Nostalgia is ‘an ache to return home’; nostos meaning to return home, and algos is ache or pain.
No, for me, nostalgia is an open wound. It is a potent yet addictive emotion. One that we cannot help but pry open when it starts to itch and heal. It reminds you of emotions that are not there anymore, just thoughts of what you think should be, or miss, or desire.
Opening up nostalgia is like rubbing salt in the wound simply for that delicate after taste of relief. You’re addicted to let painful emotions wash over and consume you because basking in nostalgia is often better than reality.
My friend told me that on a recent trip home she had met up with her first boyfriend, despite her currently being in a loving relationship with her long-term boyfriend. She had met the first love at 17 and enjoyed a young love whirlwind romance for a couple of years. And now, she was confused. She didn’t understand how she could feel an ache when she saw him, but still love her boyfriend.
She asked me to tell her about my first love, about what I felt, whether I ever saw him again. It would explain a lot, I said. But no. I do not wish to prize open any old wounds. Nostalgia removes the bad parts of memory and holds recollection up on a pedestal. It doesn’t remember bruises on your heart or your legs or your mind. It savours only the good parts in a way that aches.
There is no need to dream of fond memories and what if’s. Nostalgia is not about coming home because home is right now in this moment. The memories we hold dearest through nostalgia are simply whispers in the wind rather than reality. Do not rip open wounds to bathe in nostalgia, no matter how addictive. The best thing you have is in front of you.