A reflection of the perks of dreams and nostalgia, and their limitations

  • Take one picture taken “XX years ago” featured on your Facebook or Google Photo accounts.
  • Add a skype call with your younger brother, watching him play a video game you used to love at his age.
  • Finally get some autumn-turning-into-winter weather, red leaves and their scent, first mentions to Christmas…

That’s it: nostalgia is here. It comes from the sight of photos of old friends with young faces, from hearing the beloved music almost forgotten, from the touch of the chilly wind. Then it settles inside of you, warming you heart but somehow also making a knot in your stomach.

The present does not matter anymore and you simply want to walk right into your memories. In the past, life was easy, happy and tranquil. It was better.

But for me, this time, these photos are not that old: they remind me of my life in middle-school, only 5 years ago! Being 20 does not protect me from the call of the past. Maybe it is even the opposite.

For me this past is still reasonably close. High-school and Uni have happened and shaped me, but I still share so much with this 5-year-younger me. Just like me at 15, I have no idea of what I/we will be doing in 5 more years.

I am guessing here: an old persons looking back at her youth would not feel this anxiety of the time that has passed. She would look at the time she was young as a time of innocence and idleness, maybe with regrets or amused eyes, but also with resignation. But for those of us who have not really settled down in life, let us be 20 or older, we look back to the child we were and we get worried as to whether or not we will ever realize our dreams.

What wish was I making blowing up the candles of my 15th anniversary? Have cameras improved that much in 5 years, or was my mom a really bad photographer?

What dreams were we making back then? Are we still having the same today? After watching and reading every episodes and chapters of Naruto released back then, I was certain at 15 that my future was in Japan; today I am writing from my small student room in Shibuya, Tokyo, and I have in this same room the last chapter of Naruto that I read the day it was released. Nailed that dream.

But will I ever fulfill this dream of becoming a game designer for Nintendo, Level 5 or Square Enix? I got reminded today of that dream I used to have while watching my brother playing. I was supposed to go to Japan, learn Japanese, play many video-games, eventually become Japanese (somehow?) and get hired as the new genius of video-game scenario-writing. Well I don’t see it happening now.

For one dream accomplished, how many are forgotten, latent, or abandoned? A lot, for sure. Just like we select more or less consciously what we remember of our past, we also have to select, still more or less consciously, which paths we are undertaking for our future.

There is more in common to dreams and nostalgia: one is the longing for a distant future, the other the longing for a distant past.

Meeting with an old group of friends feels amazing, but also there’s this sentiment that things are different now, this small insatisfaction that it’s not the same as before. Nostalgia is here. Just like we can’t get back to the past, can we really reach our idealized future?

It seems to me that to realize one’s dream promises lots of nice things, but probably not eternal happiness or feeling of meaningfulness. It surely feels good in most cases and for some times, but chances are that after a while we will start dreaming of something different, cause that’s how we’re made. Unless of course if our dream was to become a Buddhist monk, meditating to cast away desires and find happiness from within.

What happens when you don’t realize your dream? Or when you don’t really have one safely stored in your mind? Are you a big, sad loser? Well let’s see what myself in 5 years will say about it, but right now I feel that not realizing one’s dream is being an adult. Adult life is complicated, full of duties, of concerns, of time consuming stuff that are not always fun.

Adult life is maybe about the realization that dreams and nostalgia are good pushers to follow certain directions in life, more than they are absolute goals. The child we were might not understand that and be disappointed seeing what lifestyle we have now; the issue is not who we are, but rather that we hadn’t been told the true story as a kid, because it was too complex and not that amazing.

I don’t really have a big answer to the final meaning of dreams and nostalgia. I have dreams, I feel nostalgic, and those thoughts and feelings help me navigate through life. Whether I will accomplish the dreams I have in mind — write a book, have children, never have to do a boring job — or not, only me at 100 can say (yes I also dream to live until 100).

For those who focus on their dream, live for it, realize it and feel content with it, I applaud you. For those reminded by nostalgia of a dream and who accomplish it too, congrats! Personally, I don’t want to feel rushed to accomplish my dreams. Perhaps because I’m happy with my life right now, or perhaps because I think realizing a dream is not the end of anything, perhaps also because I’m more interested in the path than the ultimate goal. Or perhaps I’m just lazy. I’ll keep those dreams in mind and see what will happen. My future self in 5 years from now might read that article with content while editing for the 3942 time my future first book, thinking I should have gotten to it earlier. But today I look at what I have and what I’m doing, and I feel it’s enough for me and for now.

“Time the consumer is time the preserver”, Anita Desai in Clear Light of Day

Liberal Art Master student, I write my small answers to the big issues that obsess me in politics, development, literature, art, LGBTQ, …