Ah, nostalgia. The emotion that has plagued me for the majority of my life, despite the fact that I am only 22 years old. I can remember going on every single piece of playground equipment on my last day of 5th Grade. I remember lamenting the fact that it was my last time in the Middle School cafeteria in 8th Grade. I remember missing Middle School throughout 9th and 10th Grade. My Freshman and Sophomore years of college were unbearable. I’ve even gotten nostalgia for old clubs, shows, groups of friends, classes…you name it, I’ve probably longingly missed it at some point. Nostalgia is my constant companion.
Every time I return to a place that was once a vital part of my day-to-day life, I get a nostalgic rush. Especially if I see the people who played a role in that chapter of my life. And especially if it was an emotional chapter. Needless to say, returning to see shows at my High School or Summer Camp are always an emotionally heavy affair. It’s fun at the time, but the “emotional hangover” is brutal. It kills to come back to the undeniable fact that the place that was once your home is a now a relic of the past. The people are only shadows of memories. This isn’t your day-to-day life anymore. I’m sure going back to see my college friends over the next year will provoke a similar reaction.
Sitting in my room, I have plenty of diaries and old papers from Middle and High School. Every so often I spend a night leafing through these pages and going down memory lane. Comparing my current self to my past self. Remembering old classes. My point is, after returning to my summer camp two nights ago, I’ve been in a theatre whirlpool of nostalgia. I spent a good hour last night looking through old programs, sheet music, props, and signed show posters. Remembering who I used to be way back when. The people who once mattered so much to me. The feats I accomplished. The shows that are now only a memory, but were once my reality. For an hour, it was almost as though time had never stopped. As though I were still that girl I was so long ago.
Going back into my theatre nostalgia has always been a painful experience for me. Those are the friends that mostly disappeared after college. They all continued down the arts path and I made a sharp turn into the sciences. Without realizing the weight of my decision, I turned my back on everything I had ever known. Looking back on that time in my life now is incredibly bittersweet. Bitter, because I miss those days, I miss those people, I miss the theatre universe, and I miss who I became back then. I still try to do skits and singing when I can, but it’s all too rare. I listen to musical soundtracks endlessly, but it’s not at all the same. But the memories are also sweet. Because that time of my life was real. It happened. It made me who I am today. And that is beautiful.
As I now turn my back on my college days and leave that chapter of my life behind, I’m sure the nostalgia from that period is soon to come. The more I change, the more painful the nostalgia for the past seems to grow. Although it does visit less frequently the more time passes. I am morbidly curious to see what parts of my college persona and life will cause me the most nostalgia and wistfulness. What people will keep me up at night? There’s no way of telling.
But nostalgia is not all bad. What’s the point of making lasting memories if you never take the time to actually remember them? Looking back on good times is not the worst problem in the world to have. The problem comes when you’re dissatisfied with your present. Which isn’t exactly nostalgia’s fault. Nostalgia, when used sparingly, is a beautiful emotion. Too much of it isn’t healthy, but a small dose now and then never hurt anyone. Better to remember the past than run from it. Besides, maybe it’s trying to send a message. Who knows? So I’m glad I have memories worth remembering. But the important thing is to remember that life’s not made of memories. So make new ones. Have new adventures. Spend too much time in the past and you’ll miss the present as it slips away. Live everyday like it’s your last. Remember the good times, but don’t forget that tomorrow could be an even better day.