I write about nostalgia a lot. Even before I started working for the 80sXchange, I wrote nostalgia-based articles for Retro-Daze, Horror Novel Reviews, and even my own website. Often these pieces focused on how to recreate the “perfect ‘80s or ‘90s something.” The perfect movie marathon, birthday party, Saturday morning, Halloween, or game night. Whatever the event, the whole idea was to weave in as much ‘80s and ‘90s ephemera as possible. You know the drill. Break out the NES, hang some ‘80s movie posters on the wall, cook or buy food you used to have as a kid. Maybe take it to the next level and actually dress in the era-specific style you’re attempting to recreate. Pump some excellent tunage through your boom box. And when all the pieces are in place, and everything is cruising along like a well-maintained BMX down a steep hill, bask in the glory of those elusive “nostalgia tingles.”
Did it work? Did you feel the syrupy warmth run over your body and through your age-addled brain? Did you feel like a kid again?
Because that’s the whole point, isn’t it? When we watch our favorite movies, chase down rereleased versions of old junk food, play an original NES on a CRT, or watch an aged VHS tape, we’re attempting to recapture some lost thing. Or at least that’s part of what we’re doing. I don’t mean to discount the intrinsic value of media from our youth. In other words, yes, we’re also still watching some of these movies because they’re great movies. We’re still playing some of these games because they’re great games.
People often warn against becoming obsessed with nostalgia. They’ll tell you not to live in the past. They’ll explain how corporations use this potent drug to sell you useless junk that you don’t need. Make you invest time in reboots of old franchises that should never have been tampered with. And you know what? They’re right. At least, they’re partially right. There’s absolutely a dark side to indulging in our past. But they’re also shortsighted because nostalgia runs through so much of our lives, we are often blind to it. For instance, what are family traditions if not nostalgia?
Nostalgia and the present don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We can have our cake and eat it too. Just as we recreate old memories around the holidays through traditions, we attempt this same feat with other elements of our youth. But what we also do as the years wear on is we build new family traditions. Maybe it’s a different baked good for the holidays, or a new party, or an unfamiliar movie to watch. Whatever it is, you’ve built upon something old, kept it alive and thriving.
You’re here, reading this article, because you love the ‘80s. You’re here because you’re like me and you enjoy indulging in the past. As much as I love to look behind me, I acknowledge being present in the moment is also important and looking ahead is equally crucial. We are every day creating new memories we will someday look back on with reverence equaled to that which we now experience for the ‘80s. For many of us, this has already begun with the ‘90s and yes, even the 2000’s. I was recently shocked to realize I graduated college twenty years ago. When I started thinking back to my old campus, our old haunts, and my friends, I found nostalgia creeping in to say hello.
Can the present and nostalgia be reconciled? The issue may be far too complex to solve in a short article, especially if we get into the notion of time as a merely a social construct. I’m not entirely sure it needs solving anyway. Rather, like so many things, the topic deserves consideration, analysis, and speculation. Every time I sit down to write for the 80sXchange, I’m thinking about how nostalgia and the present can coexist and even thrive with one another.
Then again, the past and present may be one and the same.
And if there really is only now, then what else can we do but be.