Stalling on Nostalgia: Why living in the past is past due.

Memories are great, the good ones at least. They remind us of the best moments we’ve had and reminiscing every once in a while is cool. But here lies the problem, when is “every once in awhile?”

Before I go on I must admit I am the person who spends a lot of time reliving fun parts of my past. It only gets worse when I’m around my sister and some of my best friends as we tell the same stories over and over again. At least I feel validated for telling those same stories when someone who hasn’t heard them before is present. But the fact remains I’m guilty of the very problem I present in this blog post. But what exactly am I saying is the problem again? When does nostalgia get stale, that is the question. The answer, well that takes a little time to figure out.

Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer.

Based on this excerpt in an article from nytimes.com nostalgia is quite the mental stimulant. So long anxiety and loneliness, hello trips down memory lane. Now as somewhat of a surprise to me this same article mentioned how nostalgia until recently was considered a disorder. But now as I type it makes more sense. While it has good intentions, nostalgia potentially remind people of what how things used to be when things aren’t good at the moment. It can remind people of their prime and then show how people are now past it. Worse of all it can have people not appreciate what’s going on in present time.

Many of us relate iconic moments with nostalgia. Whether it’s Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and album, Michael Jordan’ last shot as a Chicago Bull, or Mike Tyson knocking boxers out with ease; these moments often takes us back to those individual time frames and have us relive other moments. And that’s cool if we can keep those flashbacks to a moderate amount. It becomes a problem when we look at those great moments and instantly say nothing else will ever compare to those nostalgic moments. I picked sports and music as examples of this problem because I see and experience this so much in these areas. I can’t tell you how many Twitter debates I’ve seen or participated in where people just seem to be stuck on the idea “It was the greatest at this year and no other year will compare”. Of course it’s all opinion based but the logic they’re using to prove their opinions is the problem I have. If I only talk about how great Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album is and that’s what “REAL HIP-HOP” is (Ugghhh…another problem of mines), how can I appreciate great albums and mixtapes in the present? And sure Kendrick Lamar is great and in the minds of many (including me) the best rapper out now. But what about Chance the Rapper, ANTHM, Skyzoo, or dare I say 2 Chainz? None of them were on the scene in the late 80s or early 90s but are very good in their own right and not just for this time period. Nostalgia gives us a reason to unfairly compare eras and not appreciate each era for its own greatness.

On face value nostalgia should be praised for taking everyone to a happy place; and in a perfect world only motivates us if we’re not in the positions we want to be in. But perfect worlds are merely figments of our imaginations so we deal with reality. So while taking trip down memory lane is fine and even needed at times, let’s remember we’re only there for a vacation and not staying there forever.

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