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:
- Buying a new PlayStation let me recapture the feelings of being 10 and 12 years old, playing video games of a weekend/evening. This is tempered with constraints that I put onto when I am allowed to play as my perception of time when playing becomes slightly skewed.
- Making things with my hands, no matter how bad I am at it. Instead of watching other people build cool stuff I’ve just started getting mucked in and de-alienating myself from the act of production.
- I read a lot, like I used to. I was unhappy wasting my evenings and portions of my weekends even though I was entertained. I thought back to when I was 14 and spent all weekend with my nose buried in a fantasy book; I gave it a shot and now I’m reading every night, morning, and all day Sunday. I’m very happy.
- Getting rid of clutter. Whilst I arguably owned more things as a child, due to toys being relatively plentiful (thanks Aunties!), each and everything I owned was used and served a purpose. Since December I’ve been engaged in a conscious effort to declutter my life and get rid of things that I don’t need or use. I’m a lot happier for it, and I’ve partially managed to recapture that feeling of living in a spacious room at Uni for the first time in a while. This is still an ongoing process, but I’m happier for the decluttering.
- Changed my diet and eating habits. I was trapped for a while in what I call “The Takeaway Spiral”. First, I adore takeaway food. Like, really. Whether it’s chemical or nostalgia I don’t care. The next step of the spiral is a period of stress removing some of the time that I take to cook things from my life. That leads to a takeaway, which leads to cravings, and also a lack of energy because holy hell is takeaway bad for you. That leads to a downward cycle of the same, until I finally break out. I have rearranged a few of my dietary practices to minimise the input of labour and maximise nutrition, whilst lowering costs and also producing meals I’ve historically loved to eat.
- I’ve set aside time for things I’ve always envision a “Perfect Marshall” would be doing such as writing.
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.