Unsurprisingly for anyone who knows an Aspie or is an Aspie or is aware of how Aspies operate, nostalgia is a favoured sweet honey trap.
Now 'trap' is a misleading word to use because it implies that it holds you and won't let you go and that it was put there by someone else to be caught in. Firstly, you can walk away from it at any point as the present has a knack of dragging you back into it. Secondly, nostalgia has never been placed by someone else. The truth is I'm happy to visit the past as I remember it. Sometimes even the more painful memories.
For me, nostalgia is the welcomed time spent looking back upon a time or an experience, be it good or bad. It's been a regular diversion throughout my life. I remember even as a pre-teen looking back upon my time as a 6 year old waxing lyrical about my time spent living in what was then West Germany. I know of many who reminisce about what happened last weekend let alone last year. I feel little, or none of the sadness that is associated with nostalgia. Perhaps then I need another word, as nostalgia is defined as a 'sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past.' Nostalgia by its definition implies that you wish to be in the past rather than the present. This isn't the case. I love the past. It's made me who I am after all. I love the present more. I don't feel I have much of choice but to love the present. I'm stuck here after all. Like a marooned time traveller!
I like the image that nostalgia creates in our heads. I do indeed sit, gazing longingly at an item from a period of my life and flashback to the memory it evokes. Smells and sounds can also create this experience. And my flashbacks seem as real to me as the time I'm remembering. They usually have some sort of soundtrack. To be honest, they're almost all sweeping movie-like memories that almost certainly didn't happen the way I remember them. Isn't that part of the joy of nostalgia?
Nostalgia has recently been hijacked by both sides of the political aisle recently. It has gained a bad reputation for many as it encourages longing for a time that can simply never be again. I've heard (and seen) people criticise others for being nostalgic. As if remembering the past is a bad thing.
That well may be true for some and not for others. I'm making the positive case for nostalgia. After all, remembering ones past is also the start for many of change. To see what once was for you can be a powerful motivator to move forward. After all, time has marched on, why can't you?
I'll leave it to Shakespeare to find an ideal way to give reason for our present. He wrote in The Tempest,
'What's past is prologue.'
As I understand it, it means we find ourselves where we are now because of the experiences of our past, both global and individual. For example, a person who was stung by a wasp (or many wasps) in his 'past', may find in his 'present' that he has an large dislike of wasps and may seek to destroy a wasp who comes near him or his family for good or ill. When that someone buys an electrified tennis racket in order to smite the flying devils and his son gets hold of it and metes out a type of justice on his father's leg, one could say that it was because of what happened in the past that we found ourselves in that situation in the present. A situation that is now also in the past and has led me to write of it in this blog. A blog that will soon be in the past. The response to the writing of which will soon become apparent. And so it goes on.
In other words, I wouldn't be where I am now without the past. Surely this makes looking back upon the past an essential part of your life? I live a good life. I have lovely friends, I have an awesome family, great wife, great kids, great job, wonderful opportunities, a bright future on the horizon, all of the many things that many strive all their lives to have. The steps I took in my past, led me to this point in my life. Obviously I can't take all the credit. A great deal goes to the numerous people who guest starred in my past. Those who played the good guys like my parents and sister, some friends and teachers, the sagely butcher I apprenticed for as an 18 year old and those who played the bad guys, like one of my French teachers and a few mean people from some pubs and the self assessment tax office.
I guess I'm trying to say that the past isn't a bad place to look back to. Well, at least it isn't for me. I am only too aware that for others, looking backwards is not a nice thing. Many have had harder and darker times.
However, 'past' isn't just an individual term. It has wider and larger global connotations. This is where nostalgia as a term can be misleading. Because its definition implies a positive, many do not feel nostalgic on a personal level. Whilst the past can be a negative place for someone personally, the global viewpoint may well be of interest.
I'm taking on far to big and broad an issue here. I'm going to race back to the Aspie benefits and why I feel it's so wonderful a place for change.
As an Aspie, the concept of change is frightening. I need to come to it in my own time, in my own way. Usually stage managed by those closest to me. I can and do however, come to some levels of change on my own. It takes a considerable quantity of self analysis and planning to concoct seismic change. It can take just as much to start off small changes. I'll always be able to find a reason to return to a pattern of behaviour if the planning or analysis hasn't been thorough. My secret weapon in my armoury of change is nostalgia. If I've seen what has been, for some reason, moving forward doesn't seem so hard. It seems inevitable. I'm not able to stop the passage of time. I'm not able to halt the change going on around me. Surely I can join in. Surely I can get on board the change ship and set off to sea. Perhaps the winds of change will blow me off to a fantastic new, unforeseen future that I could never have planned for.
When I started writing this blog, I wrote down words like escape, safe and diversion. (I think diversion made it in). From the Aspie point of view, the world sometimes requires a place to escape to in order to feel safe. And as my brain is moving at some super fast speed pretty much all the time (not usually in a productive way) a diversion is often required to bring some focus. Nostalgia has regularly proven to allow these things to happen. I still firmly believe that this is increasingly the case for many. How many of us look back over photos on our social media accounts? How many of us check 'Timehop' as a matter of course every morning in order to keep the 'streak' going and to see what you once said to someone you now say nothing to? How many of us long to eat food cooked by a parent? How many of us have a favourite movie that was made and originally watched in our childhoods? Perhaps looking back isn't an Aspie thing. Maybe it's a human thing. Perhaps trying to recreate that past is what the 'trap' is? After all, who wants to be stuck in the prologue all their lives?