Journal writing can be an extremely introspective experience, especially if you read entries from many years ago and compare your past self to your present self. Photo albums, on the other hand, are usually more of a shear reminiscence experience, thinking to yourself what great memories seeing images of yesteryear evoke.
Both of these experiences keep me grounded in the present, but also give me hope for the future. I participate in both activities frequently as a way to reflect on who I was in the past, how that past has made me who I am in the present and how the past and present can make my future even better.
NOSTALGIA AS REFLECTION AND INTROSPECTION
When reading past journal entries, I am thankful that I am not as (insert derogatory adjective) as I was in the past. Some of those adjectives that have come to my mind lately are naive, awkward, fearful and inconsiderate – especially in my high school and college years when it came to my relationships with the opposite sex. In that era of my life, that is what approximately 75 percent of my journal talks about, which is actually one major regret. I wish I would have devoted more text describing familial relationships, current events, and my inner-philosophies of the time period. But alas, I cannot change that.
What I can change is who I am today and who I will be in the future. And lately, I’ve been realizing that my past self did a few things better than my current self does – showing love and concern for others through service, doing things for others without being asked. That is one thing I am constantly working on – finding out what others would need or want without being asked or prodded.
NOSTALGIA AS HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL EDUCATION
Besides reflection and introspection, lately nostalgia has served another purpose in my life – providing my daughters with a historical and cultural education. By this, I mean showing them movies and TV shows my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed when we were their age so they can enjoy amazing historic relics – pop culture of yesteryear.
For example, currently, my daughters’ favorite TV show to watch as a family is the late 80s and early 90s classic teen sitcom, Saved by the Bell. Who can forget the romance of Zach and Kelly as well as Slater and Jessie, plus the incredibly annoying yet funny antics of Screech, the definition of a geek, and Lisa, the sassy shop-a-holic? We’ve also shown them classics such as the Back to the Future trilogy, Short Circuit and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. They’ve loved them all. There is just something special about 80s movies!
As my wife and I watch these shows, it brings back our own memories of the time period when these movies came out, which turns into story time for our girls. They love hearing it. For instance, my wife shares about fashion from back in the day, saying things such as “I wore something like that,” especially when watching Saved by the Bell. When I told my daughters about my experience attending the original Back to the Future and how it captivated me then and still captivates me now, they were astounded – especially because it was 30 years ago!
NOSTALGIA AS SHARED EXPERIENCE
On the surface, the above heading might sound like an oxymoron, but it isn’t.
For example, while cleaning out the garage recently, my wife found some of my old G.I. Joe and Star Wars toys. Once uncovered, my oldest daughter’s first question to me was, “Daddy, did you play with these when you were our age?” I responded in the affirmative, and a little bit of awe followed. My six-year-old wasted no time in starting to play with them. She has also enjoyed playing with my old transformers (yes, the original ones from the 80s!), which makes me both happy and nervous (because they’re vintage, of course). The same thing happens when they play with some of the toys in my parents’ toy box – toys I played with when I was a wee lad. These toys are shared experience and help give my daughters a little glimpse of what my childhood was like.
There are several other pieces of nostalgia that have created shared, heartwarming experiences. One is when we lived in my grandma’s old house, which was my second home growing up. It was always kind of ironic to me during the time we lived there that a house in which I had so many memories growing up became my primary residence for a while. That made for many shared experiences – telling them what I did in the house when I was their age, but more importantly, it elicited stories of my dear grandmother, who is the namesake of my oldest daughter.
The nostalgic experience that has meant a lot to me lately is playing an Italian card game called Scopa with my oldest daughter. I taught that game to many of my college friends and even played it with my wife when we were dating. My daughter has really taken to it and requests to play it whenever possible. While we play, I can’t help but think to myself how fun it is to be playing a game with my daughter that has been such a part of me for so long.
ENJOY SOME NOSTALGIA TODAY!
If you’re not already giving yourself a regular dose of nostalgia, I challenge you to do so. Dig out those old journals, photo albums, VHS tapes and memorabilia to let it help you reminisce and reflect for a spell. And while you’re at it, share it with your kids. From my own experience, I can almost guarantee they’ll love it. The process of doing so will humanize you as a parent and make them realize that, in fact, you were once their age, too!
Let’s hope that in completing this challenge you will like your current self better than your past self!