Nostalgia – Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Recent psychology studies have suggested that nostalgia boosts optimism. They’re now saying that most nostalgic events are social events, which remind us about people, instances and things that we care about. In effect, this means that being nostalgic is good for you.

However, that’s not how I’ve looked at nostalgia.

The dictionary definition of ‘nostalgia’ is ‘longing for something past’, which is also how I’ve always thought of it – with a negative connotation. When one is nostalgic about something – a person, a relationship, a job, a time in life – you’re living in the past. And haven’t we been told numerous times that one shouldn’t live in the past? Being nostalgic means you’re thinking of something that’s happened before, and you’re wishing it’d happen again. You’re missing that something, you either want things to be like that again or you’re sad in the knowledge that things won’t ever be the same again. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not being positive.

Nostalgia makes you look back, when you should be living life looking at the present with an eye on the future. If your present is not better than your past, your future won’t be better than your present. And if you’re not getting better, you’re not living right.

This is how I look at things, which I realised a while ago when I was at a party with some of my college buddies. Between drinks, we were reminiscing our college days. We were having a big laugh about the things we used to do, the pranks we played, the classes we bunked, the impromptu trips we made, et al. Between talking about these times, someone or the would say, “Man, those were the times!”

Yes, they were. I love reminiscing over those days, but unlike a couple of my pals, I don’t get nostalgic about them. Those days were a hell of a lot of fun, but do I want to do that again? No. I don’t want to spend my nights getting drunk and wake up late in the afternoon, without a care in the world. I want to work hard and make enough money to let my son have the freedom to do that when he’s in college.

My life has changed, my priorities are different. I loved those days, but I love the life I’m living right now just as much. I like the work I do, I love spending time with my family. I have a loving wife and a naughty son; I like getting beaten up by the both of them. I do have my night-outs with my college pals, but once a month or so is now enough for me. I don’t miss doing that every other day.

And that is why I don’t get nostalgic. We evolve as we grow older, we change. Our life becomes different. And not being happy with the changes, hoping for things to be the way they were before, means that you haven’t made the right choices. This is true more often than not. I don’t think nostalgia boosts positivity, it just makes you feel sadder about your current situation.

Things are never going to be the way they were in the past, that’s why the past is the past. Today has to be better than yesterday. And the choices you make today have to be such that they make tomorrow better than today. Sure, you had a lot of good times, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is if you’re having a good time right now or not. If you’re not, the last thing you should do is be nostalgic. What you should do is try to make sure that even if you’re not having a ball right now, you’ll have one tomorrow.

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