I once read somewhere that watching a favorite television show actually releases happy chemicals in our brains. It went something like this: because the sets, sounds, faces, and personalities we are viewing are so familiar to us, neurologically we respond the same way to seeing our favorite characters as we would if we were hanging out with real friends. The reason I mention this is because I have experienced this first hand on more than one occasion. Not unlike Keah Brown, I too have returned to the ol’ faithfuls repeatedly to make me feel less alone, less stressed, or to cheer me up. Whether it’s Being Erica, Community, Gilmore Girls, How I Met Your Mother, Seinfeld, Suits… or a host of other television shows, movies, or cartoons, I know that letting these familiar stories play out in front of me for the millionth time will bring me comfort.
From the moment the intro song plays my personal issues are temporarily suspended and I am able to laugh, cry, or live through the drama of a set of goofy people who could pass as my actual friends. Some will consider this pathetic and may want to suggest I go out more, and that is their prerogative. Truth be told I was born an introvert. Even as a young child I preferred reading, writing, and pretending to be a librarian instead of meeting new people or going to a classmate’s birthday party. Pretending to check books in and out for my admittedly annoyed yet sweet family members never got old. I enjoyed walking around town, going to the park, packing a picnic, checking out the river and surrounding wildlife. The simple pleasures which have been written about at length by the worlds best authors are ultimately what brings me the greatest joy in life. Being bombarded with too much gossip or too many new trends annoys me. Celebrity “news: bores me, most blockbuster movies turn my brain to mush while small talk with most people makes me want to run the other way. Going somewhere without a security blanket person is the worst. And don’t even get me started on trying to make a new bestie when moving to a new city. There is a reason people enjoy their own company and are comfortable with solitude, and it has nothing to do with thinking they are better than anyone. The fact is, when you are so completely fulfilled by good books, expressive music, lovely weather and nature’s beauty you really have little use for anything else. So instead of putting myself out there most times I choose to stay in with my nostalgia-inducing paraphernalia.
For me, being nostalgic means longing for a time before my own. I enjoy reading great novels, while learning about successful and talented women who came before me and who disrupted the status quo (current obsession; George Sand. I love going to vintage shops and watching classic films. I get excited by seeing life out of someone else’s lens. I love the idea of writing down my thoughts with quill and ink, I love typewriters and old book stores, I feel at home in nostalgia.
Aging used to scare me as well. The older I got the quicker the years seemed to elapse. It’s scary and stressful at times. I too have the feeling that I have been late for many things in life. I too feel as though many whom are younger than me have accomplished a lot more than I have. I fear that I am running out of time and there is no way to catch up. I compare my journey to others’ even though every single motivator/teacher/guru/Instagram quote tells us not to. Recently I’ve realized that I will find my path in my own time, in my own way. All I can do is to live mindfully, act compassionately, acknowledge my true feelings while doing the things that bring me happiness.
So to come full circle, let us recap; nostalgia is bitter sweet. It reminds us of a time when we were perhaps more happy and less alone. It feels so good it hurts. The reason we always go back to those same shows, songs, pictures is because we romanticize memories to make ourselves believe we are capable of getting back to that calm happy place. The secret is to let yourself enjoy those moments of nostalgia without completely forgetting to also live in the NOW once in awhile. Go walk on the beach/in the forest, meet someone for coffee, sit in the sun, have a random adventure (just because!) so that your future self won’t have to rely entirely on reruns to feel connected.
As for myself, I just finished viewing the complete Gilmore Girls series (again), hey — a girl has to prepare for the Netflix finale due to come out in November am I right? But besides the warm and fuzzy feelings I got while watching one of my go-to shows, I’ve also done quite a bit of new stuff. I’ve been writing, managing social media, updating of my LinkedIn and website as well as exploring my city and stepping outside of my comfort zone.
Nostalgia will always provide a safe, comfortable place for you to hangout in while you are going through challenges — whether it’s your favorite book, or television show — and that’s great, for a time. But once you’ve drowned in your sorrows/a pint of ice cream be sure to put the book down and turn the screen off. Go create something new your future self can be nostalgic about!