What Makes You Nostalgic?

Nostalgia can be a very powerful experience. It can make happy memories seem even happier. And it can blunt traumatic times, so they don’t seem so bad.

However, what exactly is nostalgia, and where does it come from? Why do we remember the past fondly, even the things that were unpleasant?

In addition, what are the events that contribute to forming these memories? In particular, what are the things in your past that make you nostalgic?

Related questions: What makes something memorable? What is your favorite childhood memory? How can we maintain wonder? What is your favorite holiday memory?

 

5 thoughts on “What Makes You Nostalgic?”

  1. Consider these lines from the song “God Part 2” by U2:

    “You glorify the past
    When the future dries up.”

    A little harsh? Perhaps. But there is undoubtedly much truth to them. Many of us have difficulties living in the present and soaking in all the wonders and joys it can bring.

    I am trying to do so, and recognize what I should cherish now (e.g. a great relationship with Rebecca; living in a house and home that is nearly perfect for Rebecca and me; being in reasonably good mental health (i.e. Anxiety still periodically plagues me); a beautiful, peaceful, and productive garden; a sense of purpose in my work life, etc.).

    Still, I do have nostalgia for a few different things. The first has to do with prior athleticism, whether it be my high school cross-country running and cheerleading days, my years of running marathons, or the cherished span of time when I did rad yoga poses. Second, academically, I loved the days when I had something like akin to a photographic memory abilities in elementary and high school years. (Tests were easy when I could practically read the page of a text book virtually in my head). And, third, remember the days when people could travel? I am nostalgic for 2019, when Rebecca and I experienced a wonderful trip to Greece (the islands and food were wonderful); and my trip to Copenhagen went far beyond my expectations — thanks in no small measure to by Airbnb hosts (now friends) Vibeke and Jan as well as my friends George and Dawn.

    That said, I should learn to cherish the good parts of my past, while currently living the life I want to live.

    1. Your comments led me to an interesting exercise: evaluate your current life, and try to imagine exactly what part of it will make you nostalgic in the future. Can you do it? Or is there an element to nostalgia that is unpredictable?

  2. From my childhood, I am nostalgic about reading. For certain books, or even particular passages within them, I can remember exactly where I was and what was happening around me when I read them. That may contribute to why I love reading so much now, as an adult.

    That encompasses reading of all types, but in partuicular, it is true for comic books. I consumed comic books voraciously as a child, so much so that my house is filled with comics now, but also comic-related stuff. I have a Spider-Man breathing mask. I am wearing an Avengers T shirt as I type this.

    Long before there were billion-dollar movies being made, my young brain made its own movies with these characters, and let me assure you, the production values were much higher.

    That use of imagination and creativity, combined with the underlying message of struggling for abstract concepts of truth, justice, and fairness, helped make me who I am today. So I get do get nostalgic when I thumb through the yellowed pages of an old comic book, or a see a magazine stand full of comics like I encountered at my local grocery store. It takes me back to my formative years.

    And I think that’s part of the reason for nostalgia. Previously, we asked the question: What makes you you? Chances are, you will probably attach some level of fondness toward any defining moments that you may have had.

  3. I’m nostalgic about camping trips my parents took me on as a child. My favorite campground was/is Heart ‘O’ the Hills on the Olympic Peninsula here in Washington. It was a forest wonderland to explore, providing vast fodder for a child’s imagination. It has since become a peaceful oasis where fond memories are contained in every tree, rock and beautiful vista. We’ve gone back almost every year with our children and if we ever have grandchildren, we will take them too.

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