I’ve never been particularly nostalgic. I like 80s movies and 90s music as much as anyone else. However, I don’t seek them out because I want to pretend I’m part of the era, or because I have some specific fondness for the time period; I just enjoy them. Personally, a lack of enthusiasm about the past and general appreciation for inertia has led to being remarkably bad at staying in touch with those I’ve known at various stages of my life. I have one friend from high school I mostly keep in touch with, a handful of acquaintances from college who I see on social media, and almost no one from my later education, training, and previous jobs. My spousal equivalent is my sole connection through most of that time; she and I met during my second year of graduate school and she was kind enough to follow me around the country for the last 23 years.
None of this is a new realization to me. However, for no reason I can fathom except possibly inadvertent emotional recall, I’ve been thinking a great deal about my younger days for the past few weeks. Of course, “thinking” implies I’ve been intentionally recalling and processing what I can remember about the time, which is far from the truth—the nearly constant intrusive thoughts and being bothered by them would likely be considered “obsession“ clinically.
I keep pretty good records. That is, I keep pretty good electronic records. That is, I just keep every useless document and email, because storage is cheap and I don’t want to miss something I may need in the future. (You know, the way some people keep a box of old cables and chargers and such that will almost certainly move from house to house with them and just sit in the garage. So I’m told.) Missing people? No problem, I’ll pull out some old emails and maybe drop them a line.
Except, of course, I’m part of that forgotten generation that bridges too many others. Which means I have every non-spam email I’ve ever received… back to 2003. Which isn’t long enough. I’m old, damn it! I have friends from before then! I have friends—wait for it—that I’ve never even emailed. (Or at least, had such friends, as the overarching lesson here forces me to admit.) Checking archives and backups, disconnected hard drives and cloud storage, there’s nothing else to be found.
This is where other people go to the attic to get yearbooks, photo albums, correspondence, and so forth. I don’t have any of that stuff. There are lots of reasons why, but for simplicity I’ll just go back to “I’ve never been particularly nostalgic.” I’ve got nothing. They may be with estranged family, they may have been thrown out, they may have never existed in the first place—I wasn’t one to tote around a camera with any frequency before it became a part of my phone.
It’s never been a problem before. But now I can barely see flashes in my mind from drives and dinners, dates and conversations (or lack thereof), of beauty and surprise and joy and love. My memories are becoming lost, and I don’t have any evidence they were there to start with.
I rejoined Facebook, only to immediately be suspended for “violating community standards” without even posting anything. (I disabled some notifications and tried to add a second phone number, and—foreshadowing the reaction of many old friends—the automatic alarm system apparently decided I was trying impersonate Christian Jones and locked me out until I sent them a random picture and waited a day and a half.) But then I was back, and started seeking out those who’d shared experiences and those who might remember.
There are people whose names I haven’t heard in decades and those I spoke with last week. For a change, I’m honestly excited to reconnect with them.