Sentimentality and Misplaced Nostalgia

By Katie Kelly

I remember…

These two words can evoke an overabundance of ideas, start many sentences, and begin the best stories. They are a gateway to the past and an insight into our lives. But how many times have you listened intently to a story, only to realise it isn’t quite as you remembered? That it seems better, less stressful, or even almost fabricated? Or perhaps you’ve noticed yourself even telling a story about the past, and unintentionally exaggerating, or omitting vital aspects?

Nostalgia, in all its Glory.

But why?  Why remain perpetually cemented in this pseudo- past?

Is it because the idea of Now is too fleeting, and the idea of the Future too daunting? Embraced with uncertainty, the future will never be as alive as the past. The past is set in stone. Well, at least the idea of the past.

And this is my point exactly. As a society, we are in love with this idea. And we are in love with the past. This time, far gone, where all we have are memories of a feeling. And memories and feelings can be inaccurate, shrouded in expectations of how we want to remember situations.

I have fallen into this trap. The past few years I seem to have spent more time thinking about the past than being present. For instance, reminiscing about old photos of myself and my friends with a sense of misplaced nostalgia.

Oh don’t we look young! That was the best night ever! And so forth.(Mostly untrue and subjective)

But these photos are merely screen grabs of a façade that was portrayed at the time. Of course it was good. It was probably amazing. But seeing a smiling old photo should not evoke fear. Fear that perhaps that was the best it will ever be… Welcome to the darker side of nostalgia, and what society is currently in the midst of.

For example, I love the nineties just as much as the entire internet.  And every now and then I honestly do want to be back there. To a simpler time, to a time where things just seemed, well.. easier.(And of course, the music. But that’s a different article altogether!)

But on recent contemplation, I realised that (unfortunately) time travel in the physical sense is out of reach. I needed to think about exactly why I love the Nineties so much, and get to the root of my quasi-obsession.

As I have said, it was a simpler time. In my early adolescence there was a feeling of newness about everything. I felt I could take on the world. The little things, like buying an amazing pair of combats or hearing my new favourite song on the radio would bring me joy for hours.

Unexpectedly staying out with friends until it got dark would be the highlight of my week. These are all simple feelings that can be carried over to modern life and modern me.

Finding happiness in the little things, keeping life as hassle-free as possible and remaining focussed on the positive.

It’s not necessarily about forgetting the past. She(or he) is our best teacher.  But dwelling on anything is not conducive to a healthy and happy mind. I have realised, after living in the past for god knows how long, I will never be twenty one again. I will never be fourteen again. But I need to focus on what made me happy then. Because, although I am a very different than I was then, the same feelings will always arise from within. Aspects of my personality have, and always will be the same:

Those beautiful feelings of surprise, love, butterflies in my tummy!

Waking up in the morning and wondering what the day may hold.

Listening to inappropriately loud (sometimes bad) music when I like!

Lying in the sunshine just because it’s there.

Meeting up with friends for no particular reason, other than to talk and to be. Right now, Not then. Not next week. Similar to a younger me- Free and without fear of the unknown.

Growing older does not mean sacrificing happiness. I still want to feel as I did in the nineties, and this is the purpose of the abundance of “Ultimate Top 5 90s *insert band name/clothing brand/TV  show/celeb fashion mistakes*” listicles we see online every single day.

While amusing, these articles may actually be doing more harm than good. I have read pieces and laughed, with an underlying pang of despair and a longing for a time long gone. And as I have now come to realise, this is detrimental to any sort of personal growth. It leads to misanthropy. The past is there for a reason, and now I have realised that it is always with me. The past is no longer the past but a part of who I am now.

I can select aspects of myself from then and bring them with me to now,  which is of course the most important time of all! As the great Garth Algar once said “Live in the Now!”

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