The Joys and Dangers of Nostalgia

I am a four on the enneagram, if that tells you anything. I like to summarize the four personality type as “Emo”. I’ve always been a romantic– it’s what makes me a good writer, artist, and speaker. I love the way memory influences my short stories, blog posts, essays, and more. I have the memory of an elephant, that is, I rarely forget anything. This is a blessing, and I’m finding out, sometimes a bit of a curse.

Some of my favorite childhood memories include making home videos with Jessica and Michaela, boogie boarding with my brothers at the beach near our home, and playing Harry Potter with my friend Maddy (we were Harry’s twin sisters!). In college, I studied abroad in Germany for a year, and was plagued by non-stop nostalgia thereafter. I remembered everything through rose colored glasses (the cafes! the language! the architecture!) and forgot about all the frozen nights spent in foreign train stations waiting for a missed connection.

I think our brain’s power to white-wash our negative memories is beautiful, actually. It’s what makes us look back on our lives at the end think and think they were pretty great. But for me, white-washing my memories can also be a trap. I struggle through the current hardships in my life and yearn for times past when everything was simpler. But was it simpler, really? Usually the real answer is no, it wasn’t.

I can get caught up in dreaming about my past lives, or the people I used to be closed to and mourn that things are different now. But honestly, I like my life now very much! Why am I tainting it with memories of the past?

It’s important to remember that everything that happens to us shapes us, but that’s just it– we are constantly changing. Evolve or die, baby! I try to be okay with the fact that some friendships that were once ‘active’ friendships have now shifted into the category of ‘commemorative’ friendships. And that’s okay too– they still serve a powerful purpose. All those friendships are different than they once were, but equally important.

As we go into this holiday season, let’s try to remember the joys of nostalgia (tradition! family!) and also beware of the dangers of over indulging in it.



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