Recently, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I've been feeling nostalgic, and he told me that he avoids nostalgia on principle. His reasoning was that nostalgia literally means "the pain of going home", and though my quick Googling showed slight alterations to that definition, I think it's fitting (for what it's worth, I saw a Wikipedia entry referencing a meaning of "homecoming" and several different web pages that cited it as translating to "the pain of an open wound". I think we can agree that my buddy was close if not, in fact, accurate with his interpretation).
Nostalgia comes with a sense of heartache, a longing that is difficult to put into words. Sometimes it's tinged with regret, other times it's simply a yearning for that thing from the past, for that moment that you can't get back. So instead we live in the memory, dwell in it for a bit of time too long to be any good for us. Still, we go back, if not in person then at least in our mind, and the memories wash over us in a way that seems indescribable. But I fancy myself a writer, so I should be able to put a few words together, right?
To be quite honest, I don't want to. I don't want to limit the experience to a few paragraphs of fanciful prose. Nostalgia is different for all of us, and if I'm being as truthful as possible, I'm a little selfish with my feelings in those moments where I feel the pain of going home. It feels like having a fully immersive dream, and if I stop to really describe it to you, I'm going to wake up, and it will be gone. So instead, I would rather linger a bit too long, take in one last deep breath of the smells, stare longingly into the distance, and hope against hope that for just a glimmer of an instant I might actually feel the memory. To say anymore about it would take my attention to far away from the beautifully painful open wound, and in the space of time where I'm standing surrounded by a memory, I want that pain. I want to feel the sharpness tingling in my heart, because in that burning is the connection that is so important to making nostalgia what it is: a living memory that leaves us forever changed.
My friend seems to find it to be an unhealthy venture, but I could not disagree more. Our pasts are nothing more than stories of memories that impacted us and those around us, and I don't want to lose any of that. Maybe I'm a bit unwilling to fulling dive into the why and how of nostalgia's hold on me, but I will revel in the stories of days gone by to no end!
Reflection is a great thing, and it can give you a fresh view on the steps ahead. Enjoy the nostalgia, my friends!