What does nostalgia mean to you? My nostalgia revolves around past events where I acted rather than analyzed and people who found my quirks fun and entertaining. Sadly, neither of those things happen very often anymore. I’ve learned not to spend so much time analyzing, but I’m also not excited by much. Other people always move past fun and entertaining into assumptions and judgements. Beyond that, nothing lasts that long and nobody really stays. Sometimes that’s choice and sometimes it isn’t.
The most general dictionary definition for nostalgia is: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.
“Nostalgia combines the sadness of loss with the joy or satisfaction that the loss is not complete, nor can ever be.”
“The hauntings of times gone by, and the imaginings of times to come, strengthen us in lesser times.”
“Nostalgia is nothing if not paradoxical. In supplying us with substance and texture, it also reminds us of their lack, moving us to restoration. Unfortunately, this restoration often takes the form of spending, and marketers rely on nostalgia to sell us everything from music and clothes to cars and houses.”
My most common form of nostalgia is wishing I could go back and re-live parts of my life – with the self-confidence, knowledge, or experience that I have now. You’d have to make me a multi-millionaire to get me to repeat high school or college under the same circumstances without those things. On the other hand, I have had perfect moments that remain vivid that I would go back to.
One of them is: My boyfriend (later my ex-husband) and I are driving down the Washington-Oregon coast as a farewell before he leaves for Army basic training. I am 20 yrs old and he is 19. On one sunny day, we stop near Florence (Oregon) to visit the Sea Lion Caves. I remember holding hands in the sunshine as we walked downhill from the parking lot to the entrance. I remember the sea lions in the cave. Both those moments are vividly frozen in memory.
My second most common form of nostalgia is wondering how things would differ if I’d made another choice at crucial moments in my life. Here are a few:
- Remained in college instead of quitting after my freshman year.
- Refused to give my (not yet) ex-husband a second chance after he cancelled our first wedding plans.
- Insisted on staying in Alaska instead of following my (not yet) ex-husband to Arizona.
- Managed to find a job in Alaska soon after my divorce.
- Refused to let my boyfriend move into my place so early in our relationship.
- Enacted all the changes I planned for my 50th birthday.
My final form of nostalgia is for the cultural keys surrounding specific periods of my life. I can’t think of high school without remembering Rod Stewart, Foreigner, Star Wars, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy.
The intensity of experience seems to have diminished over time. Even when experiencing something new, the impact is less than when I was younger. While I miss the emotional highs, I don’t miss the emotional meltdowns. Contentment isn’t a bad place to wind up.