Retiring into nostalgia

by tamarjacobson

Looking back and thinking forward. I have noticed that I reflect on the past a lot, especially in the one or two years leading up to, and for a few years after becoming sixty. Mainly the purpose of that has been to make sense of my life, and how I came to be me. It has caused much regret, but at the same time it led me down nostalgia lane.

How much better it was when …

It seems I have dwelt in the land of yearning for awhile. And yet, for the past week or so, I think I am starting to think about retiring nostalgia and regret, and leaving them behind in the past. Over the years as I have made more sense of my earliest childhood and how I made the choices growing into an adult and beyond, I look forward to a different time. Of course, at the core I will always be the unique me, who was born almost 66 years ago. And I am sure I will retain most of my neuroses even though I understand better than ever how I tick emotionally. However, it seems to me more and more lately that the past is exactly where it needs to be. Behind me.

This older version of me has a different life ahead. 

Being on sabbatical this semester has made me realize I am not anywhere ready to retire. I love the work I do, and would miss it terribly if I left it. Recently, talking with a financial advisor about retirement was an interesting experience. I noticed that all the financial advisors in the building were young people, including our own very competent and understanding fellow. There he sat, as young as could be – full of life and exuberance, bright as a button and sharp as a wit. And he gave us advice about our future – a future that was capped by a certain number of years – a future that very clearly has an end. I wondered if developmentally he understood how that feels – a future that will end … soonish. One thing for sure though, he helped me see that the choices I make for this next piece of the journey will be very different to those of the past.

On my walk yesterday afternoon I wondered if I am really ready to give up on looking back. In a couple of months I will head out to yet another reunion. Ten years later, another group is organizing another such reunion. A time for people to gather together, gray haired and life experienced, to look into each others' eyes and seek out past memories shared together – dipping into nostalgia as never before. I remember the first one. Even as it was joyous to reconnect with old friends from the distant past, it also raised feelings of longing for a simpler, and more passionate time. It brought back regrets of lost loves and thoughts of, "If only …" over and over again. I wonder, do I want to do that again? Really? After all, most of the people I see for an afternoon or evening, I will most likely never see again. 

Is nostalgia and looking back to the past a way of me holding onto my youth? I realized recently that when I think of losing weight, I have an illusion I will become younger if I do. I mean, I say that, at my age, I am doing it for my health. But in reality, am I hoping I will become young again? For me, leaving the past behind means letting go of holding onto my youth. Bidding farewell to an era gone by. I must admit it is a bit wistful. Saying goodbye is always a bit sad. But, at the same time, letting go of the past means moving forward and onto a different future. While it may be unknown, and challenges certainly lie ahead, as I look back over my life I realize, that that never stopped me before!