Today's journal prompt is to reflect on the period of my life for which I have the greatest nostalgia, and then distil what I find nostalgic about that period into actionable things for me to implement in my life at the moment. This is quite a tough one for me since, as a general rule, I try to ensure that I'm happy as I progress through life; I feel that if I'm ever unhappy and pining for a past state of being, then I'm doing something wrong in the present. This generally prompts a series of reflections to identify an area I'm unhappy in, and implement changes to get it to work. For the sake of the post, however, I'll pick a random period and run with it.
Most people I've spoken to about when they were happiest are happiest about High School. Certainly this is the case for my partner, B. I'm not sure why really, as I became steadily happier when I left School, 6th form, and my family home behind in order to pursue my degree. My High School years were a very mixed bag, and I certainly don't like the person I was when I was back there. Same goes for my first year as an undergraduate. Whilst I am nostalgic for the sense of freedom, and relative lack of responsibility, and a few of the romantic entanglements I found myself in; I lead a much more fulfilling life now. I suppose if I absolutely had to pick a period of my life to be nostalgic about, it'd be the second year of Uni.
The second year of Uni was the year that I began strength training, although I started it with Powerlifting. It was the year that I had my ego broken down and rebuilt through training, as well as meeting V. It was the year I discovered both Feminism and Socialism. I was also doing very well at Uni, and making a name for myself with the staff there doing extra jobs here and there. If I was to distil this, I'd say that what made me happy about this time period was primarily excitement, anticipation, and playfulness at my newfound sense of discipline and purpose with strength training - learning for the first time that I can actually shape myself mentally, emotionally, and physically, into the human being that I want to be. At the same time that this training made me receptive to this sort of thing, I became involved with V which changed my life in a lot of positive ways and gave me a sense of being loved and feeling valued as a romantic partner. These two aspects of my life -- growth and nurturing, combined with my part time work at Domino's and my studies at Uni gave my life an all-round feeling of actually being a life as opposed to being just something I did.
Some parts of that are difficult to recapture and be actionable. Namely my romantic situation. I'm in a position of a sorts where my role has been reversed, and I currently try to make somebody else feel valued on a daily basis; using the strength that V once helped build in me. I'm not trying to say I'm shouldering a burden, or that my romantic relationship is in dire need of reconfiguration, or that I'm ultimately unhappy. I flit between states of unhappiness and periods of contentment with my partner. What I'm saying is that it's frustrating giving a lot, and not receiving what you need to nurture yourself in return. V must've been so patient. On the other hand, I have maintained my strength training to this day, albeit in a more calisthenics-y form. It still fills me with joy, it still prompts a reflective period. Progression occurs at just the right pace in order to keep me excited at it, whenever I pull off a hard set or add a rep. Forever thankful for it. Love it.
My work life balance is also something I feel quite happy about at the minute. There was a period last summer where I wasn't very happy with anything. And I was trying to reflect on what it was that was making me so unhappy. I started implementing little patches here and there, and experienced a shift in attitude for some things, and I've ultimately arrived at quite a happy place. I'll give you some examples:
I think the point I'm trying to make in this post is that nostalgia is a useful tool, and I've kinda been using it for 6 months prior to this post in order to prompt growth. This post has been useful, especially compared to the doom and gloom of a few of the previous posts. All in all, I'm happy; and I'm on the up. Road of Trials come at me, my foundation is solid at the moment.
Content alert. This started as a rant, and not a particularly thought out one. I think there's a perceivable shift in tone when I realise that my frustration may be rooted (at least partially) in privilege. I hope it's ok, now. It needs work.
I'm seriously sick of nostalgia. Yeah, I get it, nostalgia is cute and warm and it reminds you of when you were a child. It's kinda about that that I want to rant about. Nostalgia is why reboots and sequels to 80s and 90s franchises make bajillion moneys at the box office, and as a result of this Hollywood producers see them as safe bets and, after a few more years of this; we'll have an entire generation of producers who've never seen an original idea. Yes there are exceptions, but the trend is there.
Nostalgia is the basis for the entire fucking raison d'être of the Conservative movement. Look at this shit:
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. By some definitions, Conservatives have variously sought to preserve institutions including religion, monarchy, parliamentary government, property rights and the social hierarchy, emphasizing stability and continuity, while the more extreme elements called reactionaries oppose Modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".
Look at that crockpot of bodily humour. Traditional social conditions. Fucking nostalgia. Right there, fucking everything up. EU Referendum? Nostalgia for the 'good old days' of the British Empire, imperial measurements, and polio. Fuck it.
On an individual level, my generation has coined the term adulting to define their surprise at being able to function at a basic level in society. Yes, I get it; society sucks atm. Really, and I feel genuinely bad for people who feel uncomfortable in their adulthood, who've been failed by the systems in place that should provide them with that security as a member of society. My partner is obsessed with growing older, and how it's terrible. Part of that is the Capitalist-Patriarchy telling (and selling) her that she as a woman has an expiration date on her value. Part of it is a nostalgia for being a 12 year old cuddled up with cartoons (I know because I've asked why she's always hating being an adult). I honestly don't get it. When I inquired further, both her and her sister said that they hate the stress of being an adult and fending for themselves. The diehard socialist in me agrees that yes; you shouldn't have to worry about that, as we should all be chipping in to institutions that worry for us. I get it.
I'm quite privileged. I don't have to worry about a large number of social conditions faced by various intersections of the population. I try my best to be an ally in training, but I stumble at times. What I'm trying to say is that growing up, and out of childhood is not a bad thing. And I'm sorry for anyone who's had their adulthood suck for various reasons.
I was going to write this next paragraph as a "you". Then I realised I have absolutely no right to dictate the experiences of others. For me, this is my answer to those who ask why I'm rarely nostalgic for the past; why I'm never trying to recapture my childhood.
I've never been so stressed, but I've never had so many important things to keep me occupied. I've never been so worried about money, but I've never had money of my own to do things with. I've never been so concerned about eating right and exercising, but I've never before taken pride in the body that I inhabit and been so aware of the effects of what I do with it. I've never stressed out about living with a mucky flatmate, but until then I'd never operated entirely by myself. I've never worried about what I'm going to do after my PhD, but I've never before had qualifications to my name that can let me make choices. I've never before worried about finding time for my hobbies, but I've never had so many interesting things that I want to do! I've never had my heart broken before, but I'd never loved another human being so deeply before. I've never had to explicitly make time to catch up with friends, but I never had such a diverse cast of friends all around the world before.
I've never been so exhausted all the time, but I've never been so driven. That's why I'm not nostalgic for the past.
I wrote this a little while back in 2013, when I desperately wanted to eat some peanut butter out of the jar but there was none in the house. I posted my lament on social media and claimed that tragic poems had been written about less. Someone challenged me to write this, and about an hour later this poem was written.
This was dedicated to an old friend, Amy Henwood (and to all of those without peanut butter tonight)
My cupboard stands now filled to brim,
yet I care not for what lies within.
Not jams or curds or the sweetest tea,
can ever aspire to satisfy me.
Pasta, rice - I have them in spades,
yet only memories of the scent of thee pervades
my cupboard, now a barren womb in which an empty jar
entombs my long lost love; mere dregs of spoils.
And now my blood begins to boil.
I remember days long past,
when they made jars that were built to last.
I’d spread you, love you, nibble and bite.
as you filled my days with light.
In morning or eve or as dusk fell,
you’d always have me under spell
of desire to reach to take you down and allow me to once more
drown in tears of joy at your sweet embrace.
Now bitter anguish streaks my face.
Rest now my prince, my fire and muse,
one who I never thought to lose.
I’ll move on but there’ll never be another -
you’ll always be my peanut butter.