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Why You Need To Appreciate Your Past Before Looking Forward To Your Future

The smell of my old perfume can bring me to tears.

It’s similar to how seeing a crossword puzzle makes me miss my grandmother’s pancakes and the sound of clinking ceramic cups makes me yearn for the streets of Siena, Italy. In a moment, I can be transported back to any place in time with that familiar ache in my heart, suddenly reliving memories I thought I had forgotten.

Simply put, I’m probably the most nostalgic person I know.

Sometimes it comes like a whisper that tugs at my mind until I listen to it. And other times it’s like a strong as a tidal wave, completely overcoming me with emotion. Most people just roll their eyes when I bring up old memories from high school, or post too many #tbt’s on Instagram. But I don’t mind being overly nostalgic. Because without it, I wouldn’t have a deep appreciation of where I am today.

So instead of running from the past, maybe we should just stop and remember it. Here’s why nostalgia for the past can actually make you appreciate the present.

You can see how far you’ve come.

Like I said, the smell of my old perfume can bring me to tears.

It’s probably because it reminds me of my ex-boyfriend. One whiff of it brings me back to Ferris wheel kisses, hour-long drives, and endless nights of vulnerable conversations.

While the smell of it brings me more sadness than joy, it reminds me how far I’ve come since that heartbreak. It shows me that he’s not constantly on my mind like he used to be, that it takes a random event for me to even think of him.

We’re the most nostalgic for things deep in the past. Simply remembering something, probably with a different perspective than when we lived it, shows us how much we’ve changed. It represents the culmination of who we are up until this point. Sometimes, we need a reminder that nothing’s ever static.

You might learn something.

I’ve always been a psychology nerd so the brain has always fascinated me. The fact that you can forget something – possibly for years – and then spontaneously relive it as it were yesterday is incredible.

We all have defense mechanisms, possibly ones that we aren’t consciously aware of. So when something occurring in the present causes your brain to retrieve a random piece of information from the past, why not analyze it?

Maybe your subconscious is trying to send you a message. Perhaps it’s steering you away from a mistake you’ve already made or protecting you from settling for something less than you deserve. So next time, don’t dismiss the memories. Just reflect on them. You might learn something important.

It’s a reminder to live in the moment.

Gen-Y is constantly scolded for being on our phones and not “living in the moment.” My dad consistently reminds me to “soak it all in,” as if adopting a sponge-like mindset will further enhance my life.

We often don’t realize the importance of events until they become memories. While nostalgia, by definition, brings us back to the past, it can serve a subtle reminder to live fully in the present. Those memories we relive are so powerful because when we made them, we were fully experiencing those moments. The fact that they seem like they occurred yesterday is because we were fully attentive to every detail around us.

“Nostalgia” comes from the Greek nostos, which means “return home” plus algos, translated to “pain.” It’s like opening up an old wound, yet the familiarity of it is comforting. I never want to be criticized for being overly nostalgic. For one thing, it represents my reflective nature, but it has also taught me countless lessons about who I am right now.

Featured image via Gantas Vaičiulėnas on Pexels



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