You guessed it. Here comes a quote:
“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present.”
I watched a movie with my dad the other night, a Woody Allen classic, but not quite Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona (hard to top that IMO). It was Midnight in Paris, with Owen Wilson (if you hadn’t already guessed) as the protagonist, getting lost and entangled in the charming streets of the inimitable city. I don’t know if I cared too much for the time-travel parts, but I understood the allegory in relation to the feeling of wanting, of being lost, of wandering aimlessly looking for answers. One of the characters – a pretentious university professor portrayed excellently by none other than Michael Sheen – said the above quote and it got me thinking. I don’t think I agree with it at all.
Nostalgia is a beautiful tool, and like anything, can be locked, loaded and used for you or against you. But to associate it with bitterness and lowkey resentment is just a shame and begs the question: so, what’s the point of even having memories? Of doing anything? Of trying to make things happen? And that makes me a bit sad.
Nostalgia is a beautiful source of escapism, a portal into a dreamworld that allows us to feel gratitude to the strongest degree. It’s a warm, safe space where you can dive into those universes and times again and again. It’s reflecting on the wonderful opportunities that were available to us, the beauty of coincidence that led us to meet the equally wonderful people in our lives. Whether you’re looking back on travel memories at the moment, your childhood, or even to any kind of (what we deemed as an insignificant) social occasion (remember meeting friends at a café?), nostalgia allows us to relive those perfect moments – no matter how small. And to even have memories and the ability to relive them is a gift in itself.
Of course, chronically reliving memories in the wrong context will feel like a denial of the painful present. And sometimes that’s ok, like grieving a loved one or missing a friend. A healthy expression of emotion to an extent. But to put a blanket statement over such a beautiful concept like that – oh! Especially today, when it feels like memories are all we have sometimes: don’t you take this away from me Mr. Allen.
And here we are at a full circle once more – would you look at that?! Alice is prattling on about gratitude again! But in all seriousness – with anything in life, you have the power to choose how you perceive it. Whether it’s nostalgia or something else entirely. By choosing (and realising you even have a choice to begin with) to be thankful for things that happen no matter their context, knowing that in some way they will shape you, is the most powerful tool of all.
Now go and dive into (proverbial or literal) shoebox of souvenirs and escape down your own beautiful rabbit hole of nostalgia, just because you can.