I am visiting my family in Ohio this week and I have had a very strong nostalgia feeling while I have been here. It started on the second day when I was sitting outside at my mom’s house and it was so quiet. I could here the crickets chirping and the horseshoes hitting their mark (there was a horseshoe tournament going on). It was nice. And I had a thought that I could live here and love it. But could I really??
I would love to live closer to my nephews so that I could attend their events more frequently. The whole reason for this trip was to see my oldest nephew run his last home cross country meet. It will be the only time I see him run this season. I won’t make it home for Christmas again because of vacation time and flights are so expensive during the holidays. Nostalgia makes me think that I could live here, but could I really do it??
I have been going through some boxes of my old stuff while I was here. I found some old cds, records and toys. I found piles of holiday cards that my friends and I exchanged in high school. I have no recollection of doing this. It was fun to read the messages in the cards. All of these items reminded me of simpler times and this feeling of nostalgia was strong.
This lead me to look up the meaning of nostalgia and to read what people have written about it. The definition of nostalgia is “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for period or place with happy personal associations.” We all get nostalgic for things, places, people and times in our past. A few years ago I was nostalgic for the cartoons I watched as a kid, especially She-Ra and Jem and the Holograms so I rewatched them. I found them to be practically unwatchable. While I still love She-Ra and Jem and I always will, nostalgia twisted my memory of the shows making them out to be better than they were.
All of these thoughts this week have really brought to mind the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris. The movie follows Gil Pender as he is about to get married to Inez. He is nostalgic for the 1920s and finds himself alone at midnight one night in Paris. This old car pulls up and he gets in and he is transported back to the 1920s were he meets many of his literary and artistic idols. He also meets a woman there and falls for her. She hates the 1920s and longs for the Belle Epoque of the late 1800s. One night the two of them are transported there and she decides she wants to stay. They meet some people there and ask them what they think is the time and they say the renaissance.
I am not a huge Woody Allen fan, but I really enjoyed this film and the message it was telling us. Whatever our present is, we are nostalgic for a different past. Maybe even one we haven’t lived in. We need to focus on our present and live in the present. Nostalgia typically colors our past as something brighter and better than it was. As Marcel Proust’s observed “Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”
Nostalgia is a weird feeling. It can make us happy or sad. It can bring us to laughter or tears. It is not bad, but can change the way we feel about things in the present. It is a feeling that we should experience, but we should also focus on the present. While we should experience nostalgia and everything it gives to us, we should also be cautious and not make any major life decisions while we are in the throes of this weird feeling.
Your fellow traveler,