Nostalgia: Why It’s Important To Leave The Past Behind
“Never forget where you came from, but don’t ignore where you’re going.”
Over the weekend my town felt the wrath of mother nature in the form of flash flooding. In my 30 years of life I don’t remember ever having such extreme and constant rain. Which means I was ill prepared for the cleanup following the flooding of my basement.
During the tropical storm like conditions outside, I heard the sound of pouring water coming from my basement. I rushed down to see the basement flooding badly from the windows. I immediately jumped in and started shoveling water (with a snow shovel) into my garage and outside. But the water just kept coming. It was like those old cartoons where there’s a hole in a rowboat and the characters are desperately trying to scoop the water out so they don’t sink.
After nearly three hours of frantic scooping and draining of shin-high water, the rain finally stopped long enough for me to get the water to a manageable level. Of course, it ended up raining later that night which led to another session of water evacuation. But eventually the clouds parted and daylight came through.
I spent the following day sorting through the mess in my basement: drenched rugs, soggy laundry, globs of mud, and boxes of sentimental items. It was the boxes I was most concerned with. They contained books and various items from my childhood. Things I never looked at anymore but kept regardless. Why I kept them for so long is hard to say. Maybe I felt as if by getting rid of them, I’d be getting rid of a part of me—tossing out memories of better, more innocent times in my life.
I know it doesn’t work like that. They were just boxes of junk. The memories will always be with me whether I have that stuff or not. But looking at those soaked, ruined books and mildew encrusted boxes—it was like looking at an end of an era. It was a visual reminder that my youth was now behind me. And that’s when a sense of finality really hit me. I would never see this stuff again.
It’s hard letting go of the things we’ve carried around so long. Whether it’s the way we feel about ourselves, the people in our lives, or our memories, we are never fully prepared when it’s time to say goodbye—when we must let go and shift into a new, unfamiliar part of our lives. Change is hard, but letting go of the past doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s necessary. Here are some reasons why that is.
We Move On To Experience New And Better Things
Sure, letting go of the past is hard—scary, even. But it’s a necessary step if we want to grow and mature. For instance, losing someone you really love and care about can feel like the end of the world. The grief can and will eat at you—dragging you into a world of darkness. But you must crawl out of that darkness or you’ll live the rest of your life blind to the possibilities and beauty this world has to offer.
If you focus on loss, or traumatic events, or the simple nostalgia of your youth, you miss out on the life ahead of you. You close yourself off from creating new experiences and really living. In essence, you’re living in the past—something you’ll never get back—and missing out on the present and future. This isn’t how life is meant to be lived. You should enjoy your short time on this Earth and aim to create new, wonderful memories every chance you get.
We Learn From The Past To Better Our Future
Sorting through my pile of ruined books—most of them from my childhood and teenage years—I was able to remember where I started from. I found the first book I ever bought with my own money in elementary school, (Gooflumps: Eat Cheese and Barf by R.U. Slime) and remembered how after reading that silly story I decided to write my own version. It was one of my real first inspirations for wanting to tell stories. And there I was about to throw it away forever.
Flipping through its crusty pages, the book looked like someone experienced its title all over the cover. So I didn’t have much choice in throwing it away. But instead of feeling sad or angry about tossing out this once cherished part of my childhood, I just felt happy. I felt happy that I got to experience the memories of looking through its pages one last time. I got to remember what I felt as a kid when I first read it. But most importantly, I got a reminder that I’m still doing what I fell in love with all those years ago; reading and writing.
It’s important to stop every once in a while and just take stock of where you are in this world. Think back on your life and see how far you’ve come. Are you where you thought you’d be at this stage in life? Can you change things to live the life you dreamt of way back when?
Nostalgia isn’t just about remembering happier times or reliving your youth; it’s about taking a step back to reflect on what has made you the person you are today. It’s about acknowledging your past and the things you’ve learned to create a better future. You learn from your mistakes, failures, and successes. These things shape who you are and where you’ll go. Never forget where you came from, but don’t ignore where you’re going.