“Nostalgia is always described as bittersweet.
But somehow it’s always portrayed as more sweet than bitter.
I wonder why that is.
Is that us humans, simply trying to romanticize what could actually be memories that make us want to sob into a pillow?
Why is it always “ a beautiful trip down memory lane”? Sometimes a trip down memory lane can remind you of all those painful instances you’ve been struggling to repress.
Maybe we focus on the positive out of compulsion. Maybe we only allow ourselves to delve into the moments we were at our happiest and most content.
Call it a way to cope with our choices or a selective reflection of olden times. We’re all guilty of this cautious selection process.
We convince ourselves that it’s an automatic choice- our brain is reflecting on our fondest times. But maybe we’ve programmed our brain into handpicking an array of blissfully happy memories customized to occasions so that we never have to confront the brutal, ugly ones that still reside in the dark crevices of our minds.
Freud believed we used repression freely as a combative tool, and despite what his ideas are considered today, I can’t help but think that we wield repression like a sword, a knight’s trusty armour as he rides into battle. We make use of it frequently and unabashedly, whether it’s omitting a fight that happened on that camping trip years ago while having those ‘remember when’ conversations with your friends, or forgetting how many times that person you hold so dear has hurt you.”
“But. It could also be a sign of growth. A sign of maturity.
When we’re struck with nostalgia, if our thoughts are filled with those of wonderful occasions that fill us with warmth and leave us with a small, wistful smile on our faces, maybe we’re doing something right.
Maybe we've grown enough to train that aforementioned wily mechanism in our brains to handpick those good memories, because we are no longer petty enough to hold onto the small disagreements.
Maybe we’ve realized that thinking about those brilliant moments will make us feel a pang of longing, yes, but also serve as a reminder of the fact that we’ve lived. Made memories worth reflecting upon and worthy of making us beam and laugh and chuckle.
And maybe, that's all that matters at the end of the day.
Because I bet there isn’t a person on this planet who hasn’t had at least one memory they clutch on to dearly, turn back to when they’re desperately grasping at straws, attempt to ignore when they’re filled with rage at the sheer unfairness of this world.
And that memory, that one memory- is enough to know that no matter how cynical we paint ourselves out to be, how caustic and sneering and resigned, we all still cling onto shreds of hope and humanity.
And that- that is the indomitable spirit of humans.”
So, I tried to question the age-old positive connotation of nostalgia - and I’m glad to say I utterly failed.
(Maybe it’s time for me to accept that acting like a snarky bitch won’t make me the quirky main character in a coming-of-age movie.
But. It might make me the smart best friend. And that’s everyone’s favourite anyway. Oops. looks like you’ll have to deal with this unending angst for a while more.)
I stop typing, stretch my arms out and yawn.
“That was quite a debate today” I say, swiveling around in my chair. “Sorry to say, you’re losing your touch, Angel”, I grin.
The white figure perching on my shoulder scowls a fierce scowl God most definitely wouldn’t approve of.
“ I told you ages ago, no one can be more convincing than me” the red figure smiles mischievously.
“No one ever-” the Angel responds, and the two keep bickering incessantly.
I smirk and turn back around, beginning to type again. What pure topic should I attempt to completely undermine next? Nostalgia began the journey of venturing into ‘grey areas’. This should be fun.
Really, this was taking ‘Playing the Devil’s Advocate’ to a whole other level.
Author: Ananya Chaure
Editor: Sai Reddy