Here’s Why We Need To Stop Glorifying Nostalgia

I think we as humans are always trying to escape whatever situation that’s currently happening to us. We usually accomplish this by reminiscing on how much better the past was or by talking about some mystical version of us in the future that has nothing to worry about and has figured all their shit out. The most obvious version of this escapism is the whole trend of wanting to live in a different decade, which is accurately summarized by the simple sentence, “Things were just soooooo much better in the fifties!” (or any other random time period). Why is this such a common phrase? And why are there so many people that actively lament the time period they’re growing up in? Is the present that fucking bad?

Of course, things aren’t that bad. There’s plenty of things to be excited about and plenty of things to get you to wake up every morning. Having access to the internet beats the fuck out of going to sockhops or disco parties, but nothing can ever compare to the simple feeling we call “nostalgia”. The brain has this crazy attribute to totally disregard negative emotion in our memories. That doesn’t mean that you don’t still remember pissing your pants in the back of Josh Carpenter’s mom’s SUV in seventh grade, but it does mean that you’re 100 times more likely to remember how you felt listening to whatever song that was on the radio 10 minutes before you pissed yourself than you are to remember the feeling of immense shame as Mrs. Carpenter handed you a fresh pair of underpants.

Now imagine if your life was never bad. You had no traumatic memories and everything was exactly as you fancied. That’s what reminiscing over a point in history you weren’t even alive in feels like. Personally, when I think of the ‘90s, I think about the whole VHS aesthetic. I think of Nirvana, and Weezer, I think of early streetwear, I think of Michael Jordan winning six NBA titles. I certainly don’t think about shitty dial-up internet or ugly JNCO jeans. I just pick and choose everything I like.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this sort of escapism, but I think it leads to unhealthy expectations. Your life can never be an episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S., and you’re never gonna be able to cut class and listen to Pavement on the radio with your friends while you guys smoke crappy weed, but what you can do is make sure that you’re doing cool shit that makes you happy right now.

So go out there, have some fun, make some friends, live your life for the present, and disregard all the trivial bullshit you want to worry about. Sure, you’ll feel bad every once and a while, but actually forming new memories is way better than relying on a distorted view of times already passed to make you happy.

Tyler Ridge is a young writer based out of Atlanta.

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