Nostalgia. Nostalgia. Oh, nostalgia, my sweet friend.
Every year, through the holidays and well into the new year, my friend nostalgia hits me like a brick to the face.
Apparently nostalgia has hit a lot of people this holiday season, and the entire year of 2014. According to Kory Stamper, an Associate Editor at Merriam-Webster, the word nostalgia had more than a 100 percent increase in searches in 2014, and was the second most looked up word in 2014.
Well, it’s good to know that I’m not alone.
Nostalgia has been a feeling that I have always felt the particular presence of, even as a child. When I was young, I was even nostalgic for pasts that were not my own. In a recent, well written and inspiring Paris Review blog post, Sadie Stein says that growing up, she saw the past as a place where she “belonged.” I felt that way too, growing up. I would imagine myself living in the past. I longed to be an actress in historical dramas, not for fame, but for a chance to pretend that I was living in another era. My favorite elementary school project was when I got to dress up as a pilgrim in a “living wax museum.” Parents and students would stand in front of me, and I would give a speech about my life and hardships as a pilgrim. I was also obsessed with family history and exploring my home and the home of my grandparents(and any distant relative), looking for relics of my ancestry. My deepest longing at the age of 8 was for a hoop skirt, and I regularly could be seen wearing bonnets (I had one in a pilgrim style, and one that was more of a Laura Ingalls-esque pioneer style).
Growing up, my family moved around a lot. I was born in Louisville, Kentucky. When I was almost a year old, we moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and stayed until I was 5. Halfway through kindergarten, we moved to a small town in Tennessee called Savannah. Then halfway through 5th grade, when I was 10, we moved to Lufkin, Texas, and when I was about to start 8th grade, we moved to the Dallas/Forth Worth area.
Over the years, I have attributed my strong nostalgic feelings partially to the fact that I have moved around a lot, and from a young age, nearly my entire life, there have always been places and people from my past that I have longed for and missed. These feelings cause a lot of nostalgia, but I wouldn’t wish it any other way. These nostalgic feelings provide an interesting way for me to recount memories and fondly remember my past.
One reason my nostalgia intensified this holiday season was because my family and I went back to Tennessee for Christmas and New Years. Over the course of my life, I have spent many, many days in Memphis, Tennessee with my grandparents. Every time I go there, the nostalgia hits. I love exploring my grandmother’s attic and her upstairs room that was basically the playroom for all of the grandkids. I love finding relics of my childhood, and exploring all of the vintage books and family heirlooms. I love that kind of nostalgia. We also got to visit Savannah, Tennessee, where I lived from the ages of 5 to 10. I love going back there, and, of course, I always feel nostalgic, as some of my critical growing up years took place in this small town. We drove past our old house, my favorite house I’ve ever lived in. It was nostalgic, and I missed it, but it was good.
These feelings of longing for the past, in my opinion, are good. They remind me of how far I’ve come and how much growing I’ve done. They remind me of the fact that I will be graduating college in less than a year(ahhh!), and that it is time to go out in the real world. Nostalgia makes me thankful for the experiences of my past, allowing me to see how different parts of my past have shaped my life.
A recent article, published by Relevant Magazine, discussed nostalgia and how it can meaningfully connect us to the past, and help us to appreciate past experiences. The article also asserted that nostalgia can be dangerous, allowing us to get hung up on the past, clouding and distancing the present.
The assertion of nostalgia as dangerous initially took me aback. The nostalgia that I have experienced and felt in my life has always been something that I am thankful for–something that I feel is a privilege. Not all people feel, recognize, or know how to cope with nostalgia. I understand where obsessing over the past and feeling regretful may not be healthy. But, for the most part, I believe that nostalgia in itself is not something that is dangerous, or that needs to be controlled and resisted.
I am grateful for all of the nostalgic feelings I have had throughout my life because they have shaped who I am today. As a teenager and adult, I have developed a love for vintage things. I love trinkets and clothes and random items from the past. I love sewing, crocheting, embroidery, and other more established hobbies. I think my nostalgia and longings for the past have made me who I am today, and will continue to shape me in the future. Nostalgia has taught me to thank God for all He has done in my life–for the people and places He has put on my path. Nostalgia is strange friend, and oh, she is powerful. She is one to ponder over, to embrace, to laugh with, and to cry for.