By Alisha Imtiaz, Associate Editor
“I miss you more than I remember you.” ~ Ocean Vuong.
Recently, the concept of romanticism has made its way through most aspects of our daily lives, and who could blame us? It’s so tempting to want to pretend things are better than they are, and most of the time, it’s harmless. Enforcing the habit of waking up earlier in the day sounds like a tremendous task at first, but the thought of the golden rays of the sun streaming through the window while you sit with a bowl of strawberries makes it more bearable. The thought of sitting down at the desk to update your class notes sounds daunting in the moment, but the idea of pretty highlighters, tabs, and paper makes you feel better about it. So really, it’s not an inherently bad thing, and to some extent, it only speaks of our desire to keep going even when things aren’t stellar.
Nostalgia is a form of romanticism too, except it’s of the past and our memories. Nothing was ever as good as I remember it to be, but that’s the cruel effect of time; the bad things fall away at some point and all that’s left are the things I want to remember. My memories are such core parts of myself that I can never really let them go. Every version of myself that I’ve been before has now given me something significant and that
is directly due to the experiences I’ve had, the places I’ve been to, and the people I’ve known. Is it so bad to remember them in a good light? Well, sometimes it is.
I think about my old school. All I remember are the brown classroom tables my friends and I used to sit around during the breaks and talk as the days blended into each other, year after year. Or the time we collectively decided to stay an extra hour after school just so we could continue rehearsing for our dance performance. Even the time we went on our school trip and at night collected in one of our rooms though it wasn’t allowed, just so we could spend the night together, talking and laughing. It’s cruel because this wasn’t all there was to it. My friends and I had harsh arguments around those same brown tables and rehearsals sometimes made us exhausted at the end of day, leaving us wanting nothing more than to be at home. That same trip ended in disaster in the morning when our whole grade argued with one another because of insignificant things that had occurred during the night. But that’s the thing about nostalgia: it gently, discreetly, pulls the curtain down over all of these parts until it feels like the good parts are all that matter about those times.
It’s cruel because it’s not fair to me. Bad things happened and it was harsh but that’s what helped me learn and change and be better. It is significant to who I am now and pretending that it never happened erases all of that and makes me want to go back to that time even when I know better.
“I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.” ~ Jane Austen.
The problem is time. Time doesn’t flow linearly and endings tend to come suddenly. There is nothing to prepare me for the last time things happen, and rest assured, there is a last time for everything. The problem is, I only realise it once it has already happened. There is probably a last time I hugged my old best friend or a last time I walked back from school, but I don’t know it then. These unprompted endings leave me without closure, and without closure, nostalgia steps in again until I’m miserable about the things I’ve lost because I never had enough time to understand them then.
And what do I do with the leftover knowledge I have of my old friends? I still know their birthdays and their sister’s favourite cakes, and this lingering knowledge is dangerous; it only fuels the nostalgia until all I remember are the times we stayed up talking late into the night learning those things about each other. I’m choosing to view these memories through this distorted lens so that I feel better about them gone, just like the way I view the daunting tasks I have to do.
It’s cruel and it’s a testament to the trickery of time. I’m learning to be cautious about nostalgia making me long for times during which I was actually miserable. I know I
deserve better. But the thought of still having something that has already passed is more tempting. Things pass as time does, but love stays, and if that doesn’t speak to the enduring nature of love, then what does?