Michelle Wu / Daily Nexus

Our lives are an amalgam of encounters, moments and memories. Despite the things that are constantly happening, nostalgia is always apparent in the hum of our lives. 

In and of itself, nostalgia is paradoxical in the way that it offers us comfort with moments that we have lost to time. It supplies us with warmth when we feel as though something is missing. At the same time, it can confine us to life in the past or the future: what was or what could be.

Nostalgia is the moments that have shaped me to be the person I am today. My brother’s and my yearly Star Wars binges in his room, the nightly sneaking of my Nintendo DS under my pillow when my dad was at work, “swimming” in my friend’s pool every summer, even though I can’t swim. Roads that my parents took to get to school, dance class and karate still have the power to make me feel 9 years old again, and it’s quite refreshing to see where I was and who I have become.

Without nostalgia, we wouldn’t be human. However, I’ve noticed that there is a difficulty with appreciating time that is lost to nostalgia without losing ourselves in it. We often lose the beauty of being present.

When we experience a euphoric moment, it’s difficult to come to terms with the comedown that follows. We tend to unconsciously avoid this comedown by reliving that moment, replaying that moment and eventually mourning the memory with the knowledge that it is in the past.

It becomes an unproductive loop because it prevents us from moving forward. But it is comfortable. The need for this comfort can come from various places, whether it be a fear of change or an unwillingness to let go. 

I believe it shapes who we are. Longing for the past is beautiful because it shows human kindness and compassion. It shows how deep our love can go no matter the circumstance. While nostalgia can be a positive means of facing our memories, you should leave the past where it belongs.

I miss some of my high school friends and the uncertain excitement of living in Los Angeles. At the same time, I know that my friends and I have outgrown each other and are not the same people we were at 15. I know that my parents’ cozy two-bedroom apartment in Hollywood is home, but it’s not the place I come home to after a long day of classes and work anymore. But rather than being sad about it, I have much more appreciation when I visit home or get a text from an old friend wanting to catch up after three years.

As I am writing this, I am currently sick with a cold. Now that I’m a college student, getting sick feels vastly different than it did when I had my parents there to nurture me back to health as a kid. However, I still find myself reminiscing on times in my childhood when I used to lay in bed and dramatically over exaggerate the state of my affairs solely to convince my parents to coddle me. As much as I am miserable in my sickness, the dull congestion in my sinuses is a familiar feeling I will never omit from my memory.

Despite the chilly nostalgia of having a cold, it also provides me with a sense of warmth and fondness toward my parents who I now rarely see. This gentle reminder of them and the way they express their love gives me the opportunity to miss them in moments when I become too occupied with my life at college.

I do value this feeling and always love being reminded of my parents. However, I make a note for myself not to dwell on the past. We can’t go back in time and relive our childhoods. As much as our parents want us to stay young for as long as we can, it is inevitable for us to grow up and mature in the same way we grow out of the memories and nostalgia that we experience.

Yet, the future can also have its own limitations.

The human psyche often finds us in the constant process of waiting for something or someone new to invigorate our lives. It can either motivate us to be better or can adversely cause us to be unhappy with our current selves. Humans are special in the way that we are always craving to do more in hopes of achieving something for ourselves. 

However, we can also be naive in our optimism. We can hope that the future is better, but it is inevitably the same. How different is tomorrow from today? In that case, what is the point of waiting? 

Maybe right now is an exciting moment, in a different way. It all comes down to our outlook on the present.

One thing that helps me come to terms with the way my life and the world around me change is being mindful. In my mind, mindfulness means grounding myself to where I am today, right now. Once you become aware of your existence in the world, little things become subtly exquisite and serene. 

There is this idea of equanimity, which has an association with a universal calmness of the mind. It has Buddhist origins and is generally defined as a state of conscious freedom and wisdom that has to do with protecting one’s love and compassion. It is neither a thought or emotion but rather a steady conscious realization of real life and its impermanence. To word it simply, it is more like a calm state of mind.

Now, I do realize that this can be an abstract concept that is associated with spirituality. However, I think that mindfulness is a good takeaway. Equanimity is subjective and can be applied to any part of your life. I think of it as being mindful, staying present and finding beauty in the mundane.

My experience with implementing equanimity in my life has resulted in a lot of personal growth and a greater understanding of the things outside of my direct life.

I interpret my inability to bike as a blessing because I can enjoy my walks back home from campus. With my headphones shutting me off from all outside noise, I get to observe the world around me. I notice a five-person friend group gossiping and giggling about what this cute guy said at the gym. I see two best friends consoling one another about the chemistry midterm they both bombed, convincing one another that they will do better next time. Maybe I romanticize human interactions, but it makes me happy. I enjoy people-watching because it allows me to recognize what makes us human. I see the way we all have similar habits but the uniqueness of every interaction is special.

Next time you want to feel more grounded in the world around you, try to think about equanimity. Be conscious when being nostalgic and let it aid in your growth as the person you are. Notice, observe, admire.

Michelle has a new admiration for life and thinks you should too.