Heather Ricks

Storytelling and Facilitating
On Writing and Nostalgia

On Writing and Nostalgia

I’ve been writing a devotional for single people lately, and struggling with gratitude. While I’m writing, I think about my own time as a single. As I point out all the benefits to that state, I find myself feeling nostalgic for it in some ways, which has led to a lot of guilt and the want to stop writing.

Life lately has been a perfect example of everything I’m writing about in the devotional about how life changes when you have to consider someone else. We are getting ready to move, something I wouldn’t be doing if I were single. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to move, I just would not even consider it given current circumstances. We are able to pay our bills and have a little extra left over, why would we need to change? (I’m very slow to change. Always.) While I write about singlehood and all it entails for those in the church, I sometimes feel like I’m too established in my ways. It’s like I’m only remembering the good things about life before my marriage (because that is the point of the devotional, to point out why if you are called to be single it’s not a bad thing), and it feels bad. It feels like I’m negating everything I have with my husband to say how good things were before him.

I know this is ridiculous and not at all what I’m doing logically. I’m not bitter or angry about the changes in life, I’m actually quite the opposite. I’m not pining for those times, though they were great and I enjoyed every second of them, even the year I was severely depressed. I’ve gained so much by the addition of my husband to my life, starting with the amazing mother and brother that union with him has given me and going on… forever basically. The list is very long, and it grows each day.

Nostalgia is a funny thing though, it can make the perfectly content person restless, and I fear that I will allow that in. I know I’m prone to restlessness, I get it from one of my parents with a dash of my personality type. If things stagnate, if I don’t feel I’m learning anything new… I get bored. It’s been a source of some of my worst grades in school and some of my worse funks in life. Our pastor talked about nostalgia in a sermon (I don’t remember when), and I remember being struck by how poignant his warning felt to me. I could identify myself in almost everything he said to the congregation about the trap of nostalgia.

Nostalgia tricks you by making you remember just enough of the “good old times” that you idealize it. This makes you idolize it. You remember all the good, and rarely any of the bad, so it seems like this perfect moment in history that you wish you could go back to. You forget all the stress you had and why the thing that was sooooo good felt that way, which for me is usually the happiness that came from it. A perfect example: The Road Trip Of Insanity. I went on a road trip with six other people in college. We started in Troy New York on a Friday night, and ended up in the Carolinas (I think South, but I don’t remember) for a dip in the Atlantic, in DC for a day, and back in Troy for classes Monday. This was a trip on a whim, going as far as we could in the time allotted. It was fun, crazy, and during one of the most stressful periods in my college career.

This was my sophomore year in about February. I hated my classes, I didn’t like my major, and I was beginning to realize I didn’t think I was on the right path. I liked a boy who was one of my best friends, and deep down I knew he liked another girl. I was looking to escape into fun adventures and to be taken out of my boring and mundane existence into one that I could tell people about when I was older and feel proud of. I still search for that at times, the place that brings the best memories and stories, the one that will sound amazing to children when I tell them about my adventures. The funny thing is, some of my best stories are so clearly orchestrated by someone other than me. The way I met my husband and our courtship is one of the craziest stories I’ve heard. How we got our car in the city is pretty ridiculous. These are things that at the time just felt like the logical thing, but in hindsight are stories that make us sound insane and super adventurous.

Nostalgia can be great, it can help me look back on where I’ve been with a smile. The whole time I was writing of my road trip adventure in college, even when I wrote of the negative things from the time, I had a smile on my face. Why? That weekend was amazing. I got to know two women I barely knew much better, as well as two guys. The two guys I already knew well became even better friends. I can see the need in my life to change course, and be proud of how I recognized that and did. I can also be proud that the friend I liked who didn’t like me is still a good friend and was even at my wedding. God has used all the things in my background, good and bad, to make me who I am. Every aspect of that time I’m nostalgic about was so important and integral to who I am today, how I could meet and love my husband, and where I am physically in the world.

I guess what I’m getting at is: I’m realizing that I need to face that fear of becoming too wrapped in nostalgia and restlessness, and just live life. I need to write what I think I’m here to write, I need to live the way I think I’m supposed to… I can’t let this anxiety of repeating someone else’s mistakes keep me from moving forward in new and fun ways. The anxiety has been there for a long time, it just keeps taking new forms. I don’t have to give into it though, I can work through the panic with baby steps.

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