Letter 141: My Letter to Nostalgia
An acknowledgment of my past experience with peace and permission to transform on the road ahead
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Aloha fellow learn-it-all 👋
Greetings from the parking lot of my new fave secret surf spot I found on O’ahu, Hawaii 🏄🏻♀️
Wow, it’s amazing what a regular sleep schedule, morning exposure to sunlight, long walks, and regular diet can do to zap lethargy out of my life. I am feeling so much better than last week! So much so that I even surfed the most beautiful wave ever yesterday. Ah, what a magical sport surfing is.
Anywho, to anyone else still reflecting on their past year, I’ve taken the pressure off myself. Putting my most personal piece into one post is a lot so I’ve granted myself permission to make it a couple. Also, reflection is my groove so why not ride this out? The upcoming weeks will be a look at some stats from 2022, moments turned into memories, and some intentions, themes, and questions I hope to answer this year.
I appreciate your patience as I piece this all together. Sure it’s mid-January, but I grant you all permission to delay your reflection. It can take however long you need BUT you do still set a deadline and who you’ll share it with, otherwise it’ll never be ‘complete’. I learned that lesson firsthand in 2019… I’m holding myself to having my completed 2022 review on my website by January 29th. Hold me to it folks 😉
Now, let’s go get nostalgic and surf into letter 141 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!
❓Question to think about
If I were to write my Nostalgia a letter, what would I say?
When I got my new phone last week, I decided to remove Snapchat. I was prompted to log in, and that was enough friction for me to delete it. My kooky little walnut of a brain didn’t remember my password, and I was too lazy to renew it. I felt like I was trying to cancel the memories that you, Nostalgia, lured me into watching each day, crazier days when I'd share daily photos and videos of my past life.
I’m sorry. I know you are an emotion that cannot just be deleted, nor do I want to do that.
You're an odd phenomenon, you know that right? You’re less clear than your neighbors, like Sadness with tears or smiles with Happiness. You’re a form of excitement. The type before taking off in an imaginary spaceship, traveling through different periods of time. Where will this astronaut land? The familiar lands and seas of planet Earth or uncharted contours like the face of Pluto or floating around in between somewhere in an imaginary no-man’s land?
I am grateful for you because I'm grateful for the past. Yet, with you present in the room, and felt in my body with the faster thumping beat of my heart and glistening sweaty palms, I yearn for the past to become the present again. I don’t want you to feel embarrassed for being here. I mourn the life I used to have, even if all that I am recalling is one glimpse of who I used to be.
Sometimes I feel like I’m equipped with an overly faulty walnut, that repeatedly transfers emotions from the past onto the present where they don't quite belong.
Nostalgia to me, you are a recollection of my past history with the present perspective. Sometimes it can be bitter, sometimes it can be sweet — you are both bitter and sweet.
I never know how to prepare myself for when you enter the room. When I dust off my high school yearbook or when I phone a childhood friend, we return to the TCBY ice cream store we used to bike to or the sunfish that we used to sail on daily after swim practice, if only through our conversation.
When I enter my childhood bedroom and see my janky ceramic waterslide from Mr. Zinc's eighth-grade art class leaning over and the plane tickets I framed on my wall from where I studied abroad, collecting dust, it all reminds me of who I used to be. I become full of sadness while reminiscing. It’s as if my shoulders shrink and teardrops percolate behind my eyeballs.
Sometimes you make me feel like a hoarder because you don't give a damn about my attempts at minimalism.
Because of you, I still have the love letters from my parents writing about how the day I was born changed their lives forever and for the better. I opened these on an eighth-grade trip before I got confirmed into the Catholic Church. In my current bedroom, I see the necklace of dead, dried, and brittle orchid flowers — a magenta lei — that I was gifted on my 26th birthday. It lay over my bed as a reminder of the love I felt on that day for the people in my community and the adventures I went on filled with cannonballs, noise complaints, eating king cake, surviving a new surf spot, and bumping volleyballs. I see the pilled yellow “Bayview Yacht Club” fleece from my grandma Omi hanging in my closet that I dread the thought of laundering out of fear that the menthol and cigarette scent of her will disappear forever (but at least I will still have those old voicemails). These artifacts strike a feeling so strong of you Nostalgia that makes me feel gratitude and prompts me to express this through my letter writing practice to the people I love.
All of these things make me think of a washed-up hazy romanticized version of the past that leave me yearning for that belonging in my life today.
Parts are factual and true. While other parts are imaginary and peppered with present desires and longing. But all in all, they all feel real to me since my mind and body experienced them. With you, I have found resonance from remembering my past and trust that it will always be there without holding me hostage in a cage.
Thanks to you, I feel more intimate with myself. I know my present self better after I recognize how different I used to be. It shows my growth. I appreciate you shining the light on it. Without you, I would forget how far I’ve come since each day I am too close to notice it.
That is what you feel like to me. Nostalgia, you are an acknowledgment of my past experience with peace and permission to transform on the road ahead.
Thank you for being a part of my life even if sometimes you swoop in and mesmerize me with rose-colored visions of the past. You help show me the moments turned memories that ignite my strength to keep moving forward. I appreciate you showing glimmers of who I once was to better love my past self.
I’ve just been skimming through the eight journals I filled out in 2022. This is exactly why the nostalgia was coming in full swing and timely for me to write a letter.
It was already 7 years ago in January when I ventured off to Kadavu, Fiji to go live in a village for two weeks and study what Fijian culture and human rights are all about. Let me tell you, nineteen-year-old Jen was a daredevil.
While nostalgically reminiscing on this experience what I found most surprising on this adventure was how happy every single Fijian I encountered was. Even with what looked like nothing, they had enough. Mary and Wise and Bex and Ahpisi (all names I remember because of this video) all challenged my own definition of what the meaning of enough is.
I’d never felt so much strength from a small humble community before. I rolled my ankle while climbing a waterfall to getting drinking water. Upon my arrival to Detroit, my mom thought I had a parasite growing in my swollen ballooned leg during the 25 hours plane ride back.
I am convinced that this trip to Fiji planted the seed that set me off on a trajectory that desired to explore island life further. This seed bloomed into my life in Hawaii today.
I'm ninety-nine for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are
Fifteen, there's still time for you
Twenty-two, I feel her too
Thirty-three, you're on your way
Every day's a new day
The piano in this song is beautiful. I feel like the lyrics are a love letter to my future self. This a reminder to myself today that my past self has been through a lot to take time to breathe in and just live.
My takeaway from this? Savor every moment because time passes quickly. I love my routines, but don’t want to fall victim to them, so I’ll keep challenging myself by spicing up my life and filling it with love — big or small.
🔍Words to define
Nostalgia: homesick, a severe and sometimes fatal form of melancholia due to homesickness; a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal affections; regretfulness; sentimentality; reminiscence.
Homesick: pining for home while in a nostalgic condition.
JV reflection: no wonder language is confusing. Dictionaries just loop one word to meaning another and redirect it back to the word. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
🌟Quote to inspire
“It's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” - Abraham Lincoln
📸 Photo of the Week
Recently did something wild.
I spontaneously decided an hour before the show started to go talk my friends into going to the Republic to see the Minnesotan band “Trampled by Turtles” perform. This was my first bluegrass concert. It was such a hoot! I apparently also looked like a wobbling worm dancing to the fiddle and banjo and mandolin.
I left my phone behind that night because there was no reason that I actually needed it. It felt so freeing like an uncaged zoo animal.
To my friend Andrea Makamba for sharing her entertaining and rich and raw reflection on adulthood: Welcome to the Rest of Your Life: 3 Lessons from My First Year in the Real World
To Rich Keller for sending me a buff with my one word core value on it: “Curiosity”
Tofor helping me with my nostalgia research and sharing a recent learning from his week:
I’ve discovered that I’ve been an extrovert living an introvert’s life. For 21 years I talked to nobody, hit the books. It was drilled into my head that the only way to succeed is to study (solo). So that’s what I did.
But now I realize - from trying a whole bunch of experiences - is that I really enjoy meeting new people. I get tremendous energy from social interaction.
To my editors from Foster, DJ, Alice, Danver and Lisa, in supporting to make this letter the best it can be
I appreciate you reading this!
Never stop learning 😁
PS- in case you missed last week’s ⏱️ Letter 140: What’s the Rush?!
If you’re reading this because someone shared this newsletter with you, welcome! I’d love it if you subscribed:
On my joy of being back on island and feeling more like myself:
On prompts to find my superpower:
On Svetlana Boym and her extensive research on nostalgia that better informed my letter:
On updating my newsletter’s welcome video: