(v). A romantic word for time travel
Nostalgia is a bitch. Pardon my French but it is basically a time turner for the mind.
‘Nostalgia’ comes from the Greek words Nostos and Algos, literally meaning pain of homecoming. Nostalgia was originally associated with a medical condition of melancholy to describe the stress and anxiety amongst soldiers fighting in a foreign land who yearned for nothing more than home. Perhaps not as life threatening as those of the soldiers, moments of nostalgia have come to hit me now more than ever.
In a world where we are currently governed by a global pandemic and life in the future remains largely uncertain, the mind remains in solitude and solitary confinement leads to wandering thoughts. Thoughts of what life could be and, more prominently, thoughts of what life used to be.
Most of social media lately has been about weddings in the past that were such fun, where social distancing wasn’t even a concept. People long to get back to a time where meeting your friends wasn’t something that required due diligence. ‘Belly button shots’ are a thing of the past. They should never have been a thing, the belly button is home to millions of bacteria so consuming anything from it — even alcohol with its sterilisation capabilities — should never have been thought of. But belly shots take us back to parties and mingling, socialising, having conversations other than ‘so what about this pandemic then, eh?’ Not sure why my imaginary conversation sounds like a Canadian x Scottish hybrid. We dream about holidays that we used to take on long stretches of sandy beaches, leaving our cares behind in the sea. We dream about backyard barbecues, after parties, concerts, comedy gigs. We dream about the ‘good old days’.
Pandemic aside, nobody ever talks about the joys of the present. How life is good. It’s as if we save our present happiness to enjoy at a time in the future when we think about the past that’s just been. It’s always either ‘dreaming about the future’ or ‘remembering the good old days’. And what do we do with the present? We capture it in photos, videos and social media stories so we can look back at them and smile. We create experiences now to be happy in the future. We are slaves to nostalgic joy, saving memories for the future instead of staying happy in the present. We overwork ourselves in the present so we can enjoy the future. Then the future comes and we think back to the recent past, how we never truly enjoyed it, or even lived it. We miss the present and get nostalgic for the past that was once our present. If this isn’t a mindfuck, I don’t know what is.
And it doesn’t take much for us to be nostalgic. There is a type of coffee whose smell takes me back to a hotel lobby in Philadelphia. A black dress that takes me back to a queue outside a club in Birmingham, called ‘Gatecrasher’. The sound of the voice of the singer Natty that takes me back to the walk between Holborn and Southwark. The smell of the local bakery that takes me back to the mini pizzas from childhood, popular in the school kitchen and cinema snackbars, worth only 50 fils.
Nostalgia is the fastest and most efficient method of time travel for the mind known to mankind. And honestly it’s a bit of a bummer.