Note on experiencing uncomfortable nostalgia
Every so often I receive a Snapchat notification showing me memories from a year ago, two years ago and even three years ago. Sometimes it can make me sad to look back and see myself with some friends I don’t talk to anymore or look at myself before I gained the dreaded freshman 15. Sometimes I can’t wish but want to go back — to times that were easier, with people that I miss, and before I changed so much.
I know I’m not the only one. If this quarantine has done anything, it certainly has people reflecting on themselves, on others and on the people they used to be — often longing for times when life was easier, when we were happier and honestly when we were 15 pounds lighter.
It’s sometimes hard to deal with old memories because often they have a complicated relationship of good and bad and it might be hard to approach them.
This resurgence of old memories can be brought about by anything. Maybe you just saw a picture of you and an ex and it brings back unresolved feelings you might have pushed back, maybe you’re looking at pictures with an old friend that you’ve fallen out with and lost touch with and suddenly you crave the humor-filled conversations you used to have with them, or maybe you’re looking at a picture of a loved one who passed away and an overwhelming sadness hits you.
What is this feeling that we’re all feeling?
It’s nostalgia — and I’m sorry to have to be the one to break it to you guys — but nostalgia isn’t always that warm fuzzy feeling of seeing a picture of your younger self enter a school bus. Sometimes it hurts a lot because it exposes our mistakes at times and makes us really analyze ourselves and who we are.
The first step to looking back at old memories in a healthy way is to realize that you cannot change the past, but you can change the way you think about the past.
For example, maybe you have a friend that you’re no longer friends with. Don’t think about what you lost in the relationship but think instead about what that relationship taught you, not only about yourself but also about others and about what you expect from others. Not everything is a loss and even the most dramatic endings always have a lesson to teach us — it’s important to pay attention.
When you’re looking at yourself, it can be disheartening to see your old self as you might've not been at an ideal weight. But you shouldn’t compare yourself to when you were a teenager because you were only a child then, and it’s important to recognize that you are not linear so you will change, physically and mentally, that change is good, and that your worth is not based on your image. Instead, pick up healthy workout habits if you choose to do so.
You can start learning how to do yoga, going for a walk or even starting a new podcast. Being willing to go for a run or starting any new exercise will help you start and maintain a healthier outlook on your appearance.
Even getting in on current TikTok trends can help the process of looking at memories more enjoyable. The #ImJustAKid challenge has taken over the application and has people recreating old photos with friends and family members. It has helped people be able to look at some more painful pictures with newfound delight.
Looking at old memories can be daunting, but when you realize and accept the past as the past and not compare those experiences to the present, you can move on from the problem of being stuck reminiscing about times that are long gone — in a good way.
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