The Art of Nostalgia: A How-To on Living in the Moment

When it comes down to it, the years characterized by a long awaited loss of baby fat and an influx of obligatory thoughts surrounding what we want to do with the rest of our lives fall into a state of limbo. Our late teens and early twenties consist of a series of transitions so fast-paced that it may take writing an article about them to truly see them. In fact, the only reminders we have of these transitions are the bouts of nostalgia, the instances where we long for what we had prior to each transition. From high school to college, from semester to semester, from internship to internship (to internship, to internship), we often find ourselves Facebook stalking the past, and perhaps even thinking of it as a "better" time. In this period of reminiscence, how are we supposed to embrace the Hallmark cards and bumper stickers that encourage us to "live in the moment?"

At the tender age of 14, I was shipped off to boarding school. Of course, I was homesick. I missed my mom's brownies, and the friends I'd been inviting to birthday parties for years. The beginning of high school was, frankly, brutal. My days were filled with phone calls to my mom, pleading with her to let me return to middle school, texts to my middle school friends, and the consumption of Oreos in the safety of my dorm room. It was as if my first transition to a new environment had erased the feeling of happiness from my memory. Yet, as expected, I grew to love my new friends, and the brownies from the dining hall weren't even that bad. I eventually grew to love my high school to the point where I couldn't imagine how I'd ever loved my previous environment so much. When senior year came and went, I felt like I was leaving behind an entire life. Next came freshman year of college.

Though it seems that the differences between a small boarding school and a small liberal arts college must be limited, they are indeed rather vast. The senior spring of one's high school career is such a comfortable time. We reach a whole new realm of maturity, our high school campus seems to be a second home, our friends know us almost too well, and our only worries seem to be the impending transition to college. Moving from school to school had always felt like leaving a life behind, but leaving behind the most formative years of my life, high school, was a reality that was hard to grasp. This transition left me feeling rather uprooted. I constantly brought up my previous "life" in conversations, as if talking about it would transport me to the period where I truly believed I was, as many graphic T's declare, "living the dream." Though, as I am still in this transitional period, I cannot offer any conclusive insight on this particular time in one's life, I can offer a few guidelines on how to miss things. Here is some insight on how to tame the phenomenon that is nostalgia.

  1. The cycle: Keep in mind that you've missed things a thousand times before, and it always becomes easier. It may take weeks, or months, but it always does. Whether it's a place, a person, or your favorite food that you can no longer eat because you just found out you're gluten free, it always gets easier.

  • Be Realistic: The most dangerous part of nostalgia is the tendency to romanticize. When you look back, look back on the past as it actually was. Doing so will prevent you from ranking the past as better than the present.
  • Look Forward: Avoid excessive planning, but when that new movie tells you how enlightening your twenty-something years are, or how incredible your forties are, listen. Your grandmother is right when she says you have a lot to look forward to. Be excited for, and do not fear, what lies ahead.
  • "Live In The Moment": Try to embrace how exciting life can be when you truly live in the moment. Respect the Hallmark Cards and try new things everyday.
  • Balance: Try to find a balance between the past and the present. Live in the moment, but never fully let go of your past. Keep in touch with old friends, and remember the events that made you the person you are today. Most importantly, always participate in Instagram's "throwback Thursday."