In life there come times and places for change and transformation to occur, often cyclically. My life so far has been a whirlwind of such cycles of change, and as I find myself facing an upcoming journey, I have been preparing for yet another move, per usual to an eventual destination unknown. I believe plans to be overrated. Personally I find the more I try to force a happening as a piece of an idea my brain has decided should happen, the more it doesn’t feel like a fit. I much prefer to set clear intentions for how I want to live my life, and then allow the universe to present the opportunities to me in the right moments.
Last week as I cleared a bookshelf in the hopes of removing it and all the books I had hoped I would read, I came across old journals, which I began flipping through out of curiosity for what I might find.
I landed on pages from a few years ago, when I spent my days at my possible height of whimsical creativity, writing fairy tales every day and scribbling messy maps of each story beforehand outside the lines of my notebook, in my style, which is mostly indecipherable to nearly everyone else. My mind immediately traveled back to that point in time—how alive and free I felt, how bright-eyed and full of hope.
There’s this funny thing about nostalgia. It never exists in the present. Except for the present form of premature nostalgia I am currently experiencing, on the brinks of leaving this city I have grown to love and dislike in the same exact breath. My mind has already transported itself to a future state, one in which my present is past. I watch through the futuristic lenses I have taken to wearing, absorbing bits and pieces of a landscape I know I will feel nostalgic for down the road. The anticipation of nostalgia is enough to drive anyone wistfully crazy.
I love walking through my neighborhood in the sunny evenings, meeting new puppies with crystal blue eyes and watching children riding on the backs of tandem bicycles with orange tutus flying in the wind. I love climbing the hill that I can see from my window, watching as it turns different shades depending on the time of year. Green to brown to red to gold to brownish-green again.
I love the cafés, farmers markets, healing avenues, friends, teachers, and community I have found here. I feel as though I’m already watching my life in this place through a microscope of reminiscent remorse—remember when? And that one time, how we (fill in the blank)? Living in the space where beauty and growth and so-much-else happened?
The funny thing about nostalgia is she firmly resolves not to give the slightest bit of notice to anything less than the level of goodness she wants to believe. Her rose-colored lenses block out the heartbreak I was unknowingly experiencing, as well as a toxic learning experience I skipped right into, wearing a berry jacket with the hood up, emanating the innocence of Little Red Riding Hood in more ways than one during the peak of my fairy tale days years ago. Premature nostalgia is quick to forget about how I cried at least daily, for a year here. How within this city I found myself wishing, desperately, I could disappear.
I’m discovering nostalgia doesn’t only exist as past remembrance. It also happens in the present, particularly on the brinks of future change. It reminds us of why we may not truly want to change, because we kind of like our lives as-is for xyz reasons. Anticipated nostalgia keeps us resistant to both moving forward and truly embracing the moment we are in.
These prematurely nostalgic thoughts do not serve me. It’s like when we’re about to leave a job that we’ve complained about for years, but suddenly the boss doesn’t seem so bad and the perks appear to outweigh the cons.
Any kind of change is scary, particularly one that clears out all things from our lives—both what we love and what we don’t love so much. But we can take the aspects we love, such as the feeling of walking up the hill at sunset, or the discovery of lying in a luscious patch of green grass in the late-summer sun. We can hold these bits of time in a pocket in our hearts, to return to whenever our memories recall the feeling of it. And I believe we can do so without nostalgic remorse, but from a place of loving understanding that the exact state of being we recall, while beautiful, can be beautifully remembered in the present, rather than with longing to return to a time passed.
Because the point of life is to stay present to it. And through the melancholy of my nostalgia, both from a time long-gone and the anticipation of it, I lose the ability to be present, as well as to embrace my life in its current form.
Now that I recognize the premature nostalgia standing on my reluctant shoulders, I can turn my head and give her a light smile and a nod. She understands the meaning, and already knows it’s time to leave. She’s clouding my ability to fully enjoy my last few weeks here. The seeds she scatters do not allow me to step, fully, into this moment and the place of change happening.
And so, moment by moment, I can choose to be presently involved again, living free of nostalgia for the past or even the future-past present.