Nostalgia


Well, it’s safe to say I haven’t blogged in so long that I honestly don’t even KNOW the last time I blogged or what it was even about.  Pretty sure it’s been long enough that I can confidently say this is my first blog post of 2020… Shameful compared to how I used to be but hey, that’s life with a three year old.  Anyway, since we are truly living in historic times right now I figured what better time to break out the old blog?

I don’t know about y’all but my anxiety has definitely taken a turn for the worse the past few months.  Initially I was actually scared of the virus, not so much of getting sick myself but of bringing it home to Rachel.  Additionally I was terrified that going to work was going to become the war zone it did in Italy & Spain (& to a certain extent in NYC too).  To be brutally honest I’ve never been so glad that I left hospital nursing after Rachel was born.  But if things do get really bad here it is possible I could be sent to the hospital to help.  However, I am grateful (for many reasons) that that scenario is continuing to become more & more unlikely.

Anyway, as time has passed & it’s become clear that this virus isn’t nearly as fatal across the board as initially feared, my anxiety has become more about being terrified of being indefinitely quarantined.  Plus I’ve been losing hours at work which means more days at home with a very spirited three year old.  In some ways I’ve loved this extra time with her.  But let me just tell you, when you can’t even take a three year old- one who LOVES the outdoors, by the way- to a playground, that is ROUGH.  Yes, we’ve taken lots of walks & played in the yard, but this kid misses going to the park.  She also misses going to the gym & playing in the kids’ room & even just going to WalMart & Aldi.  Probably more than anything she misses my parents.  I am so grateful for video chats because those have a been a lifesaver for us.  Even so, being on quarantine with a three year old is NOT easy.

Furthermore, as a Libertarian this whole situation has been incredibly challenging for me.  Obviously as a healthcare professional I want our decisions to be based on science.  But the more I’ve read & learned about this virus, the more I fear that many decisions are being made based out of fear & to achieve political goals.  Even though I know it’s probably “better to be safe than sorry,” there is a part of me that just cannot help but be very uncomfortable with the idea of this indefinite quarantine for all.  It seems like far too good of a way for certain groups to usher in socialist/communist policies as the “only solution.”  But that’s a whole other blog post for another day…

What I’m really trying to say today is that all of the craziness in the world right now has made me, perhaps for the first time in my life, truly nostalgic for what was ostensibly an easier time in my life.  For better or worse I have never been someone who spends too much time thinking about the past.  It’s just not something that appeals to me.  On the other hand I probably spend too MUCH time thinking about the future.  I’m well aware that I would be a much happier person if I could live “in the moment” a lot more.  But it’s just something I really struggle with & probably always will.  However, here lately I keep finding myself thinking back on college & missing it in a way that is honestly a little painful.  I guess one reason I’ve never dwelt on the past very much is I’ve always felt that was a sign that you aren’t happy with your current situation.  And it’s always seemed really sad to me to constantly look back on the past & say “Oh, man, I wish I could go back.  Those were the best days of my life.”  I mean, how depressing is that?  If any time in the past was the best time of my life, then what do I have to look forward to?  You see what I mean?

Yet here lately I cannot help myself from having random memories from college cross my mind, things & people I haven’t thought about in ages.  I’ve also been listening to a lot of music from that time in my life, even some stuff I hadn’t listened to in years & had frankly forgotten about.  I think it’s probably just a sign of how difficult life is right now that I am naturally drawn to a time in my life that was simpler, or at least SEEMS simpler in retrospect.  Because, you see, that’s the thing: nostalgia is always looking at the past with rose-colored glasses, seeing things as easier than they really were at the time because comparatively speaking your current challenges seem so much harder than your past ones- & maybe there ARE.  But what we tend to forget is that just because something seems easy now doesn’t mean it was easy when we were facing it.

For example, I could easily look back on grade school & think “Man, I didn’t have a care in the world back then.”  But I know that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I was never a very happy go lucky child, truth be told.  The kids who made fun of me & all the fears I had about never being accepted at school were SO BIG to me at that time.  Those things might not have had great consequence on my life as a whole, but at the time they were MASSIVE.  So yeah, objectively the challenges I face as an adult, particularly as a parent of a toddler during a worldwide pandemic, are probably harder.  But wishing I could go back to childhood isn’t really a solution because the challenges I faced then felt just as overwhelming at that time- even if maybe they “shouldn’t” have.

I guess the beautiful thing about college (& the reason I find myself so nostalgic for it sometimes), especially the first two years before the chaos of nursing school set in, was that it was the first time in my life that I was truly free to explore the world on my own: any ideas, any music, basically anything I wanted.  That kind of freedom was something I’d been longing for my whole life.  And it was intoxicating, more intoxicating than any alcohol or drug could ever be– perhaps that’s why I’ve never been much of a drinker or had any interest in drugs.  Just having that freedom to explore the world- I don’t mean so much travel as just exploring ideas & ways of viewing the world- that was enough for me.  It was also the first time in my life I overcame my natural introverted tendencies enough to reach out & make new friends & build a true group of friends.  It was the first time I felt truly accepted by a group of people for being nothing more than myself.  It was the first time I didn’t feel like I had to underplay how smart I was or be fake in any way to try to fit in with a group.  And the truth of the matter is I’ve never been able to recreate that kind of friend group since college.  I am incredibly grateful for the few really close friends I have, one of which predates college, even high school, partly because I now realize how rare it is to find someone who you can stick close to despite the challenges & distance that adult life brings.  But I still miss that feeling of being part of a group.  Maybe that’s why I fell in love with Friends last year…

Anyway, all of this thinking about college of course makes me realize how “fake” it all was in some ways.  That wasn’t the real world.  It wasn’t a place I could stay forever.  Part of me can’t help but be sad about realizing that too.  Furthermore, the fact that I’ve lost touch with some of those friends- who at the time I thought I’d be friends with forever- is a bit heart-breaking at times.  I know it’s just real life, & logically I know it doesn’t diminish the connection we had at the time.  I guess what it all comes down to is something I’ve had to realize a lot over the past few months, particularly with reducing my hours at one job in favor of taking another one.  The truth is that just because something is great doesn’t mean it has to last forever & just because something doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean it wasn’t great while it lasted.  I keep coming back to this truth over & over again the past few months but I’m not entirely sure it’s getting easier to accept.  Maybe it is.  It’s something that I feel like is so simple, & yet it’s also so incredibly hard to accept.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe for some people it isn’t.  But for me it is.  Maybe it’s just the way I was raised.  Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m married to the first man I ever dated.  I don’t know.

I guess I’m just saying I miss the newness of everything in college.  I miss some of the (cautious) optimism I had about the world.  I’ll be the first to admit that almost a decade of nursing has made me a bit cynical, though to be honest I’m not sure that has as much to do with being a nurse as it does with just being an adult in general.  And I’ll admit that sometimes maybe I let that cynicism get the best of me.  Perhaps that is particularly true now that we’re facing a true worldwide crisis.

I guess I hate being nostalgic because it forces me to admit that I’m not totally happy with my current situation.  Or at least I’ve always assumed that’s what being nostalgic HAS to mean.  But maybe that isn’t true.  Maybe it’s ok to be nostalgic sometimes, especially during a time of crisis.  (Frankly at this point I’m just nostalgic for being able to take my kid to the grocery store!)  Perhaps it’s ok to look back on the past sometimes & miss it.  Maybe it doesn’t have to mean we aren’t happy where we are now.  Maybe it just means we were lucky enough to experience something good enough to miss.