Nostalgia is really only about one thing: youth – specifically your youth. Youth was a time when anything was possible and you believed that you could achieve whatever you imagined. You had your youth and health enabling you to fully explore and everything everywhere, your coming of age. Everything was new and exciting. Additionally everyone else around you was young, even your parents although you thought they were ‘old’ from a youngster’s perspective. Yet as you look back they were quite young and perhaps younger than you are now. Even your relatives – aunts, uncles and grandparents – who you thought were ancient are now considered youthful in retrospect – certainly in spirit.
That’s why despite the dystopian 1970s many who came of age during that era look back at it fondly in an extremely narrow way by cherry-picking with the focus on the art, culture, fashion, music while conveniently forgetting or ignoring the rampant drug use, violent crime, filth and decay of neighborhoods. The memories focus almost laser-like on those cultural and familial bubbles, a period when the middle class was economically comfortable and recessions didn’t destroy industries, not the white collar ones at least.
For those of that generation the world was simple – a world without the internet that oddly enough forced earlier generations to use their imagination and go outdoors, run around and get real exercise instead of in an airless gym. In those days everyone was slim except for the one fat kid who was fat only because of genetics. But he was running around too. In the 21st century it’s the reverse with the one skinny kid as the odd man out raising questions whether he’s the target of familial neglect and abuse.
When you left the apartment all you needed was your house keys and wallet. No one carried around a designer backpack filled with electronics, water bottles, gym clothes and other gear reserved in the past for serious multiday hiking. The gym was the street. The change in your pocket was for making calls from a street phone which meant that commitments were serious affairs so that when someone didn’t show up when they said they would there was genuine concern. Personal relationships were exclusively face-to-face as because long phone calls were expensive.
Mobile phones and the internet are not evil. They are modern tools with attributes which the human element corrupts to deliberately stay connected while at the same time keeping an arm’s length barrier. This method results in personal detachment and loneliness.
Nostalgia is all about you – quite self-serving in convincing yourself that the world was a better place years ago, but only for you and your generation. It’s not a bad thing. In fact it’s a source of psychological comfort, a temporary return “home” as long you apply yourself to recreate those experiences and happiness in the present going forward. Returning to an old hobby or lifestyle – certainly different nowadays but the recapturing of that experience is what matters most – happy to be happy. Used properly it’s a psychological placebo. Used improperly it’s a toxic brew that imprisons your mind in a past that no longer exists.
When you look back the danger is to be careful for what you wish for because we tend to create false memories. Things change and so must we. It’s all a matter of perspective.