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Does thinking about the past make you feel nostalgic? Then this letter is for you

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Some people say you should think about the road ahead, focus on the future. But you see the beauty and the value of the past. There's nothing wrong with that, says Susan, on the contrary: your nostalgia is enviable. 

Dear nostalgic one, 

You share a memory with a friend, fear the lump in your throat when you’re talking about a certain detail – and there they are, the waterworks. Each year, you’re trying not to cry when you get out the holiday decorations. Hearing a certain song on the radio teleports you back to that time, when you were with that certain person. You, dear nostalgic one, are used to the past whirling through the present like dandelion fluff through the air. 

Nostalgic eyes 

Others might think of your nostalgic eyes as sentimental and inefficient. Looking back, to many people, means regret, mourning and all kinds of other inconvenient emotions regarding things that won’t ever return. We have to go on, proceed, focus on new horizons. It sounds cheerful, dynamic, powerful, but it’s a bit superficial, too. 

You wouldn’t think of throwing the past away – it hurts you when people do that. The modern habit of refusing to look back, harshly suggests that the present is the only valuable thing. That’s while there are so many treasures to be found there. Nostalgy means pain, but it’s a beautiful kind of pain. It’s sweet pain. After all, it’s impossible to feel nostalgic about things that weren’t valuable and good. 

Preserving the past

Most writers I know are nostalgic. We prefer to chew on the past rather than anticipate the future. We try to find the right words to preserve the past – as if we’re canning it, for winter. If you think about it, writing, and making art in general, means allowing things to coagulate in time and to protect them from oblivion. Of course, in the end, that’s an illusion. 

The nostalgic person doesn’t want to lock themselves up in the past, as some people think, they just want to give the past a beautiful place in the present. This doesn’t affect the present. On the contrary: it enriches the present, it gives more depth, and strengthens the present – the way the layers of a tree make the branch thicker and stronger. 

Ongoing goodbye

Never let anyone convince you that nostalgia is pitiful. We’re enviable, dear fellow nostalgic one. Think about parenting: every parent needs to keep saying goodbye to phases in their children’s lives. I cherish the feeling of two hands in mine, when we’re crossing the street to their school. I inculcate every second, so that I have the memories with me once they let go of my hand. As a nostalgist, I know I will enjoy them lots. 

With love and respect for who you are, 

Susan 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Jakub Gorajek