The Highs and Lows of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a weird thing; it’s something I struggle to comprehend and define. It’s described by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “sentimental longing for or regretful memory of a period of the past, esp. one in an individual’s own lifetime.”

This sentimental longing is something that we can all relate to; but the beautiful thing about nostalgia is that we all long for different times, different memories, and different events. Nobody can time stamp how long ago we are allowed to feel a sense of nostalgia for. Technically ,if you want to feel nostalgic for a week ago, you can and you should. Heck, you can even feel nostalgic for a time you don’t remember, or maybe a time you weren’t even alive to experience.

Personally, I have sudden bursts of nostalgia. Whether I see a video of an old childhood TV programme I used to love and have since forgotten about, or perhaps I find an old PlayStation 2 game that I’d spent endless hours playing. But the number one thing for me that unlocks old memories is music. For me, this is down to the fact that, throughout my life, different types of music has represented different eras. I’ll hear a song and it will transport me back five, ten, or even fifteen years ago from the very first note.

This happened recently to me when I heard the first few chords of ‘The Only Exception’ by Paramore, my favourite song back in 2013. Picture 13-year-old Indigo, recently starting Year 9; she’s just managed to escape her scene aesthetic (it was a phase), she’s an angsty teen who’s still deeply in love with the world of pop punk and is planning her wedding to Brendon Urie. She is sitting on her bed, alongside her dog, Toto, and is reading a Cathy Cassidy book called ‘Indigo Blue’ and she believes this book is written about her. ‘The Only Exception’ is played on repeat. “I will learn these lyrics,” she says.

Eight years later, I hear the song for the first time in I’m not even sure how long. This time it’s different, this time I’m sat in the car driving back to university where I’m studying for my Masters. Toto is no longer with us. I don’t have the same passion for reading. I still want to marry Brendon Urie. I know the lyrics.

All of a sudden, I feel like I’m thirteen again, singing my heart out to Paramore, and crying, longing for a time where my biggest worry was not missing the school bus. I’m overcome with emotions at the thought of no longer being able to lie back with Toto next to me. This overwhelming sentimental longing was brought on by the opening lines of a song. I find myself so overwhelmed that I have to pull over and just let myself cry for a moment.

On a lighter note, one of the eras of my life that I am most nostalgic for was not long ago: this era being 2015-2017. One of the most enjoyable and stressful times of my life, Sixth Form. The reason I think I feel the most nostalgia for this time is because I spent hours, and I mean hours, in the common room listening to music and watching the videos on repeat on the tiny TV. This was something every Sixth Form student in my school had in common; we’d listen to the same songs on repeat day after day in our free lessons. We had all started to learn to drive, we had house parties every weekend, and more importantly we were surrounded by good friends, and in most cases, friends for life.

Now I’ll find myself listening to the radio and all of a sudden ‘Sorry’ by Justin Bieber starts playing, and that’s it – I’m back playing cards with my friends in the common room. I can picture my friend Beth imitating the dancers from the music video, my friend Emily is ranting about her Psychology lesson, Anna is calling shotgun, and everyone is preparing themselves for a trip to Tesco, Costa, or McDonald’s. I will never hear a song from this era and not smile. Sometimes I’ll even laugh to myself, leaving those who don’t understand very confused.

As stated previously, you can’t gate keep when somebody is allowed to feel a sense of nostalgia, but for me personally I feel like 2018 and 2019 is far too recent. Some of my fondest memories happened in these years, and I look back on them with such happiness, especially in comparison to 2020! But I’m content and looking forward to the fact that in a couple of years time I’ll be feeling nostalgic for these first years of university. That listening to the music or watching films from that time, and connecting it to the people I met, the nights out I went on and generally the memories I hold dear, will make me smile, or laugh, or cry, and feel nostalgic for it all.

Image courtesy of Eric Nopanen.

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