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The Blessing of Nostalgia
This is for all you children-going-onto-adulthood out there.
We all sometimes wish that we could just go back in time.
Wether you miss your childhood, two years ago, or the beginning of summer vacation when you felt free of all the burdens of schoolwork- nostalgia could be difficult to cope with.
Now that I am an 18 year old who has just graduated high school and whose perspective on life is shifting from a child looking up to adults, to an adult looking down at children, I tend to think a lot about my "childhood" days and sometimes miss them because of all of the new responsibilities that are coming my way.
I was just at my aunt's house. I was sitting alongside my cousins and siblings, remembering how we used to rock on the swings by the pool and plan how we would all live on the same street in the future. Now, my cousins are finishing college and have internships and I am going to be a freshman in college.
I listen to a couple of songs that were popular during my freshman year of high school. I remember worrying about my classes and thinking that my high school years would determine the path my life would take. Now, I am nervous and excited about college. I am practically a different person.
I used to think of my nostalgia in a negative way, thinking to myself, "oh, here it comes again- that ache in my heart when I yearn for something to come back."
I was almost afraid of the feeling, having to brace myself for the deep unhappiness that it brought me.
Lately, I have been coming to terms with growing up and with not being a kid anymore.
I think that a part of my feeling nostalgia was due to my fear of losing time and thinking that if only I could go back, I could make more time for myself to be young and free.
I don't want to be one of those people who wonders how they got so old- how they suddenly went from being young and in their prime to getting ready for retirement. I feel like I need to think deeply about how my life is so suddenly changing.
My perspective on nostalgia changed later this summer, though.
I think it changed at this point in my life because I am realizing that life is a work in progress. I am slowly shifting from being the type of person who wants to keep the moment and who feels that life is best when you have more time (are younger)- to being the type of person who understands and lives according to the idea that life is what you do and how you live in the entirety of your time here on earth.
Life is not about having the best and being the best in any one moment. Rather, it is about how you got from, and what you did in between, Point A (beginning of life) to Point B (end of life).
Life is also not about being young and free forever (obviously). Life is about moving on to new experiences and challenges, not dwelling on old ones.
Actually, while listening to my old songs, I realized that my journeys on overcoming my previous challenges were fun and the best part of success- feeling the inspiration to succeed.
However, although nostalgia is generally considered a negative, sad term- I have realized that it has some positive aspects and can help us improve on ourselves.
It was when I was listening to an old song this summer and I got that, "the nostalgia is coming" feeling, when I learned of this truth. I braced myself for the ache.
But instead of the ache, I felt a calmness.
Instead of feeling sad that the past was over, I felt happy that it happened and felt inspired by the fact that past was once my reality.
I did not previously think about accepting that the past is gone, nor did I try in any way to stop the nostalgic feeling from coming.
I just suddenly felt inspired.
Instead of feeling the usual desire to wanting to return to the past, I felt motivated to look towards the future. I felt excited about the future BECAUSE of my past.
I realized that just because my days of overcoming an old challenge are gone, it doesn't mean that the present of those days are over. I know that this sounds strange, but I would not be who I am if not for those days. My current self is a continuation of my past self and my life now is a continuation of my life then.
This was when I realized that nostalgia can be used to inspire, improve and motivate us.
If this feeling of happiness does not come to you, here is how to get it:
Remember that you were once living in that moment.
Remember that you are still the same person who lived life the way that you miss living it.
Remember that life is a single entity and is not specifically about any one stage- it is about every year and stage in your life. So, enjoy this stage just as you had enjoyed that one because you will probably end up feeling nostalgic for this one too.
How to keep yourself from getting nostalgia:
This is a technique (I call it "Time Traveling") I learned a couple of years ago. It may sound strange to you, but I find that it always helps.
Whenever I am enjoying any one moment or major change in my life and know that I will miss it, I give myself a couple of seconds to think about the fact that I am in the moment.
Then I imagine that I am in the future, missing the moment.
Then I think about the present and remind myself that I am still in the moment and enjoy it as much as I might think I should have in the future.
When the future comes and I think back to that moment, I remember how I mentally prepared myself and knew what was coming- and I don't feel the ache. I think about it more from a wow-I -remember-when-that-happened perspective, rather than a I-wish-I-could-go-back-and-relive-the-moment perspective.
The first time I used this technique was at my eighth grade graduation. From the stage where my classmates and I sat, I looked at the audience and then my friends sitting alongside me. I thought about being in high school and missing that moment, and then returned to the present moment and felt much better about letting myself relax and not think about thinking about every moment of my graduation so as not to "miss anything".
I also used this technique when I was a freshman. I was falling asleep to one of my favorite songs at the time (music has a huge role in nostalgia as we all know). I knew that I would miss being a high school freshman and still being a kid. I knew that one day I would look back at my freshman self and miss being a freshman. I closed my eyes, imagined being a senior, and then open my eyes and reminded myself that I was still a freshman.
Doing this also makes me more open to new possibilities and opportunities because I put myself in the mindset of thinking what I should've\could've done.
Maybe this doesn't make any sense to you, but I recommend that you try this technique.
Also, remember that life is about the journey as a whole, not only the good times and the bad.
Enjoy life and look towards the future, as opposed to dwelling on the past.
Don't forget though, that missing old times can be helpful, and to use your nostalgia to improve on yourself.
Most importantly: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."- Dr. Seuss