nostalgia is a dangerous game

Flickr / loosingmind
Flickr / loosingmind

I think nostalgia is an easy place to escape to. It’s dangerous, though. Nostalgia can rearrange your memories and make them into a picture that wasn’t true then, but feels true now, brighter somehow and better even. Our pasts are like a movie that we get to edit. We can reminisce and break apart what once was and put it back together to represent something beautiful. We get to decide how our past looks. It belongs to us. However, that rearranging can be a risky game to play with ourselves. We can rearrange until we make ourselves believe that our better days are behind us, that getting back to what was is better than looking forward to what will.

Nostalgia has convinced me that all my best days can be found amongst the Hollywood landscape. Back in October, I whimsically moved from Los Angeles to Seattle and I have been slowly and unconsciously rearranging my memories of LA into a place I yearn for, a place that did not exist when I was there. I have spent months comparing the pro/con lists I’ve constructed in my mind, one day determining Seattle tips in my favor and the next, LA beats out. Nostalgia is a dangerous game like that. I’m not here in the moment. I’m in the in-between, that bittersweet purgatory you step into when you’re not quite ready to let go of who you were, where you’ve been, the people and places you’ve loved and left and lost.

I don’t know if I’m ready to be here in Seattle yet. I’ve been hedging and every time someone asks me if I like it, if I’m happy with the move, I use that high-octave voice I use when I’m unsure. “Yeah, I like it!” I don’t know what else to say. I don’t not like it. But, I also don’t like it, yet. I don’t know if I’m ready to belong here, if I’m ready to commit to this place, if I can build a life here. It has nothing to do with Seattle, really. It’s on me. I say I like change, but actually I think it’s pretty hard on me. I get lonely and introspective. When I moved to Paris, it took me six months to make my first friend, even though she kept trying to make plans with me. I’d just make up excuses and I’d cancel, then six months later, I was ready. So, her and I met up for a Coca Light and I spent the next six months in Paris wondering why it took me so long to connect with her. When I left Paris six months later, I was genuinely sad to leave her, this one friend I had made and spent six months avoiding.

I think I acclimate to change in a haywire manner. I do this sort of stubborn buckling down and I forget to take care of myself. You would think I’d stop making hasty, yet grand, life changes, but I don’t know why, but I’m just addicted to it. Maybe it’s my fear of commitment being symptomatic, but I feel incapable of staying in one place. I can’t stop moving forward and, to me, moving forward means uprooting, leaving, losing, pushing, forcing. It never comes easy and maybe it takes six months or so to get my head back on straight, to just come down off the adrenaline rush of Big and Bold.

That’s why I can’t let myself be seduced into the intoxicating world of nostalgia. It’s this mechanism I use to pull myself out of my current experience. I’ll pull out the pocketbook of past memories and get to reminiscing about what was and then, post-haste, I’ll make myself miserable thinking of who and what I’ve left behind. I can’t be a person who leaves, who makes grand and hasty life decisions and then becomes overwhelmed at the consequence of her haste. Well, I can be that person, but I certainly don’t want to be her.

Nostalgia will make me want to backspace on my life. It will make me seek the comfort of my memories, the remnants of suns that have already set. I can’t play that risky game. I can’t be looking forward with one eye on who I used to be, what could have been, the life I’ve pieced back together while waxing romantic about days that have been reimagined to be what I want them to represent.

LA is a moment in time and I want those memories—the unedited footage of them—to exist on that past timeline. I’m in Seattle and it doesn’t matter what city I’m in. It’s the chapter marker. It’s the new start. It’s all about that brave, new start. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a long journey toward committing to a place, to setting down roots. Or, perhaps this will be a transient time, a brief stopover on the way to elsewhere. It’s hard to tell. All I know is that what I have right now is the moment (and pizza, I have pizza getting cold as I type!) and I can’t let the bluesy, emotionality of nostalgia snatch me from the life I have now, the moment right before me. As tempting as it is to be lured back into the romanticized version of my past, I must move forward. I must proceed. I must take that next step, whatever it may be. And, I must see this moment exactly as it is, untainted by the edited version of whatever I believe about who I used to be. It’s time now. Onward. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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