Popular reality shows about little girls who unnaturally spray-tan a la Honey Boo Boo Child simultaneously make viewers feel like they’re regressing in intelligence and losing a grip on their youth. In the wake of this, adulthood seems to become an increasingly debilitating prospect.
Before most of us became our corrupted current selves, we took a gander at the world through virgin eyes. This was a time of simplicity, when breasts were wonderful because of their striking resemblance to giant eyeballs, not their capacity to create, ahem, partnerships.
Now, quite a few of us are alcohol-swilling, fume-inhaling, lust-possessing deviants on whatever side of the cusp of a new decade in our lives. We don’t like, but appreciate, the subtleties of modern art forms like dubstep. We wear tight pants. This is so-called maturity.
The bleakness of this contrast is enough to make a young adult shudder and, by extension, build a time machine. But, since only one of those things is possible for non-physics-wielding geniuses, let’s collectively brood over our youth instead. That’s the mature thing to do.
Now, before you claim that I, your columnist, am in the throes of arrested development, well, you may be right about that. But in my defense, I’m not the only one.
References to such ancient artifacts as the beauty of Leonardo DiCaprio circa 1998, the joys of playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64 and the texture of floral leggings abound in everyday situations. Look around you; the past is ever-present. There is a reason why irrelevant artists always have comeback tours. Nostalgia is prevalent among us not-children-not-yet-adults.
But why focus on vague remnants of our mushy minds when we could just embrace moving forward? Well, there is a spectrum of reasons for why people glom onto the past.
For one, nostalgia helps people make connections. Shared interests that stem from over 10 years ago create an illusion of intimacy. People are often amazed by having simultaneously been alive at some previous point.
Also, memories are a form of escapism from the previously-noted unsavory present. They are inviting getaways of imagination that help us take the edge off when lecture gets too confounding.
And, like Cobb’s spinning top from “Inception,” sentimentality can anchor your sense of personal identity amidst a sea of changes. Gazing upon my old poster of Joey Lawrence does the trick.
Perhaps the protagonist of Woody Allen’s latest opus “Midnight in Paris,” who has our highly sought-after access to time travel, can give us a deeper insight into the phenomenon of reminiscence.
Gil (Owen Wilson) experiences two types of nostalgia, according to a LiveScience article: personal and historical. In the personal sense, he reflects on his personal dream of becoming a great writer. By the historical account, he idealizes the 1920s — which he never lived through — as the best time period. He is torn between the former legendary art world of Paris and his engagement to a modern-day snob.
In his golden age, he lives it up with greats like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. He gets a grip on where he stands as a writer. He meets a beautiful lady named Adriana (Marion Cotillard).
As he progressively falls for this lady not-of-his-time, he realizes that she is also unsatisfied with her present. Her golden age is the La Belle Epoque of Paris. Just as displeasure is possible in his golden age, it’s possible in the constructs of our most fond memories. (Yes, I enjoyed Barney. But his dinosaur frame was perpetually intimidating.)
SPOILER ALERT: Gil comes to the conclusion that the present is “a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.” There is no storybook ending. The fantasy of our past selves won’t lead us to a field full of prancing My Little Ponies. But indulging in nostalgic tendencies prepares Gil to cope with his present shift from Hollywood screenwriter to serious novelist.
Similarly, as students, we’re all going through a major life transition, whether we’re just starting college or preparing for a career in cat sitting. This can be daunting, perilous even. So, my lovely readership, as the topic of this column, let’s take a peek-a-boo back to times that have elapsed so we can sort out our mediocre existence.
Contact Caitlin at [email protected]
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