Nostalgia, in Perspective

by allisoncoyle

In one of my previous posts, I discussed perception and how humans tend to view life from a “big picture” vantage point, as opposed to appreciating the various stages of life. You can view my post on perception if that particular narrative peaks your interest; right now, I’d like to discuss the roles various individuals play in our lives and where they fit into certain moments in time.

Nostalgia is an indelible, universal piece of the human structure, metaphysically speaking. Every human being is privy to romanticizing past eras of their life, generally because they shared happy memories with a handful of people (or one specific person). What we fail to recall is the sadness that accompanied those fleeting moments. It’s easy to envy my twenty year old self when I conveniently block out the persistent unhappiness and uncertainty that I felt at the time.

At eighteen, after severing ties with one of my best friends of five years, I felt a pang of doubt and guilt. Mind you, the decision was mutual. We both felt that we had outgrown one another and felt as though we were clashing more often than not. Still, it’s tough letting go of friends. She and I were each other’s counterpart in high school. We probably fought more often than most friends, but fighting to mend and repair a friendship creates a strong bond. We both wanted the friendship to last, but ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t realize until I was nineteen that her friendship served a great purpose in my life. I was overwhelmed with self-doubt and recurrent spells of depressing throughout high school, and she was always there for me. I’m a night-owl through and through, and my peak hours of socializing are between 3 and 4 in the morning. Though she typically went to bed around 9 p.m., she never, in the five years we spent together, ignored a late-night call. She would pick up the phone and in a gruff voice say, “Yoooo, dude, what’s up???” Haha. I would immediately realize the ridiculousness of my 3 a.m. call and apologize, telling her, “Sorry, I didn’t realize how late it was. I’ll call you tomorrow.” And she’d always refuse, pushing through the grogginess and staying on the phone with me until I felt better. What I’m getting at with this rant is that people serve a necessary purpose in our lives at all times, and we shouldn’t let our frustration or doubt cloud this fact. She and I needed one another in high school (I’m sure I needed her more than she needed me, in hindsight), and that’s okay.

Things don’t have to last forever to mean something or have worth.

Thus my final story, which was the initial motivation for writing this post…last year, I befriended a twenty-five year old writer at one of my internships, who left more of an impression upon me than I realized at the time. He’s a graduate of Brown University and is incredibly passionate about literature. Naturally, when he caught me reading, he would immediately spark up a conversation about said book. Our nerdy connection progressed into a mutual attraction, one which we knew we couldn’t pursue, as I was an intern, and he was technically my boss. I spent the next few months wondering if things could have been different, but I now see and appreciate the time spent together for what it was. I needed guidance and understanding, and he offered that. We spent many early mornings lionizing Henry David Thoreau over breakfast and The Wall Street Journal and discussed how we both dreamed of moving to Maine one day. He implored me to go back to school and finish my degree, insisting that I was missing out on a major life experience. Absurdly (but kindly) thinking that I was smart enough to get into an Ivy League school, he offered to send my writing to a friend of his at

Brown. I insisted that I wasn’t going to waste my time sitting in a classroom when I could continue my education in the world. Yes, I’m ranting. My point here is, there is no need for regret or uncertainty when you identify and appreciate the positive influence a person has had in your life. As I stated previously, I needed guidance and understanding, and he offered that.

People will enter and leave your life in a flash, and that’s okay. Appreciate the role they’ve played in your life, and try to be that positive influence for someone else. Don’t reminisce with doubt and sadness. Enjoy the time and happiness you’ve been dealt thus far, and remember that one day, you’ll look back longingly at THIS moment.