Sam Gimbel

Tech, Beer, and Strange Thoughts.

Chasing Nostalgia

As a child I would sit on the floor of my room, fingers deep in the faded beige carpet reading books and thinking whatever big thoughts felt big enough at the time. I'd get as low as possible to the ground, hoping perhaps that this would isolate me from the noise of the outside world I had yet to really encounter. And I'd sit like this, knees slowly imprinted with the pattern of the carpet and shoulders slowly going numb, until someone came to rouse me from my reverie. Usually they were surprised that I'd been quiet for that long. That surprise faded into amusement, into routine, into annoyance at times when I couldn't be found. For me, it was never the quiet but the focus I felt when imagining new things that necessitated such an uncomfortable arrangement of limbs.

Today I remembered that feeling of fullness, of entire body satisfaction without pleasure or pain or stimulus, just myself turned inwards to whatever thoughts I could drum up at the time. I reacted with a slow sadness, probing at the corners of my anxious predisposition, pushing back the layers of self-control I'd been nurturing all day to keep building momentum on the work I'm doing at Populace. And I realized, as the frustration of being an older but less-focused person took hold, that this was all a lie.

The little boy was real. His way of finding his center in books and creative pursuits with no one in mind but himself are my own ways. He did indeed sit for hours doing nothing other than turning pages or rifling through stacks of pictures of dinosaurs he received from god knows where. It all happened, but the truth is lost amidst the nostalgia of desiring a better tomorrow. It's impossible to know how that little boy felt about his time sitting between the built-in desk and the bunk bed he shared with his little brother. My own memory is viewed through the lens of a man who has seen and done things that the boy never even considered as part of life. Anything remembered at this stage is a well-constructed lie.

Nostalgia reminds us why we love and why we laugh. It provides a yesterday for us to hold up to today as a yardstick when things are bad, or good, or just different. But it is still a lie, a collection of carefully curated memories that describe the way we see ourselves and not the way we are. This way is not that way, and we're not the people we once were. Reality simply is, and to interact with it we must view its truth, not the truth we'd like to see.

So I sat and thought about that little boy again. I thought about how precious his instinct to explore the world was, and how that's not changed. I thought about how he did the best with the tools he had, and that has not changed. I thought about how he inhabited a different world with different people who acted in different ways, and how this man grown from that small, curious child has no loss to mourn: his moments on the floor of his room are not gone, simply passed.

Whether those moments will come again is not a topic for anxiety. It's a starting point for exploration of the soul, a search for the desires and instincts that led the boy to spend so many hours entranced in the first place. Don't chase nostalgia. Let it inform your journey. These days are not those days, but they may yet resemble them.