What good is nostalgia?

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There are at least a couple people in my life who've recently brought up the topic of nostalgia. It's not just thinking about or idealizing the past though, it's this recognition that there is something they're longing for that isn't present in their lives anymore. 

I feel it too. Sometimes I don't realize it until something twigs this buried memory of a feeling I rarely tap into anymore.

Sometimes you feel it in crowds, at a festival or a concert. Sometimes you feel it out in nature with people who are special to you. Or on a road trip driving late into the evening with the music blasting. Or your first time in a new city at sunset... Part of why going to tech conferences was such an amazing time was spending time with friends from all over in a grown up "summer camp" like situation. Condensed hangouts separated from day-to-day life. I made some of my best post-university friends that way, but they are scattered around the globe.

Music still does it to me. Not even old music, just certain music - the kind I want to turn up REALLY LOUD even though my nervous system doesn't like loud music (or crowded places) anymore. Like this.

Or this. It's designed to embody the feeling I'm talking about.

I was never much one for staying out all night doing drugs and riding without a helmet... I didn't really rebel until I was about 32. But there's something that this video still brings up for me. So then what is it? What is it that we're longing for?

The easy answer is youth - carefree times. Maybe that's part of it. For me, maybe it's a time where I was somewhat healthier (relative terms) and was able to be more adventurous. But it's not just that. I've been trying to figure it out, and I am far from having all the answers. But I want to figure it out, because maybe then I can find some ways to nurture that feeling in my present day life.

Here are a few of the things I've come up with - things I think feed that feeling:

  1. Physical presence of people I'm really comfortable with.
  2. Unstructured time.
  3. Spontaneous social gatherings.
  4. Shared experiences.
  5. Specific kinds of music.
  6. Lengthy hangouts.

Pride Parade

I'm sure there are more, maybe I'll come back and add to the list. Some of these aren't very accessible to me anymore - lengthy hangouts, and spontaneity are particularly challenging. I have to do "boring" things aka. self care, like prepare and bring food, keep myself from getting too hot or cold, and not exert myself too much.

Also, most of the people I have that ultimate level of comfort with don't live here - something I'm learning to be okay with and appreciate for what it is. There are a (very) few people locally who I can spend extended time with without it exhausting me. Those are the people I don't need to be "on" with, who can just hang out and just be. I cherish those people!

But it's hard to build those kinds of friendships, because developing close relationships requires things like spending lots of time together (which I can't do a ton of), being reliable (which I often can't be), and doing or going (to) things with rather than just "hanging out" (which was the norm back when I was younger). "Hanging out" really seems to be a lost art. And part of what makes hanging out work is having several people who also all feel comfortable with each other (as in a larger group or extended circle of friends who all know each other at least somewhat), and who are in close enough physical proximity to gather regularly.

I'm working on it, but it's really. Fucking. Slow. And it's complicated by having lived in this city for nearly half of my life now. I wish that made it easier, I know in theory it "should", but sometimes you bring the wrong people into your life, and well... History piles up. There are ghosts of my past lives all over the place, and while I've finally made peace with them for the most part, but they don't make my social world easy.

So then how do I make this magic happen? How do I cultivate these heartbreakingly awesome times that make me feel alive and like everything is exactly as it should be?

Well, I've been starting to make a renewed effort socially. I really stopped that for a long chunk of time. It's unclear at this point whether my health is ever going to get better - as much as I hope it does, I realized I'd better start figuring out how to make my life the best I can exactly as I am right now. Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance. So I'm trying to get out a little bit more - even if that means making it to about 1/3 of things I "commit" to doing. And it means organizing more get togethers - even if few of my friends know each other, everyone is constantly "so busy", and my energy levels are are like a lottery scratch card.

Mother Mother at Jazz Fest

I've always been an organizer, bringing people together - I think that's part of why my social life fell apart when I wasn't able to keep doing that. For a while I resented it, but I'm realizing now that it's not that nobody wants to do stuff or keep in touch, it's just that the person who made it happen (me) stopped making it happen, and nobody jumped in to fill the role. Busy city life means people are preoccupied, it is what it is.

I'm trying to get more comfortable with organizing get togethers where I might not actually be able to participate fully come the day of. I'm trying to get more comfortable not being able to participate fully in life in general. It feels weird as someone who used to do it all despite my limitations (but that's clearly part of what got me into this mess).

And finally, I'm trying to reconnect with things that bring me back to my core self. Indie music, My So-Called Life, Singles, Reality Bites, back issues of BUST magazine... I like who I was before I got lost. And I like who I am now. I want to bring a little bit more of who I was then into my now.

I don't have a pretty or concise answer to end this with, so I hope you'll share your thoughts about nostalgia below if you're feeling it, or the longing for something you've somehow lost. And I'd love to hear about how you might try and bring some of it back into your life.