Vir, Sunil, Pranav and I have found a new activity to do after dinner and before the roll call, that is playing carrom. At this time of the day, the common room is buzzing with activity, and you can find spirited young men either intensely watching the live match, or relaxing while listening to music, or casually discussing with others how their day went. We look forward to playing the game of carrom in this environment from the very first class of the day, and as you can guess, we get very competitive about it. But while others might see it as an anachronism or just a fragment of an era gone forever, I see it as an opportunity to reminisce and indulge in enjoyable recollection of my childhood. And during one game as we burst into laughter, I couldn’t help but ask myself some simple yet profound questions. Why do I always feel so nostalgic? Why do we always miss the past instead of focusing on the present? Why do I want to go back to when I was 7 years old?
Before I try to answer these questions, I would like to reflect on some joyful and euphoric memories of my childhood, such as watching Shaka Laka Boom Boom and wanting a magic pencil, watching Pokemon at 5 o’ clock and Beyblade at 5.30, feeling like a professional acrobat every time I climbed into the top berths in trains, collecting prized possessions from Cheetos, playing Super Mario, trading cricketers and wrestlers cards, playing ‘Snake’ on my dad’s Nokia, collecting Bubble gum tattoos from Boomer, and solving jigsaw puzzles. I remember the time when my school bag was heavier than me, when Takeshi’s Castle was my favourite show, and when I used to play games on my GameBoy sitting in front of the desert cooler. All these memories are so vivid and vibrant, and they give me such immense pleasure that I can’t help but smile when I think about them. But as I grew up, the more recent memories started to get duller and it no longer felt the same. Why was it so?
Fast forward to 2018; I finally have some answers, I guess. Well to put it simply, we tend to filter the past more than we filter the present. We perceive our childhood as a movie, and we are the editors of this movie. And in this way, only the best bits make it through to the final cut. We are so nostalgic that the farther back we go, the more happy memories there are than our mundane realities.When we feel nostalgic, only good memories come to our mind. But when we look at our past objectively, we come to realize that there were some bad times as well.When we are feeling upset or sad, we start thinking about how our life ‘used to be’. This is a form of escapism, and happens when we are struggling to deal with what is going on right now. It is like a temporary pause from reality, but rather than making us feel better it makes a more miserable. We start criticising our current state and thus indulge in a form of self harm.
It is not our fault as we are made this way. But that is not an excuse to hate the present and waste time daydreaming about the past. There are ways of making the most of our current situation. Everyone has those moments of adulthood when you think back and wish you could go back, or wish you could have more time, but it’s a double edged sword because as you are thinking about the time lost, you forget about the present. To make life easier, try to focus on the present. Every missed train, every missed call adds up, so we must take it one day or one moment at a time. The feeling of desperation of clinging to the past will also prevent you from connecting with anyone on a personal level in the present.
But this doesn’t mean that we discard our past altogether, afterall, it is our childhood that made us who we are today. So we must not forget to learn lessons from the moments when we had a carefree mindset, and had no worries about the future, no regrets and lived life as it came. We must learn to interact positively with others including skills such as empathy, kindness, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution etc. And most importantly, we should remain a child to a certain degree and enjoy our childhood while it lasts. We must try to identify our core values, become as self aware as possible, and take full advantage of the mental and physical abilities that we have now. I shall leave you now with these words :-
“Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,
For rich repiner and household drudge!
God pity them both! and pity us all,
who vainly the dreams of youth recall;
For of all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
-John Greenleaf Whittier
This article was written by Shaurya Gulati (3rd year).