It is undeniable that our generation is collectively addicted to nostalgia. We love viewing lists that reminisce about the 80’s and 90’s .These lists enable us to connect with one another through our shared memories of childhood foods, activities, and toys. We consciously hit the pause button on our current lives and mentally turn back the clock, just to relish in the joy that comes with remembering our pasts. We’d rather reminisce about Legend of Zelda or Polly Pockets than deal with whatever is happening right now.
Every week, we flip through old photos, looking for that one particular picture of our college roommate drinking milk from the carton for the perfect #ThrowbackThursday post. And when one day a week wasn’t enough, we added #FlashbackFriday so we could continue to share our spring break photos, laughing about the times we stayed up on the beach until 5am. Throw in #TransformationTuesday and we have a third opportunity to press rewind.
We get hung up on people and things from our past. However, social media allows us to follow certain individuals through the future. Stories are never fully over when names remain in our contacts, or their selfies appear on our news feed. Our fingers hover over send buttons, debating between sequels and endings.
We feel haunted all the time. We are constantly accosted with reminders of the passing of time — be it an article that alerts us that certain movies are turning 20 years old in 2015, or the Timehop dinosaur showing us pictures from college that were taken nearly a decade ago. We deal with this discomfort by sharing it, bonding over our war with time.
When we go home for the holidays, we spend hours in our old rooms, tearing through photo albums and journals. We marvel at the things we find – notes that were folded up into triangles and passed during chemistry class, photographs that are worn with creases, reminders of the people we once knew.
We are stuck in a black hole of nostalgia. We are blind to the fact that one day, we will be nostalgic for where we are right now. Here. Today.
We’re haunted by objects, details, and people. This is why we fixate on these lists that force us to remember songs, movies, or television shows. It’s why we hold on to keepsakes and allow our minds to wander to certain individuals from our history. To some degree, we’re all hoarders of memories.
The truth of the matter is that we haunt ourselves. We don’t necessarily miss the games we played as a kid, but how they made us feel. We feel sad when we think about endless summer days that stretched into hazy evenings; those are days that only exist in the world of a child. We don’t long for actual people, but we yearn for the qualities they brought out within our personalities. We miss versions of ourselves that used to exist at various stages of our lives.
This is the thing that no one told us about growing up. We may be adults, with jobs and bills and responsibilities, but inside, we still feel fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years old. In some way, we are the same as we were when we were young — and this existence is at odds with the reality of time.
All of those versions of ourselves, all of the people we used to be — they are all still with us. We are still the kids who played outside until the sun had disappeared, just as we are still the teenagers who felt a broken heart for the first time. We’ve loved and lost and dreamed, and we have lived a thousand stories already. We are a million things at once.
Our nostalgia is arguably fueled by the technological resources at our fingertips, but the urge to look backwards is an old human trait. We will never escape these hauntings, and we will always be ghosts of our own pasts.
Once we acknowledge this, it’s important to consciously focus on the present while it is ours to grasp. After all, it is only a matter of time before this moment right now becomes another ghost. Not only should we acknowledge this fact, we should embrace it whole-heartedly. If we can break the cycle of remembering long enough to notice our current world, we’ve achieved something, no matter how small it may be. Ultimately, with this awareness, our present will eventually turn into a ghost worth revisiting.