The need for nostalgia: Looking back might be doing more for us than we realize

Inclusive Stylist Toronto

Lately, I've been loving the aroma of soft, salty pretzels and dark chocolate cakes baking in the oven, letting loose to '90s dance hits and chatting on the phone for hours with my friends about the minutiae of our days. 

In short, I've been really nostalgic — remembering the way things used to be before constant hand-sanitizing, wearing a mask and standing six feet away from another person weren't mandatory. As far as I can remember, baking has been a soothing memory. I have tender feelings thinking about when I used to bake cookies with my mom. And It's no wonder I'm listening to Robin S.'s Show Me Love on repeat. Hearing my favourite songs transports me to the time I used to go to bars, getting sweaty to the beat, and take part in lip-sync battles at dinner parties, laughing with friends. I prefer talking on the phone over video conferencing, reminded of a time when the telephone cord from my landline would get wrapped around my wrist as I shifted, trying to find the privacy to speak. Today, I'm on the phone with people I love and can't see in person since, for me, the days of making restaurant reservations and going to the movies or a concert have been put on pause. 

“Nostalgia comes up when we don't know where to turn,” David Berry, cultural critic and author of On Nostalgia, told me over the phone. “Nostalgia seems obvious to us, to our survival and mental well-being, as its purpose is to lift us up.”

“With so much heaviness, we need to [remind] ourselves what used to make us happy,” Cassandra Francis, who explores the role of emotions in her work with psychotherapy clients, told me. “Nostalgia is about having a sentimental piece of happiness, a personal connection. It gives us more motivation and hope to proceed on a day-to-day basis.” 

Now that a simple trip to the supermarket can trigger feelings of mistrust and anxiety, it's nice to think of when our only market concerns were the cost of ingredients and remembering a reusable bag.  

Francis added, “We are drawn to nostalgic memories because we know what's going to happen, and having control in a time of uncertainty is important.” 

This security we crave, I think, is why many of us have been pulling out activities and things that brought us joy so long ago. We've been posting evidence of our renewed love of running and photos of sourdough bread baking and completed 1,000-piece puzzles, drawn to activities that have stood the test of time. Baking, reading, exercising, listening to music, watching reruns and old movies — “we love these things because there is a predictability in knowing what is going to happen,” said Francis. “As we are continually in the process of adjusting to the next thing, doing what you can control can settle the fear.”

No one could have predicted we would be having “quarantimes” instead of our hoped summer times. Many things I planned for have been put on hold, like weddings, and birthday and summer celebrations. The future is so uncertain right now, I can see how I'm looking back because I can't really move forward. When I think about my past, even though not everything was great, there are memories of who and what I loved that help boost my spirits. “Nostalgia is always comforting because it is always drawing us back to ourselves,” said Berry. I long to feel the way I did before all of this uncertainty, and reminiscing is my direct line to those emotions. 

But also, recalling the past gives me hope for the future because it puts this period of time into perspective.

I went into this year feeling pumped it was 2020. I thought I would be enlightened, focused and full of hope with new beginnings on the horizon. But, like most people, I've found myself confused, deflated and struggling to find my place. Still, I've been able to reflect on what the most important things are in my life. So as hard as it may be to believe, when we look back on these days maybe we'll remember something good: connecting with family, learning new skills, and assessing our priorities, for example. I hope I will remember being able to slow down, listen and find myself in the chaos of the world. These days will definitely not be the “good old days,” but recalling memories that put a smile on my face and warm feelings in my heart makes this time a little easier to be in. Nostalgia helps, maybe, because some things can be better appreciated in the rear view. 


Vanessa Magic is a freelance writer, storyteller and award-winning costume designer. Currently, she is in development with CBC to make an afrofuturist science-based kids show. She loves making up magical stories and singing songs to her adorable four-year-old son. When she is not in mama mode, she facilitates mentorships and workshops with Inclusive Stylist Toronto

News Related

OTHER NEWS

A better binge: One Day at a Time is the comforting, cringe-free show you can slip into worry-free

I'm not typically a fan of watching reboots or revivals. For the better part of the last decade, studios and TV networks have banked heavily on our collective nostalgia, remaking ... Read more »

[Eye Plus] Nights shine bright on Seoul’s Nodeulseom

Nodeulseom, an artificial island built a century ago, is a unique place from which to view Seoul’s nightscape over the Han River, especially in early summer. While you’re staring at ... Read more »

Why it's important for Indigenous people to tell our own stories

This First Person article is the experience of Ossie Michelin, a Labrador Inuk journalist from the community of North West River. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please ... Read more »

'Emergency Declaration,' 'In Front of Your Face' invited to Cannes' non-competition

Poster of “Emergency Declaration”South Korean films “Emergency Declaration,” directed by Han Jae-rim, and “In Front of Your Face” by Hong Sang-soo were invited to this year’s Cannes Film Festival.   In ... Read more »

Not all pickled veg is created equal: New book celebrates kimchi

Cover of “Kimchi in the Eyes of the World” (Korean Culture and Information Service)The Korean Culture and Information Service and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs jointly published ... Read more »

Here are the winners of the 2020 Governor General's Literary Awards

The 2020 Governor General's Literary Awards have been revealed. Among the winners is Cree writer Michelle Good for her debut novel Five Little Indians and renowned Canadian American poet Anne Carson for ... Read more »

Residential school survivors mourn after discovery of unmarked graves

Front Burner25:22Residential school survivors mourn after discovery of unmarked graves This week, all across the country, memorials were made out of teddy bears and rows of tiny shoes as people ... Read more »

PHOTO: Munch’s “The Sun” transported into the new Munch Museum in Oslo

Late Monday night, Edvard Munch’s enormous painting “The Sun” was transported to the new Munch Museum. The work was inserted into a specially designed hole in the wall of the ... Read more »

30 Asian artists to discover this Asian Heritage Month

All throughout Asian Heritage Month, CBC Music has been asking Asian-Canadian musicians for their song recommendations. The seven artists we surveyed — Sook-Yin Lee, Cartel Madras, Tyler Shaw, Cutsleeve, Estyr, Gong ... Read more »

Host Takara Small brings fresh perspective to the tech world in new CBC podcast

What happens when the one person with access to a quarter of a billion dollars unexpectedly dies — taking all the passwords with him? Introducing A Death in Cryptoland: the ... Read more »

They sent body bags and toe tags. She made a ribbon dress.

Unreserved12:32They sent body bags and toe tags. She made a ribbon dress. Using a sewing machine and the strength of her ancestors, Abigail Echo-Hawk transformed a symbol of death — ... Read more »

These parents are trying to raise their kids in an English-free home

Unreserved15:56These parents are trying to raise their kids in an English-free home A couple in Ontario are trying to raise their kids in an English-free home.  Emmaline Beauchamp (Mshkogaabwid Kwe) and ... Read more »

Why the first thing you should do when the pandemic is over is karaoke

Tapestry19:42Why the first thing you should do when the pandemic is over is karaoke When the pandemic ends, the first thing writer Mel Woods plans to do is hit the ... Read more »

Online games have become a big part of our pandemic lives

Spark54:01509: Social and persuasive games From pandemic socializing to major lawsuits, video games have have made a lot of news in the last year. “I used to play almost exclusively ... Read more »

How an Asian LGBTQ group in Toronto is helping youth feel comfortable in their skin

A program that works with LGBTQ Asians in Toronto called When You're Ready is helping youth embrace and affirm their sexuality through a culturally sensitive lens.  The program, the only one ... Read more »

'Unlike any other year': Muslim front-line workers reflect on Ramadan, prepare to mark Eid

As Muslims across Ontario mark the end of another Ramadan under a provincewide lockdown due, front-line workers say observing this past month while working through the pandemic has been nothing ... Read more »

How two young Filipino tattoo artists are navigating family, identity and the industry

Leah Anifowose and Jet Catacutan are two young tattoo artists in Calgary who never imagined they'd one day make a living doing something their families initially strongly disapproved of.  But ... Read more »

Your horoscope for the week ahead: Unfulfilled dreams may suddenly become a reality

There is a lot to look forward to this week. Jupiter's entry into Pisces last week is a game-changer. Jupiter is known for ruling Sagittarius, but he also rules Pisces. ... Read more »

Your horoscope for the week ahead: A New Moon in Taurus makes it easy to communicate your feelings and ideas

The highlight of this week — besides Tuesday's New Moon in Taurus — is Jupiter's entry into the compassionate sign of Pisces on Thursday, where he will be greeted by ... Read more »

Heirlooms from my Asian family: 7 women on the meaning and journey behind their keepsakes

Our connections to our past — and to our families — are often tied up with the physical, tangible things that have been passed down to us. For me, it's ... Read more »

The most exciting Canadian books coming out in spring 2021

Check out all the amazing Canadian books arriving in the first half of 2021! Canadian fiction Our top pick: Return of the Trickster by Eden Robinson See the rest of the Canadian ... Read more »

The beginner's guide to the greatest pastimes: Carrom

Among the checkerboards, Scrabble, chess and the Monopoly box that's missing pieces, there is one game in my family's collection that stands out among the rest — and it's not ... Read more »

How understanding women's pandemic experiences can help build a better post-COVID world

The Current21:56Author Lauren McKeon on the pandemic’s impact on women A Canadian author who has written about women's experiences during the pandemic says she wanted to record their stories to ... Read more »

Oslo’s Angry Boy had a rough month – but he’s ok now!

One of Norway’s most famous sculptures has been through it this month. One of the most famous sculptures in the Nordics was damaged, taken down for renovation, and then put ... Read more »

Norwegian photographer Johan Brun dead at 98

The famous Norwegian photographer Johan Brun is dead at 98 years old, according to the newspaper Dagbladet. Johan Brun worked as a photographer for Dagbladet from 1948 until he retired ... Read more »

Culture Minister gives Oslo Pride half a million kroner for a special event in 2022

The Norwegian government is giving Oslo Pride half a million kroner to mark the decriminalization of homosexuals with a special event in 2022. In 2022, it will be 50 years ... Read more »

Opinion: Young people in Norway are facing a bleak post-COVID future

Too often ridiculed as being more interested in TikTok than today’s events, the youth of Norway are seeing a once bright future slowly fade away thanks to the global pandemic. ... Read more »

Swedish cultural sector to receive billions in crisis support

The Swedish government will give the cultural sector 1.3 billion kroner in crisis support, as well as 3 billion in support for events that will be hit by the pandemic ... Read more »

PHOTO: 900,000 Norwegians watched Tix sing his way to the Eurovision final

On Tuesday, Tix made his way to the final of Eurovision, which kicks off on Saturday. A total of 898,000 Norwegians watched the semifinals. In comparison, “only” 678,000 “Norwegians watched ... Read more »

Øyafestivalen in Oslo has been canceled

The Øyafestivalen music festival has been canceled for the second year in a row. The festival’s organizers have made the decision that it is not possible to carry out the ... Read more »

Norway’s Ministry of Culture doubles corona support for cultural sector

The Ministry of Culture is doubling the support from NOK 400 to NOK 800 million in the stimulus scheme for the cultural sector, Minister of Culture Abid Raja (V) said. ... Read more »

Meet Dr. Ove Jakobsen, pioneer of “ecological economics” in Bodø

An interview by Norway Today. We spoke with Dr. Ove Jakobsen, Professor of Ecological Economics at Nord University and Ecological Economics Projects Coordinator for Bodø2024 – Bodø European Capital of ... Read more »

Hip, Hip, Hurra? Norway prepares for another COVID-era 17 Mai

For the second year running, the people of Norway will have to make do and celebrate Norway’s favorite day with restrictions, infection control measures, and a sense of cautious joy. ... Read more »

Edvard Munch graffitied his own “The Scream” painting, experts conclude

A small message is hidden in a corner of famous painting The Scream. The tiny, pencil inscription sits on the top-left corner of Edvard Munch‘s (1863, Ådalsbruk, Norway – 1944, Oslo, Norway) iconic ... Read more »

Child poverty in Norway: Why is it soaring and what can be done?

Statistics Norway (SSB) has released its latest annual findings, for 2019, on child poverty in Norway. Some 11.7% of all children, in Norway, now live in “households with persistently low ... Read more »

Easter in Norway: How is it celebrated?

Easter is a holiday that Norwegians look forward to with relish. More than just a religious holiday, it can involve one final ski for the season, reading a Nordic crime ... Read more »

Government allocates 10 million kroner to Norwegian films affected by the pandemic

Norwegian films that were distributed in the period from March 13 to September 30, 2020, can now apply for funding. A total of NOK 10 million will be distributed. “This ... Read more »

The Munch Museum in Oslo has finally been completed. Now, the move can start

The new Munch Museum’s opening has previously been postponed several times – most recently until the autumn of 2021. But now the building has finally been completed, and on Friday, ... Read more »

What you need to know about the Swedish Lapphund – one of Sweden’s national breeds

The Swedish Lapphund is one of Sweden’s national breeds, an all-around spitz type. They are usually known as great reindeer herders, but traditionally they have been used as watchdogs and ... Read more »

Foreign-owned culture sector companies could receive up to 300 million kroner of Norway’s corona funding

Foreign-owned companies could receive as much as NOK 300 million from the Norwegian support scheme for corona-exposed cultural actors. Newspaper VG has reviewed last year’s compensation and stimulation schemes for ... Read more »