When I got my new phone last week, I decided to remove Snapchat. I was prompted to log in, and that was enough friction for me to delete it. My kooky little walnut of a brain didn’t remember my password, and I was too lazy to renew it. I felt like I was trying to cancel the memories that you, Nostalgia, lured me into watching each day, crazier days when I'd share daily photos and videos of my past life.
I’m sorry. I know you are an emotion that cannot just be deleted, nor do I want to do that.
You're an odd phenomenon, you know that right? You’re less clear than your neighbors, like Sadness with tears or smiles with Happiness. You’re a form of excitement. The type before taking off in an imaginary spaceship, traveling through different periods of time. Where will this astronaut land? The familiar lands and seas of planet Earth or uncharted contours like the face of Pluto or floating around in between somewhere in an imaginary no-man’s land?
I am grateful for you because I'm grateful for the past. Yet, with you present in the room, and felt in my body with the faster thumping beat of my heart and glistening sweaty palms, I yearn for the past to become the present again. I don’t want you to feel embarrassed for being here. I mourn the life I used to have, even if all that I am recalling is one glimpse of who I used to be.
Sometimes I feel like I’m equipped with an overly faulty walnut, that repeatedly transfers emotions from the past onto the present where they don't quite belong.
Nostalgia to me, you are a recollection of my past history with the present perspective. Sometimes it can be bitter, sometimes it can be sweet — you are both bitter and sweet.
I never know how to prepare myself for when you enter the room. When I dust off my high school yearbook or when I phone a childhood friend, we return to the TCBY ice cream store we used to bike to or the sunfish that we used to sail on daily after swim practice, if only through our conversation.
When I enter my childhood bedroom and see my janky ceramic waterslide from Mr. Zinc's eighth-grade art class leaning over and the plane tickets I framed on my wall from where I studied abroad, collecting dust, it all reminds me of who I used to be. I become full of sadness while reminiscing. It’s as if my shoulders shrink and teardrops percolate behind my eyeballs.
Sometimes you make me feel like a hoarder because you don't give a damn about my attempts at minimalism.
Because of you, I still have the love letters from my parents writing about how the day I was born changed their lives forever and for the better. I opened these on an eighth-grade trip before I got confirmed into the Catholic Church. In my current bedroom, I see the necklace of dead, dried, and brittle orchid flowers — a magenta lei — that I was gifted on my 26th birthday. It lay over my bed as a reminder of the love I felt on that day for the people in my community and the adventures I went on filled with cannonballs, noise complaints, eating king cake, surviving a new surf spot, and bumping volleyballs. I see the pilled yellow “Bayview Yacht Club” fleece from my grandma Omi hanging in my closet that I dread the thought of laundering out of fear that the menthol and cigarette scent of her will disappear forever (but at least I will still have those old voicemails). These artifacts strike a feeling so strong of you Nostalgia that makes me feel gratitude and prompts me to express this through my letter writing practice to the people I love.
All of these things make me think of a washed-up hazy romanticized version of the past that leave me yearning for that belonging in my life today.
Parts are factual and true. While other parts are imaginary and peppered with present desires and longing. But all in all, they all feel real to me since my mind and body experienced them. With you, I have found resonance from remembering my past and trust that it will always be there without holding me hostage in a cage.
Thanks to you, I feel more intimate with myself. I know my present self better after I recognize how different I used to be. It shows my growth. I appreciate you shining the light on it. Without you, I would forget how far I’ve come since each day I am too close to notice it.
That is what you feel like to me. Nostalgia, you are an acknowledgment of my past experience with peace and permission to transform on the road ahead.
Thank you for being a part of my life even if sometimes you swoop in and mesmerize me with rose-colored visions of the past. You help show me the moments turned memories that ignite my strength to keep moving forward. I appreciate you showing glimmers of who I once was to better love my past self.
Originally shared in Letter 141: My Letter to Nostalgia
Shoutout to my editors from Foster, DJ, Alice, Danver and Lisa, in supporting to make this letter the best it can be.