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I never knew nostalgia could be so tough

Adulthood is challenging in many ways. It takes energy and effort to stay on track of daily life, to coordinate and perform tasks that once seemed simple and easily accomplished. (I’m looking at you, dishes.) No one really tells you how to act when you’re put on hold while scheduling a dentist appointment, how taxing meal planning is, or how untrustworthy metabolisms seem to be, especially when you sit in front of a computer all day.

For me, though, one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in this transition to independence has been mostly unexpected. If I created a listicle with a “Hardest Parts of Adulting” headline, with things like paying bills, getting married, exercising daily, making doctor’s checkups, it wouldn’t be complete (okay, planning a wedding was pretty difficult, though there was a very clear light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-type motivation).

The most brutal part, for me, is nostalgia.

Nostalgia is not a victimless sensation, especially as we age. It used to be easy: we could peer back into our subconscious, pick out a fond memory, and walk it around the block with a smile. Now, more and more those memories come with a pang.

The dog in the memory? Long gone. Childhood home? Converted into a parking garage. Happy family vacation? A creeping sensation that you’ll most likely never take a vacation with your immediate family all together, ever again. The trajectory of dread increases with age, as the subjects within the memories whither, and relational dynamics change completely.

Perfectly Dark

This is a morbid thought. Yes, I’ll admit it. It might even be a symptom of a mild anxiety disorder and a slight resistance to change. Converting nostalgia—one of our Favorite Things—into a messy source of conflict? How dare I. This thought still carries validity, however, and a weight that can be hard to confront.

What’s the name of this blog again? That’s right, it’s Sunshine with Savannah.

I named chose that title for a reason. I chose it for many, actually: because I aim to be positive, because the sun recharges my batteries, because I want to make a radiant difference in people’s lives. And sometimes, that needs to happen without peppy, on-brand clichés and colorful platitudes.

Shared experiences are an effective and honest way to connect with others. Thus, your bleak and dark dose of relatable, seen-through-clouds sunshine.

It can hurt to look back at your life, and to feel a change of emotion in real time. You can be looking at an old photo one moment with a pleasant gleam, and then be overtaken by other, harsher realities—you’re not close with that person anymore, you haven’t seen that house in years, you might never do that activity again. These emotions and realizations are normal. I go through them too. Though they can at first be overwhelming, that urgency will not last.

And, by talking to someone (if not a friend or family member, perhaps a professional), you can confront those heavy feelings in a healthy way. Nostalgia shouldn’t be a difficult pressure, all the time. It doesn’t have to be.

It can be hard-hitting, but not often permanent. A perk, perhaps, of adulthood: it’s a constant cycle of “what’s next?”

Thanks for reading,

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24 thoughts on “I never knew nostalgia could be so tough

  1. My best friend died in 2004, less than two years after he was in my wedding. He was 31. There are times that I think about him, random times even, and it stops me short for a few minutes. But the thing I try to remember is that while I will curse the unfairness of life for the cancer that killed him, there is nothing that can take away what we did together, even in my anger for not being able to do more.

    I guess that’s the way I look at nostalgia.

    1. Wow, thank you so much for sharing. That kind of loss is really staggering, and I’m sorry you had to go through it. And I think you’re spot on—you just have to shift the narrative from an unfair or desolate one to one of permanance and privilege; those memories will never change or leave, and you’re lucky to have them. I agree, and I think that’s probably the healthiest way to approach nostalgia and all those floating memories. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Well said. Nostalgia can be both beautiful and painful. I know I look back on things less often now because I no longer see those happy memories. There are certainly still some good memories from back then, but not my eyes are pointed towards the future instead of the past.

    1. That is a very good idea. I think when I wrote this post a few months ago (and scheduled ahead), I was inspired by going through boxes of memories and photographs that my parents unloaded from their home. I typically don’t face this kind of scenario unless I’m confronted by nostalgia. I like that perspective, and enjoy the prospect of the future! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      1. This was very well put Savannah! Change is, as you’d say, hard-hitting and at times you never realise when that change happens and sticks and to understand it too. I love that you show so much self-awareness of everything going on with your nostalgia which can be both a blessing and curse. Once you have self-awareness I believe it’s the first step towards dealing with whatever’s in front of you.

        Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures
        https://johnnystraventures.com

      2. Thanks, Johnny! I think that self-awareness, like nostalgia, is much like you mentioned—sometimes a gift and sometimes a burden. Being blissfully unaware or unbothered seems like an easier path at times, but being aware is definitely the path to long-term success. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  3. This reminds me of how my counselor wanted me to ‘answer’ negative thoughts with a ‘more positive truth;’ yet, when I tried to walk through an example with her, was told I took the wrong approach (I mean, she said it nicely). I like how you put it: that we have these less-than happy things, but we don’t just ignore or aphorism them away.

    I suppose we acknowledge them but don’t wallow?

    I’m still working on it…

    1. That’s really interesting and it sounds like a difficult task of reframing. I think this balance of remembering without stressing will take a lot of work to implement, but I’m sure the end result will lead to a healthier dynamic. Best of luck to you and me both! 😉 Thanks for reading and for leaving such a thoughtful comment!

  4. This is a beautiful and touching post, thank you for sharing this sweetheart.
    Nostalgia is more painful me than anything but I think that may just be my outlook on things.

    – Nyxie

    1. Nostaliga is definitely different for everyone. I’m lucky to have many more positive experiences, both now and in the past, rather than trauma. I think there’s a huge difference in how the two of those are handled, and I definitely have a layer of privilege because of it. Thank you so much for reading and sharing.

  5. Nostalgia is rough – as you are beginning to see! It’s hard to let go of the past. But, as you said, believing there are better things up ahead alleviates some of the pain. Hope is necessary!!

    1. It’s very complicated, that’s for sure! I’m happy to hold things near and dear to my heart, and let go of any implications that because I’ll never experience those exact memories again, I won’t be as fulfilled. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a thoughtful comment!

  6. I agree. It’s hard to navigate adulthood, especially when your adult years differ so much from the adults that you grew up around. So, it makes you want to return to an era that felt more comfortable, but you have trouble getting there because your life and the world have changed so much. You can look at pictures and home movies, and it helps, but it’s not the same, and it never will be again. Sometimes I wish I could go back and revisit different eras of my life, but then I remember that it wasn’t always as great as I’m recollecting. There were dark times in all of them, and the routine of a certain period of your life can get monotonous. Perspective is key when dealing with the past, present, or future. Things will always change, and you’ll adapt. You might never feel like you’ve got a total handle on it, but when you look back, you’ll see how far you’ve come.

    1. Yes. Spot on. Yes! Great interpretation and addition. I think there’s always something that we’re wishing for, and it’s hard to remember that in hindsight.

      When we were in college, my husband could not wait to just have a job and be done with the rigor of being an engineer student taking 18+ credits. He’d tell me this all the time. Now, 2 years into his career, the narrative about his college experience has shifted a little. He remembers how difficult it was, but now the memories have a rosier tint. I’m the same way for some things, and I know we all are.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your brilliant remarks! I couldn’t agree more.

  7. This was a very good read. You’re right, nostalgia can come with a bit of a pang and sometimes looking back on memories is tough. It’s great that you have a positive outlook though, I love your blog name. It’s lovely to see blogs that try and be positive 🙂

    1. Thank you! I’d like to think that we all are a mix of positive and negative energy, light and dark, good and bad. We’re all the protagonists in our own stories, despite the blend. So why not embrace everything, while still chasing the sunshine? Thank you so much for reading and commenting. <3

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