“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them,” goes the quote by Andy Bernard from The Office, a quote that seems to resonate with everyone. Nostalgia is such a powerful feeling: we all reflect on and relive the happiest moments of our past in our minds. We evoke a warm, happy feeling with just a hint of sadness while we yearn to be back in that moment, knowing that it has passed.
Nostalgia is especially powerful under our current circumstances, when life looks much different than it used to before. It feels like our lives have been stripped away of so many things that they used to be full of: the busy and bustling long days on campus full of classes and club meetings, dining hall dinners, and late nights with friends. These have all been reduced down to long days alone in my room, taking Zoom classes from my bed.
With days at home being uneventful and less stimulating than usual, life right now looks nothing like I would’ve pictured it. I can’t help but reminisce fondly about the good days in college. I think back about the best college nights: the nights when I would stay up late just sitting in the Redding lounge and having deep conversations with my floormates. I get nostalgic for the times when everyone was together on campus and nobody had ever heard of the term “social distancing”. I even get a bit nostalgic for the nights I stayed up studying, determined to do well on my Honors Integrated exams. I get nostalgic for the days I was studying surrounded by other students in the same boat, making them do a midnight pod run with me in our pajamas because studying is much more fun with a sugar rush. I get nostalgic about sunny days, walking to class on the Green, chilly days, drinking a warm Starbucks latte from Smith Hall, the daytime picnics and nighttime stargazing on the Harrington turf. I reminisce about the special memories in college: gathering with my friends at the dining hall, laughing loud and getting so lost in our conversation that we end up looking around and realizing that CR is about to close and we’re the last ones there; playing Just Dance and getting way too competitive; pulling innocent pranks on our floormates while they were gone and seeing their reaction when they were back; getting woken up at 4 am by my roommate and going outside to watch the first snow of winter. I find myself wishing I could go back to those moments and appreciate everything before it was all taken away.
Of course, while lost in my nostalgic flashbacks, I rarely remember the not-so-glorious parts of college: jumping into my dorm bed, which was on the highest rise setting because I needed the under bed storage for all my stuff, waking up at 8 am and walking in the freezing cold to my lab, or the days when the dining hall seemed to have nothing appealing to eat except a bowl of cereal. Of course, none of this matters when we look back on something; we tend to look back on the past far more fondly than when it was actually happening. Of course, college wasn’t always great–school was hard and everyday life was busy, messy, and overwhelming at times.
It feels hard being displaced from the old routine and thrusted into a new one that we never asked for. It hurts that things come to an end and we ache for the familiarity of the past, but sometimes, getting too caught up in the past makes us ignore the good things in our present lives. One day in the future, I’ll be back in college, studying for hours on end and eating ramen, and the nostalgia will creep in again. But this time, it would be nostalgia for home-cooked meals from my mom, cuddling up with my cat on a cold morning, being able to walk across my room instead of walk across campus to get to class, and being able to watch videos of lab work instead of messing up an in-person lab and getting a 200% error. Good memories are even better to look back on when you can appreciate that they happened instead of wishing you could go back to them. There is comfort in finding the happy moments in the present that you know you can fondly look back on in the future.