What Can We Learn from Nostalgia?

Feeling home is not always related to a place

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

A couple of days ago, Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp have been down for some hours, and in real-time Twitter was full of memes about the social networks’ blackout. One of my favorites was showing the icons of Instagram and Whatsapp, with the sentence “I should be old enough, but I admit that I miss you.”

This meme made me wonder: what’s the idea of missing? Which is the real emotion linked to the shortage of something we are used to having at hand?

When we are missing something, we feel a particular emotion, which is commonly known as nostalgia. This word has a lovely etymology. It derives from the two ancient Greek words: Nostòs which means coming back home, and Algos which means pain. Nostalgia is the deep sorrow we feel, when we are far from home and we cannot go back.

But it’s not only home that we are missing; we miss people, things we lost, time gone, and sometimes we even miss our younger self.

The point is that we miss people and places where our heart feels at home.

When my son was born, a wise friend of mine warned me: “your heart is now living outside yourself”. Indeed, I miss him so much, as he lives abroad and I can see him rarely. When we meet, my heart is at home.

It’s the same feeling I have when I go back to places I loved when I was younger. But in fact, I understand that I was not missing the place, I miss how I felt when I was younger.

Nostalgia referred to ourselves, is the feeling we miss the time when every opportunity seemed possible and we felt we could design every possible future.

Sometimes, we simply miss the occasions we had and the person we haven’t become. We could miss the time we did not spend with a parent who is gone, but we could also miss the opportunity of that travel which would have twisted our career. Sometimes, we miss the fact that we feel we have no more time to change who we are.

The lesson we can get from nostalgia is that there’s always time to change who we are. It’s a snap decision: the moment we decide is the moment we change.

There is always time to start learning a new language, a new skill. There is always time to start playing piano, playing tennis… Of course, it may be difficult to become number 1 in the ATP ranking, but we can think of ourselves as someone who has learned that skill. We can be happy enough that we added something to our life, and we do not have to miss it evermore.

That travel we had the opportunity to do when we were younger, or that person we are not seeing anymore, maybe they are just waiting to be done and met again. Maybe the one we wished to become is just behind the corner. That version of ourselves, we have been missing, is just “a decision” far; once we meet, our heart will be at home.

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