As not only Independence Day, but also a fun-packed family reunion approaches, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Actually, there is no bit part for me when it comes to that feeling.
And, apparently, it’s going around: my father’s cousin and the de facto family historian posted on Facebook that June 29th marked two family wedding anniversaries (including hers), two birthdays (including her second grandchild’s 21st) and the date of a dear uncle’s passing (just 30 minutes before the aforementioned grandkid’s arrival).
“After a decade of study, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be — it’s looking a lot better,” reported the New York Times.
From anti-regret platitudes to Don Henley’s summertime hit, we’re taught or told to always face forward and seize the day. Did you know that nostalgia was even considered a disorder for a long while after the term was coined in the 17th century? (A Swiss physician sought to connect soldiers’ mental and physical ailments to their wistful wishes to return home — in Greek, nostos for home plus algos for pain).
Nostalgia does have that tugging-at-the-heartstrings component. It’s seemingly unavoidable for me. In the last month, I’ve rediscovered a 25-year-old typed motivational letter from my high school football coach that alternated between scripture and Shakespeare, heard my brother’s best friend growing up tearfully eulogize his father, basked in the afterglow of my 2-year-old giving me a hug and saying “thank you, Da-Da” after I told her I loved her during our family’s favorite beach walk in North Carolina and revisited the beautiful campus chapel where my wife and I got married.
In many ways, nostalgia can seem almost unfair though. Even the good memories are tinged with sadness because we realize we can’t go back. But, according to multiple studies, the positive effects of nostalgia abound — to the nth degree!?! — from counteracting loneliness, boredom and anxiety and literally making people feel warmer to even providing existential and evolutionary advantages.
“Experience it as a prized possession,” Dr. Constantine Sedikides at the University of Southampton told the Times. “When Humphrey Bogart says, ‘We’ll always have Paris,’ that’s nostalgia for you. We have it, and nobody can take it away from us. It’s our diamond.”