Nostalgia is a fickle sensation. I remember sitting in high school assemblies at the end of the school year; the ones where they show pictures from the school year set to Midnight Oil’s Forgotten Years. 95% of the pictures are of the athletes, cheerleaders, student body officers, and the teacher advisor to the student body officers (whose adult life revolves around gaining the confidence of a few ambitious 17 year-olds who exercise power over banner colors and pep rally skits). The other 5% of pictures are of a few pimple-faced yearbook staffers, who managed to sneak pictures of themselves into the slide show while putting it together for the student body officers.
“There’s Chad and Sam with their shirts off. Those guys are awesome.”
“Oh look, there Trevor acting like he’s about to pour that yogurt on Julie’s head and she doesn’t even know it! They’ve had a really fun prank feud going on this year.”
“There’s Julie again, but she’s at the lake now.”
“What?! Oh brother, there’s Matt and Jason dressed up like girl cheerleaders with huge bosoms! Those guys are a riot!”
“There’s the advisor, Mr. Jones, with his arms around Susie and Julie.”
“There’s the gang getting ready for the skit.”
“Here they are in the skit.”
“Ok, ya, that’s them hanging out in the SBO room with their costumes on after the skit. That looks kind of neat.”
“Uh-oh, here’s Susie, Julie, and Natalie doing a Charlie’s Angels pose. Who’s that in the distance watching them through the window? Oh, that’s Mr. Jones.”
“Wait, what’s this picture? Who’s that homely person holding up the black and white cover of the yearbook?” That picture doesn’t belong in this! Boooooo!”
“Wonder why those police officers are speaking with Mr. Jones.”
“Hey-OHH, there’s Chad again but this time he’s just in a Speedo. He’s the best.”
Anyway, with a couple thousand teenagers cheering and Midnight Oil blaring, I remember warm breezes of nostalgia and sadness washing over me. Then I would think “Wait a minute. Why am I feeling regret over the end of a school year? I hate school. School is Hell and summer is water holes and dunk-ball. And all the people from school I actually care for I’ll be seeing during the summer anyway. And Midnight Oil sucks!”
Like these school assemblies, counterfeit nostalgia can sometimes be induced under the right circumstances. And sometimes you can have nostalgia for experiences you never had. Play the Russian National Anthem and my soul aches for the glory days of starving solidarity in the Siberian gulags with my comrades from the failed Revolution of 1905. Go listen to that song again and you’ll see what I mean.
But there is also genuine nostalgia, which is justified and sincere. I felt this when graduating from elementary school to junior high, then junior high to high school, and so on. Then a little when I went on my mission. Then a lot when I came home from my mission, due mostly to the fact that I was convinced I was rapidly going bald and didn’t want to face the young ladies of Davis County with a bare wedge-shaped head. Then I was nostalgic when I transferred from Weber to BYU. Just kidding. Would you be sad to trade in a campus crawling with Slovenian exchange students and exotic dancers for a campus bursting with 20,000 young Sherri Dews? Then I felt nostalgic about leaving BYU, then about going from one child to two.
I don’t know if everyone experiences this, or if I’m unique, but every positive change in my life makes me simultaneously sad and happy. Even if I’m clearly moving onto greener pastures and am 80% excited about the new thing and only 20% sad about leaving the old thing, that 20% is very poignant and independent, sitting like a rock in my psyche.
I’ve been experiencing this kind of nostalgia lately. I am leaving both my window cleaning business and New Mexico in a few short weeks. I thought I might share this journey—my widow cleaning journey—with you, my delicate reader, over the next couple posts. I understand this won’t be interesting to some folks. I mean, would I read about your adventures as a financial planner? Maybe I would. No I probably wouldn’t. But that’s the thing: while I find other people’s lives boring, I find my own to be fascinating. It stands to reason, then, that other people find my life fascinating as well.
But who knows, maybe these posts will inspire you to quit your lawyering and become a window cleaner. I like to think they will.