August's theme, Looking Back, covers all kinds of different viewpoints on nostalgia.
I have a problem with nostalgia.
Not in the sense that I don’t think it’s of any use or total nonsense—quite the opposite. I find I’m often too nostalgic. I fall into a trap. I lean too heavily on who I used to be to inform who I am today.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at my mom’s house, which happens to be a cathedral to nostalgia. I grew up in it. And the old single-story in east Denver is full of ephemera, Beanie Babies, crap. And, as a son—an only child, mind you—does, I was helping clean up some of my ancient belongings, dust and all. I stumbled upon a box of decaying papers from my college days. It was mostly from my freshman and sophomore years: orientation papers, plane ticket stubs, official Boston College pamphlets on connecting your computer to the internet (we didn’t have WiFi) and the like. Well, I lost it.
I didn’t cry (that happens) or have a panic attack (that happens, too). This was a different sensation altogether. Every fiber of my being wanted to be magically transported back to 2001. Why? Probably because being an adult in 2021 isn’t all that great. And I really enjoyed my college experience, especially when I look back with rose-tinted glasses and forget the breakups, bad drug trips and depressions.
When I figured that traveling back in time might not happen, I began to pore over how much my parents cared about me to send me so far away to that school at such great cost, how hard it was for them to say goodbye and so on and so forth. It was a lot.
When I finally snapped out of it a few hours later, I started thinking about the Tibetan Buddhism class I had taken at that very school. One of the religion’s primary tenets is an attempt to place oneself as much as possible—ideally wholly—in the now. To oversimplify things: Forget the past, it’s over. And the future? You don’t have much control over that. Take a few deep breaths and try to plant your feet firmly in the present moment as much as possible. I’m not sure if there’s any better advice to be found in this whole weird world.
And while clearly such a mental state is extremely difficult for me to achieve, I still give it a go every day. And yet! I still wholeheartedly believe there’s a place in life for the past. (Obviously.) There are lessons to be learned, fond memories that’ll make you smile on a shitty day and, yes, some pretty awesome throwback jackets to prove that you’ve been a fan of your local sports team for an unimaginably long time.
So, this month, we take a look back—we’re even calling the theme Looking Back—with all kinds of different viewpoints. Because, hey, c’mon: Those Buddhist monks are on another level. Sometimes it just feels good—or feels like something else entirely—to rummage through a box of memories.
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