This column should be the culmination of my series of attempts at profundity and self-indulgent obsession with the past. Contrary to a common misconception, my theme was nostalgia in college life, not cats. We’ve looked at nostalgia through the various media of film, music and Halloween costumes. Now it’s time to get sentimental about the column — yes, this column in particular. Let’s get deep in the thick of nostalgia layered on top of nostalgia, man. How meta.
“Nostalgia needs time. One cannot accelerate meaningful remembrance,” claims Christy Wampole, an assistant professor of French and Italian at Princeton University, in her New York Times opinion piece called “How to Live Without Irony.” And, you know what? I’m trying to live in the sleepless moment as I write this last column — but I can’t help longing for those sleepless nights of writing it several weeks ago. Why? Well, when sentimentality is projected on the present, it’s a safety function intended to prolong your experience before its impending end.
We’re all too aware of endings these days. Everything must go on Black Friday. Every story must come to a conclusion. Then, of course, we’ve got that supposed 2012 apocalypse to worry about. So, we’re caught up in trying to preserve every itsy bitsy, oftentimes trivial, detail. No wonder why so many Twitter feeds document their users’ constant stream of consciousness. You’ve gotta remember your Thanksgiving at Burger King somehow, right?
It would seem that we generally don’t trust our own memories. And in this age of information overload via the inundation of media, this mistrust is not hard to come by. This is similar to how the reliance on and spread of writing utensils shaped writing processes. Writers became more disposed to compose their works with a means of documentation, as opposed to ancient poets who composed their epics by word of mouth.
Now, we are bombarded by a need to digest the news, to maintain credz in certain social circles (e.g., “You can’t be a true Christian Bale fan if you haven’t Googled every picture of him,” is something that someone once said to me) and to get an education. This upkeep is exhausting — and some information is bound to slip at some point.
Christopher Nolan’s psychological thriller “Memento” is an extreme case in which documentation is necessary to preserve the justice-seeking objective of main character Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce). Amidst his anterograde amnesia, the loss of the ability to create new memories, he has developed a system of recollection using scribbled notes, tattoos and Polaroids. This system is what drives the plot forward. Leonard needs to write things down in order to get shizz (e.g., killing people) done, which shows us that the ability to access memories allows you to progress in life. So, in the long run, our immediate nostalgic response of documentation makes us more apt to access what will become memories. I guess there’s some use to Instagram after all.
That said, here lies my last, debatably trivial documentation of what it means to look back on your past. At least we had some linguistic bliss together. Let’s see: We explored the sexy side(s) of Bert and Ernie, the idea that fiction informs our identities and my former infatuation with The Jonas Brothers. All is not lost because at least something was gained — whether it was an affection or a recipe for Haterade or even a forthright lack of interest.
“Cat Fancies” set out as a series of therapy sessions to help me, and any other possibly-existing readers, to move on from childhood. Has it worked? Eh. One actually-existing reader told me — and I’m paraphrasing here — that my prosaic musings have swaddled her with some comfort. And I’ve been able to work out some of my personal conundrums. I’m in a mindset that can accept the passage of time. But I think I’ll be nerding out about Pokemon and watching reruns of “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” for a very long time. Have I made the full transformation into a mature adult? No. So there.
All right, all right. I’m not good at goodbyes. To quote a poignant lyric from the soundtrack of “Dirty Dancing,” “I’ve had the time of my life, and I owe it all to you.” If it was physically possible, I would jump into your collective arms like a certain Baby. But instead, I’ll aim for your hearts. I’m not very coordinated, though, so we’ll see how that goes. Anyway, do well on your personal growth or whatever you end up doing with your lives! Cat out.
Contact Caitlin at [email protected]