Nostalgia---how much is too much?

I’m not even sure how to word my question without sounding very, very odd, but here goes…

I think about the past a lot. Not obsessively, but a lot. I’ve done the “Google old friends [including boyfriends]” thing, but don’t ever really do anything with the information. I’ve certainly never contacted anyone, MapQuested anyone, phoned them, whatever. I did email an old highschool friend a year ago, and we traded a few pleasantries and that’s it.

I also realize that a lot of the songs on my iPod are from a different time in my life, and I both enjoy and hate listening to them because they remind me of a period of my life that I’m not in (generally college). the funny thing is, I wasn’t even particularly happy in college; it’s when I first started being aware of my depression. But I think this all ties me to memories of a time when I felt more of a sense of possibility than I have now.

I wouldn’t trade my life now for what I had then, particularly because I didn’t really have much beyond unrequited love and a desire to be anywhere but where I was. So, why the longing for…something. For a past I never really had?

Maybe it’s just that I’m getting closer to middle age, or maybe it’s something more. I’m very curious to know to what degree other people experience nostalgia.

I have a thing where every year I seem to be nostalgic for the year before or two years before. Suddenly it’s Christmas and I long to revisit the Christmas of 2004. Or it’s fall and I have a yen to try and recapture the feeling of the previous fall. I also sometimes want to recapture the 70s when I was a kid. I want to look at old TV listings and things or buy a fern. The one time I never want to recapture is my teens and early 20s. I’m not sure why but even if someone mentions John Hughes movies or Morrissey I get a sick, nervous feeling.

I find nostalgia very weird. The way I experience it is very hard for me to understand. I don’t think the time I start to long for is ever objectively better than the present for any reason but I will tend to imagine I was happy and safe there. I think it has to do with the fact that I know I was safe then because I know it all turned out okay. I also think it’s a mortality thing. It’s like I need to have a renaissance somehow to appreciate that my life is better than I give it credit for. Either that or I need to imagine it was better than it really was so that I can keep the idea that my whole life is worthwhile and has meaning to me. Mostly though I think it comforts me to have the sense that I can revisit the past and burn the sounds and smells and atmosphere into my present so that I can feel like experiences don’t just disappear. It helps me feel less like I am just going to one day disappear.

I actually think I get nostalgic because the future is a big unknown. At least the past is mine and I know I was in it. For me I still do get that excited feeling of possibility it’s just that I also get the fear. I feel a lot like I’m trying to dig my nails into the past a bit to slow down my life and not slide past everything good too fast.

I guess because I am always nostalgic for something I think you should enjoy your nostalgia. I wouldn’t look for a problem with it. If you feel like you’re having a problem with your present or your future then that’s a good problem to think about but I don’t think there’s a problem in longing for the past. At least for me it’s a natural part of enjoying my experience of being me and having the life I’m having.

I have the same general feeling. My life has been getting progessively better over the past few years, but I still enjoy mentally connecting myself back to the past. It’s almost like I want to compare my present life to my past life, and look at how far I’ve come since then (even if “then” is only a few months ago). I think recognizing what my life was like in the past will keep me grounded in who I am and where I’m going, and keep my life in perspective. But somehow just the passage of time fascinates me for some reason. It’s hard to put into words how I experience and enjoy nostalgia.

I can be quite nostalgic at times; several years ago, I began writing about my “memories,” which I’ve parenthesized (word?) because some of them (many of the very early ones) came from talking with my parents. I’ve shared what I’ve written so far with my brothers and my Dad (and my Mom, when she was still alive), and asked for their input. I included some of the bad feelings too, so it’s not all just good times. It’s been somewhat carthatic to write them down, at least for me. Unfortunately, I haven’t added much to them since my Mom passed away in 2003. I have re-read what I’ve written several times, though, and added a segment about my Mom’s illness and death.

One pipe dream of mine (lol it will probably never happen, but I’d like to think that it could!) is to re-visit my childhood homes. I’d like to be able to take my two kids with me, to show them where I lived and where I went to school. They’ve seen some of the places, but not where we lived in Michigan (Morenci, Comstock Park, Manistee, Interlochen), which is where I’d really love to visit. I’ve even talked to one of my brothers about making this trip, but it would be a huge undertaking and we’d probably need at least a week, probably more like two weeks. And a lot of the places are going to look vastly different, not just from the perspective of an adult but because it’s been so many years and there’s been a good deal of development in most of those towns/cities since then.

Well, that’s how I deal with my own nostalgic feelings. I started my memoirs, btw, at the beginning (so to speak) and have only gotten up to age 12 … I’ve got a long ways to go! I do need to get back to adding to them. The older I get, the less I’m able to recall certain things.

I think nostalgia, in moderation, is not only normal but fun.

I think back on my childhood on a daily basis. Whenever I hear a particular song on the radio, I cross-match it to a specific memory and suddenly I’m reliving it. Smells can also trigger this.

But I used to know a guy who was weirdly nostalgic. The guy basically was stuck in the 60s. He still wore the same kind of haircut from his teenage years and dressed the same way. He only listened to oldies music–anything younger than the 70s was horrible in his eyes. His mind was full of 60s and 70s pop culture trivia, but he was completely lost when it came to references of the 80s and the 90s. Talking to him could be fun because you’d learn a lot, but it could also be weird–almost frustrating–to find out he had never heard of something as popular as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Sometimes I think he would feign ignorance just to make himself look cool, but the effect was usually the opposite.

The thing was, this guy wasn’t even that old. He was born in 1966, so he couldn’t have had much more than a vague recollection of the 60s anyway. So, I think nostalgia is really weird when you’re nostalgic for a time you were never or barely a part of.

I think nostalgia is something our minds do automatically. We spend a lifetime learning patterns and absorbing information, matching patterns and making comparisons. It’s extremely difficult for an active brain not to be reminded of things past, and the more you know and have personally experienced, the more matches up.

Sometimes it feels easier to make that kind of mental connection to something long-unused in your brain, as if you’re dusting off old synaptic connections, than it is to learn a new thing or absorb all the new facts that are assaulting you daily: new movies, new news events, new music, new TV shows, new books, new video games, and tons of new faces, whatever.

I recently found some old D&D books, from the red and blue Basic and Expert rules, and I spent some time going through them and saying, “Wow! I remember that. Yes, I remember that drawing, and did we really once play when Elves were a class and not a race? Hey, a d12! When have I last seen one of those?”

It’s like coming in contact with something nostalgic re-activates pathways in your brain that have been waiting there, idle, for years. Nostalgia is like a pleasant surprise that something you only remembered in your head is still, you know, really there. :slight_smile:

I don’t know about that. I don’t have a nostalgic bone in my body and I’m extremely impatient with other people’s trips down memory lane. I have no desire to travel to places I lived as a child or to contact people I knew in highschool. (If I wanted to talk to them, I would have stayed in contact all along.)

My husband is nostalgic. Not too long ago, he wanted to go to the neighborhood where he grew up, and he pointed out where all of his friends lived. I nodded and smiled patiently but the notion of actually* caring *about this stuff is so foreign to me that we might as well have been looking at pairs of old socks.

I get a lot other people’s nostalgia at the museum in which I work. We had an exhibit on the 1950s a while back which was an utter nightmare for me. I avoided going into that exhibit as much as possible because I was heartily sick (after only a couple of days) of people reminiscing about a kitchen table their mother had which was “just like that” and then going into long, boring recitations of memories they had involving it. It got so tedious that I sometimes felt that giving tours of that area should have been forbidden but the Geneva Convention as a form of torture. Every single item on display brought back memories which had to be shared and compared with others in the group. shudder

Don’t get me wrong: as a historian, I realize the value of people’s memories as a tool to tell us what life was like during certain time periods. Diaries and letters are priceless to us because of this reason, but honestly, I don’t enjoy listening to a recitation of people’s memories from 40 years ago. I always tell people to write them down, that they’ll have a place in our archives. (I don’t add that people in the future might find them interesting but I sure the hell don’t.)

Maybe you’re just weird. :wink:

I’m not very nostalgic most of the time, mostly because I forget most things fairly quickly. I forget people, places, and experiences. I remember data. It’s hard to be nostalgic for data.

I can’t really argue with that.

For me, the memories these things evoke are generally not specific, but will just remind me of a time in my life. A certain feeling in the air or the way the light is can achieve this as well.


Um, yeah, that’s really odd.

But isn’t that almost entirely the point of that type of exhibit? Yes, of course there is the advance of technology and therefore it’s interesting to look at “old fashioned” things, but when the display consists of items that were around not all that long ago (when many of the visitors would have been alive), then of course there will be memories evoked.

I guess I can’t imagine going to that type of exhibit and expecting differently (although I know you work there and didn’t go there by choice).

Yes, it was. In fact, one of the backers wanted to call the exhibit, “Do You Remember?” I started dreading it as we were putting it together because I knew what was coming; even our oldest pieces often invoke comments along the lines of, “My grandmother had a butter churn like that. Let me tell you *all *about it!”

Even from a practical standpoint, this memory-wallowing was a pain. All tours are guided and sometimes we’re on a tight schedule. Visitors would want to linger and compare stories and it was extremely difficult to get them moving again.

I was quite relieved when we replaced the 50s exhibit with an exhibit on the 1880s.

Well, assuming your youth was not a total nightmare (mine wasn’t) a little nostalgia is generally a good thing. Most people should have at least some fond memories of their youth. When you are young, you tend to be more hopeful. Things are more ‘new’. As you get older, the simpleness and sense of unlimited potential that comes with youth gives way to the complexities and realities of life. It’s not that life gets worse or anything. It’s just that it’s easy to look back longingly on when you were 17 when the biggest problems you had were getting laid, scraping together gas money and figuring out how to extend your curfue.

Too much nostalgia would be clinging to some point in your life and not moving forward - usually high school or college. You don’t want to be Wooderson crusing the high schools years after graduation or Mitch, Beanie and Frank the Tank partying with the college students into their 30s.

One of the things about the internet is that it lets you keep track of people long after those relationships are no longer relevent. I could go look up old high school friends on MySpace or, but what’s the point? That’s in the past. I’d much rather focus on my future goals and interests and make new relationships based on that. Those old friends who continue to remain relevant to your life as you move forward, you keep in touch with.

Ok…and the award for most ironic career goes to…