The Necessity of Nostalgia

People of the past (and future)


Some days, the act of checking my agenda becomes stressful in and of itself. I know I’ll only discover additional tasks to complete, as well as reminders to start the tasks I’ve neglected. It’s during these angst-inducing times that I’m most likely to receive electronic notifications from home; perhaps a call from my mother or a text from my girlfriend asking if I’m free to Skype. Rather than comfort me, these reminders of home heighten my anxiety; at times they seem like yet another call to arrange, another hour spent chatting rather than battling my mountain of uncompleted work.

It’s on days like these when I ask myself why I bother to return the calls, reply to the texts, and arrange the Skype sessions with individuals I no longer see on a regular basis. As the saying goes, “Why limit yourself to your past?” Sometimes I find myself tempted to reduce contact with those back home, hoping to redouble my focus on the tasks at hand. After all, most of us are only granted four years to pursue our undergraduate goals. Why let the past dominate the little time we have?

Additionally, your friends from home are no longer the friends you once knew. As you’ve allowed the years to change you, so have they. According to some, in dedicating time your time to old friends, you risk wasting your time maintaining an idealized illusion of the past. These relationships may have existed in a specific time frame, but what happens to these bonds once their respective time frames expire? What then remains of these friendships, other than painful nostalgia and the fear of becoming a shadow of one’s past?

Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed numerous friends abandon one another for the sake of “safeguarding” their future. The temptation to let go, to “begin anew,” as some put it, remains as tantalizing as ever. And that’s when I recall a truth an old friend of mine once taught me.

Upon graduation, daily interaction with your friends will cease for the most part. On that day, your current friends will become your old friends, and how you decide to treat them will mirror the manner in which you deal with your old friends and family from home today. Beware of the friend who easily relinquishes the past; one day you’ll become part of their past, your bonds simply another relic for sacrifice in the name of the almighty myth of progress.

Here’s why the work-centered, college lifestyle is problematic: The only schedule and future that supposedly matter are your own. When I found myself frustrated by notifications from home, rarely did I consider that my mother was making the greater sacrifice of time. Rarely did I consider that, regardless of how stressed I was, my girlfriend found herself overwhelmed by a myriad of much harder subjects (i.e. organic chemistry). More importantly, in classifying their attempts to reach me as a nuisance, I disregarded more than their love; I inadvertently devalued the two most important people in my life.

I know an apology (to my mother, my girlfriend, and various other friends) for my lack of consideration means little at this point, so I hope to accomplish something greater. I want to remind others to try to rekindle a few friendships from home. I understand that many relationships will prove unsalvageable. Hell, some may prove unworthy of bringing back. At times, both you and your friends will want some time for yourself, and that’s alright.

However, I want to dismantle the misconception that marching forward necessarily means never turning back. To some friends from home—and particularly to your families—you represent more than a memory. For better or worse, you represent the investments of countless individuals; as such, they deserve more than your occasional acknowledgement during the holiday season.

Build the courage to write the biweekly letter. Post that old picture of your friend with the wacky hair. Maybe schedule a Skype session or two. Just remember; what matters isn’t those who surround you today, but rather the friends who stood with you in years past and will continue to do so in the years to come, so long as you still stand with them.

Nathan L. Williams ’18 a current Army ROTC cadet, is a government concentrator in Mather House. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.