I think it’s fair to say we live in a nostalgic age. It seems like half the movies and TV shows out today are reboots, revisions or throwbacks. One of our major political parties is constantly bellowing about how great America used to be. And 20-something-year-olds talk like world-weary wanderers, yearning for the simplicity and innocence of the 90s.
Personally, nostalgia has manifested in me in a really weird way: sometimes I’m nostalgic for things still happening. Let me explain through an example.
One time I was watching giant monster movies with friends, and we stumbled upon a version of “Godzilla vs. Biollante” in its original Japanese form. Instead of trying to find a translated version, we decided to dub the movie ourselves, making up the dialogue on the fly. Now, I may be biased in this assessment, but we were hilarious, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder.
The thing is, in the midst of all that silliness, I kept thinking how that awesome movie night couldn’t last. The movie would finish, the credits would roll and time would keep marching on. Eventually, there would be decades between me and “Godzilla vs. Biollante.”
So I enter this weird headspace where I’m missing the night I’m still in the middle of, simultaneously rejoicing and mourning. And this happens to me all the time. I’ll find myself in a happy moment and then start thinking about how it’ll pass.
On the one hand, I think my nostalgic tendencies are a positive thing. I’m gracious for even little joys because I know they’re not permanent, and my happiness is more acute if only because I have some melancholy to contrast it with.
But on the other hand, I’m not really living in the present tense. Something must be lost when you turn a moment into a memory so quickly. Maybe if I could forget mortality and time and the heat death of the universe for a little bit, I’d gain access to new, hidden joys that belong solely to the now. I might not remember these joys later, but I think they would still leave a mark upon me, nourish something important in me.
I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this way. It feels very specific to me, but it’s been my experience that the specific is usually the universal, and what you think is unique to you actually connects you to everybody else.
I think there’s something about young adulthood that makes you particularly nostalgic. Everything is changing, and you end up having to say goodbye soon after you said hello. Old folks are telling you this is the best time of your life so you try your best to cultivate good memories. And you’re thinking about your future so much that it becomes a sort of past.
But you can’t live for memories, at least not completely. Celebrate your good moments and your triumphs, but don’t hold onto them too tightly. Let go. Trust there will be more later.