Nostalgia
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Nostalgia

I still remember once when I was traveling – I think in Croatia – I struck up a conversation with a hostel worker. At the time I was freshly twenty-three years old and I remember her calling me ‘a baby’ after finding out my age.

It seemed like I would stay twenty-three forever.

Well, I turned thirty-four a few months ago.

And while, admittedly, I’ve picked up a few habits my twenty-three year old self would scoff at; like going to bed at 8:30PM (which is perhaps the peak of existence) and frequently discussing mortgage refinancing at gatherings (WHAT?? It’s a great time for it!), I have for the most part retained what I would consider a youthful mindset.

I’ve stay in good shape, we still travel quite a lot, I remain eager to learn and grow.

But what about excitement?

What about that sense of abandon that I used to operate with? The excitement of not quite knowing where my life was headed? Of adventures yet undiscovered?

I used to dream, constantly, about packing up and leaving my world behind. And I did it, twice. It was kind of my “go-to” move.

I had Tim Ferris-esque aspirations of living and working a certain way, of forging an amazing relationship, of creating a certain amount of wealth, of having a certain impact on the world.

There was so much undetermined. So much potential to fulfill. So much unknown.

And now?

Well. That’s the reason I initially sat down to write.

Because I rarely felt that kind of excitement.

So much of my life has begun to take a permanent shape. Some of my potential has been filled. There are far fewer unknowns.

It was giving me a bit of an identity crisis.

And so I sat down here to gripe about how I need more “excitement” in my life. More “adventure”. But as I began to write, I began to really think about the contrast between my young, “exciting” life and my current old, “boring” life – and something became very obvious.

I was consistently much more miserable in my “exciting” life.

It was a time a very high highs and very low lows. And what I began to realize is that, as it goes with reminiscing on old flames, I was only remembering the good times.

I remembered the freedom and the parties and the bars and the dates and the games and the waking up early to run to the Lincoln Memorial (in my brief Arlington days). And of course, the travel! Jenna and I planning our glorious trip around the world! What a time to exist!

So exciting!

And…it was! I’m smiling even thinking about those things. Those were absolutely wonderful moments in my life.

But as these moments of nostalgia arrive and threaten to make the present feel utterly dull by comparison, the only true antidote was a dose of reality. And in this case, that reality came in the form of old journal entries.

Old, angsty journal entries.

As I read through them as research for this article, it became clear very quickly that my younger years were often a tough time.

I was very much grasping for an identity. Trying to make it. Getting my ass kicked at every other turn. Just kind of chucking myself around the universe and seeing what I stuck to.

My exercise was woefully inconsistent and aimed at vanity rather than wellness (see Overdosing on Bananas). I drank a sickening amount of booze. In no way being the type of person I wanted to be.

But, despite this reality, one of my clearest memories from my mid-twenties is from early one morning, sitting at my desk in the loft at 3022 Dillon Street journaling in a Moleskine about my goals and aspirations. I remember the smell and feel of that room. Coffee by my side. The light streaming in the skylight, dust particles glowing as they danced through the air. It was magic. I loved that moment. I felt like I was king of my destiny – and what a destiny it was!

But guess how often I did that? The correct answer is D.) fucking never.

I couldn’t have kept a habit if my life depended on it in those days. More than likely I went right back to drinking heavily and hating my job within 48 hours. But I don’t remember that as clearly, do I?

I was only remembering the one morning out of a hundred where I decided to wake up early, make a coffee and sit down to plan my life out.

I’m not remembering the ninety-nine other mornings in between when I woke up hungover, anxious and utterly clueless about what I was doing with my life.

I think I forget that being young and having an “exciting” life was tough. It was extremely fun and extremely formative and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But it was also tough. Probably more than it was fun.

And do you know what that mode of thinking also misses? The fact that, for the past 5 years, I’ve played out that magical early morning of journaling and coffee almost every single day.

I’m doing it right now.

Except instead of my little room, I’m on a porch on a delightfully warm November morning. Sun still streaming in.

And I think right there may be the biggest potential loss of them all; by yearning for the past, I forgo the magic of the current moment. I’m not able to appreciate the wonderful life that I do have. Right this very moment.

I risk forgetting that many of the things I was writing down in my Moleskine have come to fruition. Love, travel, business, health, wealth, freedom, learning, family, friends. That the Chris Regan sitting in that chair on Dillon Street would probably have done anything for my life right now.

So what to do about it?

A healthier (and hopefully realistic) alternative might be to shift my nostalgia to appreciation. To smile when I think back on those moments and be glad they happened – but then leave it at that.

And if that proves troublesome, if the nostalgia tastes too sweet, I think clearly I need to go back and ready some old, angsty journal entries.

That should do the trick.

Because where the magic truly lies, is the moment I find myself in right now. And I can’t lose sight of that.

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