For as long as I can remember, I’ve clung to nostalgia so tightly that it’s become a trait of my character.
When I was in my final year of high school, I remember laying on the floor in my friend’s basement, listening to Bright Eyes records and wishing so badly that I could go back to three years prior where I wasn’t worried about university applications, or financial aid or potential love.
When I started university, I remember sitting on the flea-market couch in the living room of my mice-infested student apartment that I shared with my best friends, wishing so badly to go back to that basement floor. I wanted to feel it’s safe familiarity under my back as I stared at the ceiling, listening to Conor Oberst sing about his back-of-mind demons. University was hard and my relationship was rocky and I missed my mom.
And now, I find myself living in a beautiful home, working a job that gives me the most freedom I’ve ever experienced and nurturing some of the strongest personal relationships I’ve ever had. And yet, I still look back on that mice-infested student apartment. I still think about that basement floor. I still contemplate these pieces of my past where I was knowingly miserable, and I miss them, even though at the time, I was so desperate to escape them.
In the past two years or so, I’ve drawn the conclusion that this isn’t clinging to nostalgia, but rather, this is depression. For me, depression presents itself as a state of constant dissatisfaction, even though life seems pretty okay. It’s dreaming about all the unattainable possibilities that could take me out of my current place. It’s looking back and wanting to relive certain moments — moments where I was unhappy, but assumedly happier than the unhappiness that I’m currently experiencing.
When one of my favourite artists, Bogues, released a new album earlier this year, one specific line helped me make sense of this “condition” in which I live. On a song called “All Moved In” he sings: “I look back on everything, wishing that I’d turn around.”
I remember when I heard that line for the first time, gripping my steering wheel as I drove down King Street, tears threatening to fall from my eyes, a wave of “it all makes sense now” hitting me like a ton of bricks. I felt comfort in finding someone to relate to, but also immense frustration that I pointed toward myself. Why can’t I just turn around and face forward? Why am I so fixated on the past? I’m always missing something, which seems disrespectful to those who are in front of me — it seems disrespectful to the incredible opportunities I’ve been given and to the people who consciously choose to love me every day.
Combatting depression can be painfully hard and I’m sure that some of you are nodding your head in agreement. Actively choosing happiness can be so tough when you’ve conditioned yourself to believe that being “sad” is your most recognizable character trait. I want to stop devaluing how I feel by labelling myself as a nostalgic person. What I’m experiencing isn’t nostalgia, it’s mental illness.
And while I currently don’t have a grand solution, a small step for me, and maybe for you, too, is to try to turn around.