A Few Thoughts on Nostalgia

California etc 459

(Isn’t it great that we can title things “A Few Thoughts On…” and it gives us the excuse to totally abandon all but the barest bones of form and cohesion? I’m just so glad I live in 2013, you know?)

It’s nearing midnight here in the magical city of Bloomington, IN, and I have created a lopsided playlist of twangy-sad songs about loss and heroin addiction, and I’ve been feeling that vague and pervasive sense of unplaceable nostalgia that I believe haunts any person with the slightest religious and/or artistic inclinations who happens to live in the Internet age and/or happens to be Proust.

Then I made the mistake of looking at photos from my last visit to my Chicago home, which took place right before my parents moved halfway across the country and abandoned me to the wilds of the Midwest.

My parents aren’t even in the photos–much less my thousand and one crazed younger siblings who are all freakishly athletic, whatever, I can  touch my toes if I warm up for like 2 minutes–they’re mostly just photos of our neighborhood, bathed in this weird blue sunset light. It’s taken with my old camera (I have a new camera now) and I’m wearing my favorite summer shirt. And since when are sunsets blue?

Here’s the thing about nostalgia: I’m not necessarily longing to repeat the experience, or to see the people. I don’t even need to write about it because oh wait: I’ve written about this exact experience before. It’s just–it’s just–I was just wracked by the fact that it ever existed and now I am somewhere else. Do you see the difference? It’s not the desire to be there, it’s the little grief over the fragmentation of past and present selves. In a way, nostalgia is a deeply selfish emotion, but of course it will always be one of the most forgivable ones. For me, nostalgia is always going to be intertwined with love: I miss you because I love you, I love you because I miss you. You can feel nostalgia for things you have never experienced, and you can love intangible things, and you can miss people when they’re right next to you, and you can hold a million things in your heart.

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