Whenever I deep clean my room, I always have to account for time spent reminiscing as I find sentimental items. I get overwhelmed with the bittersweet yearning of nostalgia that comes from recalling fond memories. It is a good feeling.
But I hate nostalgia because it is a lie. And not just a lie — a dangerous lie.
Nostalgia says the past was better. Everyone has a different past, and I will not deny anyone who says they are in a worse situation now than they were before. But there is definitely a tendency to rose-tint the past, especially childhood.
It must seem like I feel this way because I had a bad childhood, but that is not true. I had a satisfactory childhood. I had good parents, did well in classes, had a decent social life and was never below middle class.
My childhood was not bad.
Childhood, in general, is bad, or at least not as cheery as nostalgia would lead you to believe. So many people want to go back to being a kid because adulthood has so many responsibilities and hardships. While there are usually significantly fewer responsibilities in childhood, that does not mean that there is any shortage of hardships.
Not having any responsibilities has the tradeoff of also not having any choices, any freedom. Children have to eat what they are told to, sleep when they are told to and go where they are told to. They are constantly being told what they can not do and have little to no understanding of why.
People also rose-tint the media, especially the television shows, they watched as a child. There is just no convincing some people that maybe their memories are discolored.
The media you grew up with creates the standards you use to judge future media. Children’s television has not become particularly worse or better. Shows are simply judged by different criteria than how they were judged when you were growing up.
Kids love today's shows just as much as we loved shows like “Rugrats” or “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” And when they grow up, they will complain about how kid’s TV is not as good as when they were growing up.
Evoking nostalgia is an excellent way to get people to stop thinking critically about any specific product or belief. The most obvious example of this weaponized nostalgia is the slogan that won Trump the 2016 election, “Make America Great Again.”
But weaponized nostalgia can be seen everywhere, especially in Hollywood. I remember seeing the trailer for “Christopher Robin” and thinking that they were piling on the nostalgia hard. But even as I thought that, I could feel it working on me.
There’s a reason nostalgia is so alluring. It is comfortable. The present is inescapable and unpredictable, but the past is always the same. It is often the only constant in our lives.
Sometimes, the comfort of the past is all we have because the present is terrible, and the future looks hopeless. I have been there. When things go bad in my life and there is nothing I can do, I tend to reread the Harry Potter series.
But when giving into nostalgia, it is important to do a reality check. Even though the past is constant, memories are not.
According to Psychology Today, there has been a concerning amount of research showing just how fallible our memories are.
The past is the past. It cannot be changed and the comfort it provides is fleeting. When we romanticize the past, we close ourselves off from the opportunities of the present.
It is important to remember the past, but it is also important to remember that there is no way to move forward by going back.