March 20, 2014

On Nostalgia

I find myself occasionally nostalgic for my past — for those days in college when I could dance and drink without care, for Sunday nights in New York with friends who also had Monday off from work — but mostly I find myself looking toward the future.

I do feel some kind of aspiration to days gone by — whether it's flapper couture surrounded by an Art Deco aesthetic, or 1950s pinup culture of slinky dresses and hot rod curves, or the mod generation between wars, full of jet age notions and space age dreams — but, having been born in 1975, I can't exactly be nostalgic for them if I never actually lived through them.

My father always said that if he could pick any point in his life to return to, he would go back to being five years old – when life was simple and responsibilities were few — but I've always thought I would never go back to any pre-existing time in my life.

Then I hear a song or watch a movie that takes me back to my childhood, and I remember how hopeful I used to be, and I wish I could still be that way now.

Children feel feelings so deeply, it's amazing. They sing along to love songs as though they've experienced the heartbreak themselves, to an extent somewhere beyond empathy, with an insight far beyond their years. As a child, I would project myself into the future, imagining what all of these emotions would be like, always assuring myself that whatever heartbreak I may encounter, it would be better than the glass menagerie of imagined experiences that I'd been forced into was.

But now that I've experienced both, I don't know which is better, and which is worse.

My heart has broken at every stage of my life. Sometimes by song. Sometimes by fictional characters. Eventually by actual humans.

I always hoped I would transcend the heartbreak, and that something brighter would be waiting for me on the other side.

I was mistaken.

And that breaks my heart.

So when I hear a song that reminds me of those prehistoric notions — "I'm your knight in shining armor, and I love you" — with my post-apocalyptic awareness of how life really works, I burst into tears. Whether or not I like the song. Whether or not it's a good song. Whether or not it means anything or relates to anything. I remember how I felt when I first heard it, when I heard it over and over again back in those days.

I am that little girl once again, but I am not her. I am the old lady future version of her. She is gone forever, and her hope is gone forever. She has been proven wrong time and time again, and she finally  believes the truth, and not her own hope.

It brings me to tears while the song is playing.

But the song is only a couple of minutes long.

And like everything else, it ends soon enough.

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