In Greek, nostos means to return home, and algos means pain. These two words have morphed together into what we now call nostalgia, a feeling we so often chase. Nostalgia is the pain of an old wound, but one that is dangerously addicting. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again—a homesickness for a home that no longer exists and will never exist again.
Newer generations have always felt a fascination for times that preceded them, but since the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, people have been using nostalgia to cope with an unforeseeable and messy future. Covid-19 has made people of all generations all over the world nostalgic for a past that held a promising future.
As a young person entering adulthood in the time of Covid-19, I can certainly admit to having fallen in the dangerous cycle of living in the past once or twice—using that ache to satisfy my longing for any new feeling. I also think that I am a nostalgic person at heart. I’m even nostalgic towards things that I haven’t even experienced—having Jell-O in the basement of a mid-century modern suburban house while playing D&D with my friends, for example. I’m certain that a lot of that nostalgia comes from the media that I have consumed, both media from before I was born and contemporary media that simply evokes feelings of nostalgia, like That 70s Show. I’m especially nostalgic of media—films, television, music, and print—that I had once consumed alongside my father before his death, many of which he felt nostalgic towards.
Because of my inclination to dwell on moments where I was too foolish to even contemplate my own happiness, I tend to always go back to the media that I grew up with. When I long for my childhood, I revisit Bananas in Pyjamas and relive Sunday mornings with my parents in my beautiful childhood home. When I long for my dad’s company, I listen to The Doors and revisit our long car rides and camping trips. When I want to relive my angsty years as a preteen, I re-watch the first season of American Horror Story, or revisit Freaks and Geeks, both of which somewhat introduced me to the awareness of counter-culture.
It’s easy to see why shows like Stranger Things and Freaks and Geeks work (the latter because of the cult following it developed after its initial failure). Nostalgia sells. It’s perhaps the easiest feeling to evoke in people, now more than ever. Yes, like all good things, too much of it can be a bad thing. But I don’t think that we should write off nostalgia as a coping mechanism. We’re living through a time of mass depression, it’s okay for people to go back to their childhood favorites when they have a longing to feel… anything.
By Talulla Torthe