prevent the undesirable history from repeating itself.
If there’s anything to be taken from this article, it’s to embrace each second allotted to you in this life with shameless enthusiasm. Humans have these really neat features in their hardwiring made for storing long-term memory. When you recognize the significance of a moment, make like a sponge and absorb each sound, smell, sight, taste, and emotion. You never know when you’ll end up needing it again.