Nostalgia is a Double-Edged Sword

I’m a nostalgic person. I know this, even if I hate it sometimes. I embrace the nostalgic fallacy to a fault. I love things that remind me of other things, that mean deeper things, even if I don’t actually like said things.

I’ll give an example.

I grew up in PA. I love Pennsylvania, especially now that I don’t live there. I don’t think I’d want to move there (taxes are terrible, and they have too much of a gambling incentive there) even as much as I think about moving there (it has a great reputation for schools and work ethic – at least where I grew up.)

When I go home for the holidays or just to see my family, I always go to Sheetz. If you don’t know what Sheetz is, please Google it and feel a little less ashamed of yourself. I actually grew up near the original Sheetz, so I go there. At Sheetz, they have Gallagher’s Milk there, and I love getting the single-serving bottles because they had those in my high school, and I would buy one of those everyday instead of lunch (I hated school lunches. I hate them even more, having worked in the public school system.)

But I don’t like it as much when my mom buys the half-gallon container. It’s not as exciting. Same milk, same cow hormones. But I don’t like it, and it’s because there’s not as much sentiment attached to it anymore.

I get it, I’m weird when it comes to my chocolate milk. But that’s not why nostalgia is a double-edge sword. Or maybe it is.

It’s easily something that can make you feel like an idiot, and you have very little regret about it. Really just the part where you feel weird about it.

Sometimes I feel nostalgic about my high school years. I think about my friends, sometimes wandering over to Facebook to check in on them, make sure they’re still alive, etc.

I went back home recently, and I saw someone from high school. The person in question was someone I’d grown up with, all the way from kindergarten to graduation. She was among the people I had in my classes, but she was always dressed nicer and wore makeup and generally prettier than me. She was more popular and less awkward. If you’re like me, you might be able to imagine someone similar in your own life.

And while you don’t usually go 12+ years without talking or arguing to someone you go to school where I did, and while we generally got along, and while we even had similar friends, as I saw her, it suddenly didn’t matter I’d moved, married, had kids, gotten my degree, started writing, etc.

I still felt the same rush of awkward, teenage uncertainty. Eight years later, and it was the same need to please, the same “You’re the prettier version of me, but I’m the funnier version of you” role.

I don’t need the approval of my peers from high school. I don’t need to show them I never needed it, even though I wanted it. But I still feel bad that I wanted it at all, and I didn’t feel like I got it.

I’ve heard that at your 10 year high school reunion, everyone goes back into their original roles, only to find some of them don’t fit. I don’t want mine to fit. But I do want to be among my old friends, reminiscing about the days we used to do fire drills (who really does that anymore?) and talking about starting up an impromptu game of Ultimate.

Nostalgia can allow you to see the good of the past as much as the funny things of the present. But it can hurt, too.


Photo courtesy of Photostock, via Google.

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