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Going through life there are many difficult changes and transitions that one faces, but nostalgia has been proven to aid during those tough times. In most modern day films, novels, television shows, etc. there is some form of nostalgia present; it’s usually there to help the characters out or to reflect on a better time. Nostalgia is a human reaction that occurs when people are faced with a multitude of different situations, the most common being change; the outcome of a nostalgic remembrance typically helps a person feel better (Tierney). Looking back through nostalgia tends to help people feel better in current situations, but it also helps to bring a sense of clarity that would not have been reached otherwise.
When discussing nostalgia, it is crucial to look back at the history of the word and the different meanings that it has taken on over time. Nostalgia, as a concept, has gone through major developmental phases throughout it’s history, it first was thought of as a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause” (Hoffer qtd. in Tierney). It was then thought of as “immigrant psychosis,” “melancholia”, and a “mentally repressive compulsive disorder” (Tierney). In recent years it has taken on a more positive connotation, simply meaning something along the lines of, a positive, or bittersweet remembrance from the past. Scientists and psychologists have used the new meaning to delve deeper into the effects that it has on people. They have conducted experiments to see what mental and physical changes occur when exposed to past memories, and have discovered that people are more likely to have hope in a bleak situation when thinking about positive memories from the past.
Throughout my life, I have experienced a great deal of change, but never before have I experienced such difficult transitions than I have this year. The year started off with a bang, finding out my parents were divorcing, and the timing could not have been more horrendous. I thought life was going to be crazy enough was graduating from high school, starting college, seeing all of my friends move away, but then I found out my parents, who had been married for almost twenty-five years, were divorcing. To say my life had drastically changed would have been an understatement. As if the shock of the divorce was enough, tack on the stress of moving, the fighting, and my parents newfound “dating freedom.” Everything seemed to be going downhill for twenty-sixteen, so naturally, I looked back to better times, to when life was easier. I looked back on my childhood, to when my sister and I would peacefully play “house, not having a care in the world, to when I met my best friend in the fifth grade and knew that I had met my soulmate, but especially to Christmases past, when my family would sit and watch The Grinch and when we would decorate the tree, together. These memories helped me remember that peace and togetherness were possible in my life, that my parents were capable of being civil, and even loving each other.
Through the process of looking back, I realize that the memories that I am reflecting on were incredibly helpful and positive, but it also made me realize something: I was being extremely ignorant. I lived in a bubble; I was completely oblivious to the situations occurring around me, the personal battles that were being fought. When I take focus away from the positive aspects of memories, I realize that I had been ignoring the signs of struggle around me. Around my younger sister and I, my parents were always positive and never showed any personal battles that they were struggling with, so of course my memories would be positive. Although from time to time I would witness things, or overhear things that would confuse and shock me. The most life altering memory that I remember was one night sitting at dinner with my whole family, my dad had mentioned something about his “sponsor”, being about ten at the time, I did not fully understand what he was talking about. I later had asked my mom what he meant, because I had an inkling because I remember witnessing him drink a lot as a child, but she then confirmed my suspicion, his “sponsor” was for AA. From that point on, I would always be cautious of alcohol and watch out for my dad, it had become an ingrained response that I still have to this day.
Research proves that nostalgia will typically start through a bittersweet memory, but will create a better environment or a more positive outlook for the person experiencing trauma (Sedikides). The situation I experienced with my father and his struggles with alcoholism were traumatizing and brought up concern, but it taught me an invaluable lesson, to always be cautious with alcohol. Not only that, it made my dad a human being who makes mistakes, and not just my father. Though the situation shook me up, it was my first true sense of growing up, it made me realize that my parents are people too, they have things going on in their lives that I do not always know about.
After remembering this conversation with my mother, it prompted me to look back on other memories that I may see as positive, but that had a deeper truth to them. For instance, the circumstances in which I met my best friend. Lauren had moved from Albuquerque in the fifth grade and was the new kid in school. I never really had any friends at my elementary school because I was deemed the “weirdo” by my peers. When this new girl showed up, I knew that I needed to be the first one to befriend her so that others could not taint her image of me. But there was another girl, Hannah, that was in the same situation as me, and little did I know, needed Lauren’s friendship more than I would have ever known. We constantly competed for Lauren’s friendship throughout the year, being vicious to each other, writing mean notes about the other, even getting to physical levels, but in the end I won out, and Lauren and I are still best friends to this day. This was a huge victory for me as a child, and I still am fortunate that Lauren picked me, as petty as that sounds. But years later I found out that while all of this was happening, Hannah was experiencing trauma at home. Her parents were in the middle of a nasty divorce, her father was abusive, and she was experiencing body dysmorphia issues. Hannah needed that approval from Lauren because she was not getting it at home, to this day I still feel guilty for not helping her out and being a friend for her, but it helps me realize that everyone is going through something, it is part of being a human.
All of the situations I have been experiencing this year, as difficult as they have been, have really forced me to look back on my life and the moments that have shaped me into the person I am today. The positive memories have been huge for helping me cope with the negativity that has been going on, but at the same time, the hard times and not so cheery memories help bring everything to perspective. The divorce has been extremely hard on my life, but it made me realize that everyone has a difficult situation going on in their life. Looking back and nostalgizing has opened my eyes and helped me cope with the situation in a way that I have never been able to before. I found a new sense of community with those that I did not realize before. From my fifth grade enemy, to even my own parents, everyone is facing a personal struggle.
I’d suggest adding a short paragraph after this one and before the narratives about the science/history of nostalgia. You can take that material from your earlier paper. That way, when you begin to analyze your experiences with nostalgia later in the paper, which you do very well, there will be more context for it here earlier in the essay. You don’t have to add a long paragraph here, just something about the complex research that has been done on this subject (especially in the last couple of decades).
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