Nostalgia for the present

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing that the different spans of one’s life often have particular feelings to them. Things that are closely linked with memories from that time, such as a smell or a song, can bring you back to how you felt at the time. The smell of wet ground when the snow starts to melt reconnects me to feelings from every spring of my life. Listening to songs from The Beatles 1 takes me all the way back to middle school: I start getting little flickers of places I went & things I did.

Nostalgia always resonates deeply with me. I often reflect on the different periods of my life, their relative placement & meaning to me, and what I associate with each of them. Part of this nostalgia is wishing I could go back to those times, but not because my life was better back then or anything. I want to review & remember all these things that have happened to me that are just out of memory’s reach now, see how I would relate to them as the person I am now.

Photo credit: Kurttarvis

Every period of life has a related period of “first nostalgia”, the time when you first notice that period’s unique feeling. Normally, feeling the general feeling of a period you’re living in is kind of like tasting the roof of your mouth: you usually don’t, because you’re acclimated to it. The feeling is something that takes shape in retrospect. So the first nostalgia might take place anywhere from a couple of months to a year later.

It seems to me that nostalgia is part of building a narrative you can process about what’s happened in your life. Having become aware of this dynamic, I started to realize at some point that I could, in fact, feel the nostalgia of a period I was still living in. It’s something I have to be intentionally receptive to, and take efforts to cultivate. I need to do things that make the time I spend meaningful to me in some larger picture. If I seek out this sense of meaning & resonance, then it’s far more natural for me to feel “nostalgia for the present”, if you will.

The moods of different periods seem to return in different cycles. Recently, I found myself feeling flashes of to early months of 2021, when I was falling in love with Heaven or Las Vegas and learning about GBA programming. I can take these cycles as prompts for building a greater sense of cohesion between the different periods of my life. Perhaps I’m missing February 2021 because there’s a seed that was planted in me back then that has yet to bloom.

Do you feel nostalgia often? Do you think about the different periods of your life often? Do you ever feel nostalgia for the present? Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​