I experienced multiple waves of nostalgia over the course of today. The morning was spent packing up my childhood room, which involved the rediscovery of many old artefacts, and much time reliving old memories. It took way longer than it should have but I was enjoying the experience so much.

This afternoon I walked around my old school and saw the changes that have taken place since I’ve been gone. I bumped into teachers that taught me geography, life orientation, history, guitar, and biology. I told them about all the work I’m doing and they told me about how different the students are from when I was around. (On a really cool note, I found out my geography teacher occasionally reads this blog!)

Finally, this evening I played garden football with my little brother, finished off with a swim. We used to do this frequently when I was in matric, and it felt like things hadn’t changed a bit (except that he’s bigger than me now, and he’s 13!).

Because of this I’ve been thinking about the value of nostalgia. And there are two realisations I’ve had.

Nostalgia as safety

One element to nostalgia is that of it being a protective mental space. If things aren’t going well in life, we use it as a safe space we can retreat to in our heads. A way of escaping from our present existence.

The problem with this is that we are often selective when it comes to what we are nostalgic about. We polish up the memories, ignore the bad bits and use this “clean” memory as a retreat. In reality, that memory might not have been as good as we remember.

And this makes it more painful. Because you remember it only as having being a better time. For example, high school was a lot less complex than my life is now, and it’s easy to retreat into thinking about those days. But I also experience some really bad downs, particularly in grade 9, and so the memory isn’t all rosy.

So, nostalgia can be used as a safety mechanism and a peaceful reflection, but this needs to be done with the awareness that the past wasn’t all perfect.

Nostalgia as a yardstick

Another use of nostalgia is as a benchmark, which to me is a much more productive exercise. You can reflect on where you were in the past, and how much you have grown since then. This allows you to visualise and unpack your path, and often makes you realise you’ve developed far more than you previously thought.

An example of this was looking through my old matric dance photos. I remembered that at the dances I went to, I was incredibly nervous. Large events like that terrified me, and so did the afterparties. Nowadays, though, I thrive in those sort of environments.

A little more nostalgia

Tomorrow I’ll be doing some more packing and visiting my matric maths teacher. I’ll be served a little more nostalgia, but I’ll aim to put it to use as a yardstick more than using it as safety.

In either case, the reflecting has been a great journey. And it’s so cool to see how far I’ve come.

PS: today is blog number 150!


Image was taken at my old school this afternoon 🙂

Song of the day: Ten feet tall- Afrojack
Blog 150/365. Read more about my #365of25 journey here

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