When I was a kid, all the TV shows that weren’t set in present-day America seemed to be based on the 1960s. Baby Boomers were full-on nostalgic for their youth. They had a view of the 1960s being this time America lost its innocence.
Of course, in reality, that was just when they lost their innocence and became adults.
For Gen X, now is our time of nostalgia. Comic book heroes everywhere, Eighties music plays over the PA in the supermarket. Even the shows and movies that aren’t set in the 80s have that sensibility – the (sadly) one-season show Limitless was an homage to the 80s nearly every week, including a pitch-perfect Ferris Bueller’s episode.
On Amazon Prime, we have Red Oaks, set in the mid-1980s, with kids just out of high school working summers at a country club. Star Wars has been reborn. Stranger Things was the smash hit of last summer, about as hardcore Gen X nostalgia as you can get.
I love all these things. Even the music I hated in the 1980s, I enjoy hearing today. Briefly.
This is the funny thing about nostalgia, though. It makes us remember things more fondly. What we’re really thinking about, though, was a time when we hadn’t made all the mistakes we’ve made in our lives. It makes us think that if only we could go back and know what we know now, we could do things differently. We could enjoy our youth. We could make the right decisions and avoid all the pain that we suffered.
That’s a false hope, though.
We are who we are because of what we’ve experienced. To be able to redo our youth with what we know today? To not worry about what our peers thought of us? To stand strong in the face of our bullies? To know that, yes, it does get better?
Not just about ourselves – could we save those whom we hurt? Those who died?
We forget: everything we have done to this point in our lives made us who we are today. We wouldn’t know any of these things without the mistakes we’ve made.
It’s the equivalent of a time-travel paradox. If you change the past, your future changes. And then you can’t go back to the past to change it because you don’t know what to go back to change. And therefore, you can’t change the past, which means it all happens anyway.
Nostalgia’s a funny thing.
It’s fun to remember the past. But remember it as it really was. Not the way you wish it had been.