2021-1-2: Nostalgia

I got an invitation from an old and current friend to join a Zoom
“party” next Saturday night with a bunch of The Crew from…18 or so
years ago. A few lifetimes by any estimation.

My knee jerk reaction was a weird mix of “oh HELL no” and “God it’d be
nice to see soandso again.” So I stood up and went out to the back
porch to give it a little think. On one hand I’ve been complaining to
myself lately that I haven’t maintained contacts with some of the
worthwhile people in my life, having let friendships atrophe and fall
off a bit too easily.

But I thought about it a bit more and realized that kicking up a get
together (virtual or not) with a bunch of people I used to know,
nearly two decades later isn’t the same thing. It’s nostalgia and I
don’t really have a lot of time for nostalgia, it anchors us in the
past in a way that reminds me a bit too much of the barbed hooks from
Hellraiser.

It also brings to mind Facebook back when it was starting to get
popular. All these people from high school started coming out of the
woodwork. My sisters’ friends and people I worked with in the 80s. I
connected with all of them. But…it only took a month or two to
realize how fake it was. Now that’s certainly all of Facebook. It’s a
saccharine replacement to actual social interaction. I started
cutting people back off and was dealt an interesting case of whiplash
because I didn’t want to play “remember when” with them, reinforcing
my decision.

Connecting with people from your distant past and pretending you can
pick up where you left off is just delusional. Sure, it can be
pleasant if you’re confused about what’s really going on. But it’s
actually poisonous.

You’re not who you were 10, 15, 20, or 30 years ago (and if you are,
that’s a whole different level of problem I’ve not the inclination to
address here.) Neither are they. So meeting people on THAT level
anchors you with an image of yourself (and of them) that’s as old as
that relationship’s original incarnation and in a very real way pulls
you back to those habits, roles, and self-appraisals.

It’s quite the same thing as the yearly trek home to family for the
holidays. Pete Holmes, of all people, hits this in one of his
monologues. Unless you’re really strong, your whole family tends to
snap back into the roles from childhood.

This isn’t to say that you can’t get in touch with people from your
past. It’s just that you have to recreate the relationship almost
from scratch and from your current perspectives; a process that’s
harder, in fact, than meeting new people, since you’ve got to get rid
of all the cruft of expectation then start over.

After all, you can learn an awful lot about a person from how far back
he goes in time when he tells his glory day stories, and fewer and
fewer of mine are from back then.

So I came back in the house, sat down at the laptop and typed my
honest response.

Wasn’t easy. I’m by nature an overly agreeable person, inclined to put
myself out rather than rock the boat. I know it doesn’t seem like
that to a lot of people. But that’s kinda the point. But I realized a
few things in a rapid cascade after I hit enter on the facebook
message.

Immediately afterwards, it not actually having been a cut and dry
decision I had the cool breeze of clarity that indicates it was
absolutely the right thing to do. Okay good. It happens like that an
awful lot of the time, the clarity of a good choice appearing after
the fact, even if before the consequences. It’s frustrating that way
since there’s no more information after the choice is made than
before, like you’re playing a massive trick on yourself by pretending
not to know, being absolutely unable to access the part of you that
DOES know. But it’s an absolutely clear sensation of clarity. It’s
the opposite number to the sinking feeling of regret when an
opportunity passes.

Somewhere between a minute or two afterwards I was thinking about how
the act of making that decision carved a ridge in a previously
nebulous definition of myself. It erased a charcoal line and replaced
it with ink, reminding me that decisions define. My brain, upon
thinking that, cast over big decisions I’d made in the last few years,
moving to Nashville, buying a house, “nominally retiring.” So yeah,
more decisions. More actions. Declaring yourself out loud to the
world has power. But that’s a topic for another time.

So no I’m not interested in reliving the past, fond as a lot of my
memories from those times are. I’ve spent an awful lot of energy
growing and moving on. I’m not him. I’m not there. Engaging in that
kind of weird nostalgia just seems like an act of desperation.

If I’d maintained those friendships over the intervening time, that
would be different. But I haven’t, quite intentionally.

No. No thanks. I’m not interested. But yo tell the cute one I said
wassup. 😉

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