looking back / self-reflection

Looking back is a funny thing. It awakens a deep ache in our souls that we tend to forget about during the craze and blur of daily life.

Oh dear Nostalgia, my old, delusional friend.

The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.

― Milan Kundera, Ignorance

I have notes in my iPhone that date back to 2016. Before I send a text I am hesitant to send, or a text I really want to think through and get right, I write it in my notes first. Then I tug at it, pull away unnecessary words, try to extract the emotional response and leave behind only the logical, reasoning argumentative voice that I’m trying to get across. (Keep in mind, looking back, I do not really accomplish this and my responses are still quite emotional).

I then copy and paste it, send it, and proceed.

But I don’t delete them. And I don’t keep these messages on purpose. I truly just forget about the fact that they are in my notes until the next time I go in. And even then, they are mixed among notes of lists, goals, reminders, my friend’s cable log-in. I’m not one to really peruse, scroll, and re-read those forgotten drafts of old text messages.

Tonight though, after finding the log-in for my LSAC account, and realizing I am screwed for this first practice test this weekend, I flipped to another note. And then another. And another, until I ended up deep in 2016. There were my drafted messages of heartbreak–illogical (hindsight 20/20) messages that my older, current self is simply shaking her head at. It’s one thing for me to casually go over the past in my mind, but reading these draft messages tonight–messages I did end up sending–reminded me how strange it can be to hold up the mirror & truly look into the past.

I mean, we do it all the time–we hold onto the past and we work towards a better future and more often than not we are forgetting to truly live in the moment. But this concept of “looking back” and “self-reflection,” the actual act of doing so, is so strange. It is like peeping in on another person entirely. Did this really happen to me? That was the mindset I was in at that time? Sometimes that ache in my chest is not quite nostalgia, but the ache of an old wound–pain. Mixed with a little humiliation.

Looking back, my responses that I thought were devoid of emotion are actually jampacked with them. I hadn’t yet grasped that not everybody loves the same way I do, everyone holds themselves to different standards, and that people truly do not owe you anything. I see myself attempting to reason with ex’s and as my eyes dance across the text, I am thinking, girl, he is not worth your time, and he does not owe you anything. Put the phone down.

And then looking back doesn’t seem so pathetic or painful or nostalgic or strange. It’s liberating. Because at least I’m not sending dumbass messages anymore.

But in general–without hard physical evidence of your own writing–looking back and walking down Nostalgia Lane is a strange, dreamlike walk.

We remember moments in glowing or dark hazes, coloring our opinions of the memory to the point that the memory morphs entirely.

When you start thinking about what your life was like 10 years ago–and not in general terms, but in highly specific detail–it’s disturbing to realize how certain elements of your being are completely dead. They die long before you do. It’s astonishing to consider all the things from your past that used to happen all the time but (a) never happen anymore, and (b) never even cross your mind. It’s almost like those things didn’t happen. Or maybe it seems like they just happened to someone else. To someone you don’t really know. To someone you just hung out with for one night, and now you can’t even remember her name.

― Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story

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