To those of you in the latter half of your undergraduate degree, what do you remember about the end of high school?
I can tell you that I don’t remember much of Grade 12. I think I enjoyed myself a little bit, but I was also the head of three clubs, applying to university and grappling with the idea of moving away from home. I wish I could say I have a fountain of memories of lazy spring evenings or poorly-planned adventures, but most of what I remember is staying up until 2 a.m. writing essays or studying for the calculus class I was almost failing.
Maybe I’m just getting nostalgic as I inch closer to graduation (or, more realistically, panicky as I careen closer to my thesis presentation), but I wish that I had more exciting or interesting or even sappy memories about that time. And even though it feels like I don’t have time to breathe sometimes, there are some things I’m trying to keep in mind as I work through the next month and a half.
I realize how cheesy this sounds, but I remember the end of high school and how busy I was, and how I felt like I was fumbling for whatever small memories I could catch and hold onto for the future. I forgot to have a little fun while I was there, and despite being almost as swept-off-my-feet busy now, I’m trying to not let that happen again.
It’s hard to do, but I’m trying to savour fleeting, seemingly inconsequential moments. I’m taking mental pictures of my friends laughing at ridiculous jokes. Or bottling the way the sun looks on my bedroom wall during that golden post-sunrise time. Or relishing the chilly air during a late-night walk home from an evening out.
I’m also doing my best to not blame myself for everything that happens around me. This one is tough; I am accountable for all my own actions, but I’m working to accept that there are factors that may be out of my control in so many situations. Sometimes the rug will be yanked out from under you and, as upsetting as that is, remember that it’s not the end of the world. I’m trying.
An old fake proverb from Mad Magazine states: “may you do various things and may other various things happen to you”. Words to live by. And it’s hard to accept that some things are out of my hands, but I’m realizing how important that is to acknowledge.
I don’t want to remember my last year of undergrad as a messy, stressful, uncertain period. And I’ve resolved that I’m not going to. I have had so many cozy nights at my favourite low-key bar. I’ve hosted my first dinner party (it was pancakes, but conceptually it was still a dinner party). I’ve achieved and earned rewards and opportunities I’ve worked my ass off for, and all of those experiences outweigh speedwriting a response paper or cramming for the GRE.
No one other than me will remember why those events are so important on a personal level. Similarly, no one will ever wholly understand why a particular outing or person or food is worth preserving in your mind. Remember that.
Nostalgia can come in all shapes and sizes, provoked by the most mundane of things, and often immediately tugs at the five senses with vivid detail in remembered points of the past. With social media so readily available at the fingertips of the masses, this sensation is very easy to obtain and embrace. Memories of last night’s shenanigans start their upload to take their place next to last week’s, scrolling through weeks, months, and years of your own adventures or highlights from the lives of others, whether they be friends you have long lost touch with or ones you met just recently.
Though I do not typically reminisce, everything seemed to fall into place for me to do so the other day. A new cover photo based on March Madness brought likes from those I would not have pegged as being basketball fans; I figured that I actually had no idea of knowing as I had not seen some of them since 2007. A quick scroll down the Facebook feed brought up the usual array: some posts from Spotted At Mac, people’s comments on statuses old and new that included some more designed exercises in nostalgia with the #tbt hashtag, pictures of old hookups, friends of all sorts, and artists barely listened to anymore.
I sent a quick message to someone to buy something from their post that connected to media influential to my teenage years. Why not? I figured that I might as well add something new to the old collection.
As thoughts raced about events and memories that pertained to each, individual person or event seen, there was one rather lengthy status from an old friend that created the highest emotional toll. I always thought of myself as not just a friend, but a mentor to him as we both enjoyed performing, perfecting, and discussing music. It was a release for the both of us and most certainly one of the best parts of our day as it was for most of the musicians I knew. While I went onto other pursuits at McMaster, he went onto a prominent music college in the states with dreams far more passionate than mine. Unfortunately, he dropped out due to mental health issues, primarily depression, and moved back to be closer to home and the support system there.
This status in particular was a complete opening up. It revealed rather personal details about his upbringing and situation; he seemed completely willing to expose the less-than-ideal aspects about himself in a way rarely seen done by anyone. While some things may not be desirable to hear, I could not help but feel quite happy for him as he seemed to be progressing towards being happier and letting go of some mental frustrations.
Nostalgia is a very odd emotion in that it can make you happy that you experienced certain events in the past, but maybe a little upset that you cannot go back and relive those moments again. It can fuel our decisions in the present and future to reconnect with people and it can even change our perception of the past over time as any negative aspects of great times are forgotten in favour of the total emotion.
Some memories, however, have to be fully embraced and opened up to release mental strains in any forms of anxiety, regret, or whatever other negative connotation may be associated with the past.
It was Edgar Allan Poe who stated, “It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream,” to which I encourage you to make peace with your past and attempt to embrace all forms of nostalgia in an effort to make your present self one that your future can look back on in a positive way.
By: Ronald Leung
To have 20 valentines: oh how I miss those days,
Draped in a childhood haze.
Dodge ball in grade three,
Getting my elementary school degree.
Feburary 14th: the day would roll around,
Which cards would I get? Thinking in a frown.
Carrying my own cards, school-bound.
The time would come,
All my friends to be my valentine!
Handing out my precious cards,
No one will ever be glum.
How strange it is then,
And how strange it is now,
To go from multi-valentine fun,
To only wanting one.
After spending about five weeks in Europe this past summer, I compiled an impressive collection of secondhand books. There was the entire Harry Potter series in French, the Kurt Vonnegut novel with a love note scrawled on the inside cover, a look-book of Yves St. Laurent’s designs, a funny little picture book about two very ugly monsters falling in love in Paris, a vintage Spiderman comic – and the list goes on. My luggage was already slightly overweight when I flew into Lyon, and the situation became much, much worse on my flight home.
I went back and forth between weighing my suitcase and rearranging my things for about three hours in the middle of the airport. I threw out towels, clothing, shoes – but I refused to part with my beloved books. The result was that I wore several layers of clothing (dresses, socks, men’s jackets) with books stuffed in the waistbands of my many pants. I was asked more than once if I was traveling up North (which really doesn’t even make sense…why would I have already started layering up?)
When I recounted this story back home, everybody asked me, why on earth did you buy so many books? All these books could have been purchased here or found online, why was it necessary to fly them over from another continent?
I was indignant. Where would I find the entire Harry Potter series in French that could document my journey in St. Etienne so beautifully? There was a little second-hand book and record store just outside of the university that I was studying at and I stumbled into it on my lunch break one day and discovered the third Harry Potter. It became like a mini-adventure, each day hoping that I would find another book in the series.
Where would I find a Kurt Vonnegut with a “Chere Marie, tu me manques!” written in barely legible handwriting on the inside? When else would I visit “Shakespeare & Co.” – the place that famous writers from all over the world would sleep and write and live – and find the St. Laurent look-book? When else would I stroll along the River Seine, looking at all the vintage booths and learning the owners’ strange and lovely stories?
There were classic record shores at every turn, hundred-year-old books being sold at every street corner, and colourful, interesting thrift stores for people of all styles. I felt nostalgic about these items, being drawn into my own Midnight in Paris, reminiscing a past that I found far more poetic. I felt nostalgic about my own two-decade-long past, reflecting on the decisions I had made and feeling reassured that I had made the right ones because here I was, walking down the streets of Paris with my best friends. And I felt an overwhelming nostalgia hovering above me, fully aware that in a few short weeks it would envelope me whole once I returned home. It was a nostalgia for this trip where I had found new dreams, new identities, new friends, and new love.
And so, we present to you ANDY’S “nostalgia” issue – as we look back on all those things that have brought us to where we are now.
By: Ronald Leung
The fifth-grader with a smartphone is actually quite a common sight nowadays. While the merits of exposing a child to regular doses of radiation is debatable, the function of the device is usually more for entertainment and gaming rather than social networking. It’s easy to download free games right onto a smartphones so it’s obvious why kids are so drawn to them.
But really, do the ‘90s kids have anything to be jealous of? We were the era of glorious black-and-white pixelated egg-shaped Tamagotchis with hundreds of different varieties to buy and play. The most extreme friend usually had twenty or thirty Tamagotchis all strung up on a keychain and would pull them all out on a regular basis during recess to feed/play/take care of each and every virtual critter for a good thirty minutes. It’s not surprising that even marriage and family was introduced, and owners were allowed to “link up” with each other to pair their Tamagotchis and even raise children. A great small stepping stone into the complex jungle of social hierarchy, don’t you think? With over 76 million units sold, Tamagotchis are still going strong! Don’t be surprised if you see your younger cousins sporting one with flashy lights, 3-D graphics and 8-bit colour. Times change quickly my friend.
On that note, is it a surprise to hear that the original Sony Walkman actually used audio cassettes? Yes, you know what I’m talking about – the little plastic rectangles filled with swirls of black tape. It certainly seems like an eternity ago that anyone actually used those things. Perhaps you can find some in the children’s section at your local library. Quick to adapt to the times, Sony released a CD Walkman which, believe it or not, was the most fetch thing in the ‘90s. My, my! Not only could the rings of thin plastic be stored easier than chunky black boxes of tape, they also were much easier on the eyes. Instead of boring print on the cassettes, you could be dazzled by a shimmering ring of colour on the back, and whatever interesting image was on the front. Don’t laugh now – Sony Walkman actually fundamentally changed the way people listened to music by allowing them to carry music everywhere and use lightweight headphones. You could call the Walkman the ancestor of your trendy Apple product.
While Sony created a must-have product for many years, individual toys come and go every holiday season taking the crown for the “Must-Have” gift for the year (I’m looking at you Tickle-me-Elmo). The Furbies took to the throne in the winter of 1998. In fact, demand soared so ridiculously high that resale prices went over $100 and often over $300 in auctions. On that note, what animal is a Furby supposed to be, exactly? It’s like a square shaped bird with very big ears and no wings. The closest suggestion I’ve heard is a hamster/owl splice which explains the over-large eyes, furry hide, and bulky body. One of the reasons why these strange creatures were so popular was because they had robotic “intelligence” – they were able to “communicate” with other Furbies in a fictitious language called “Furbish” that slowly involved more and more English words as they grew. I suppose children do really enjoy toys that talk back and hold some sort of interaction.
Really, our childhood wasn’t so bad. Don’t even get me started on Beyblades, Pokemon, and Spongebob Squarepants. Kids these days, they don’t know what’s good. If you ever have time, try visiting the toy section in a giant department store – you’ll likely spend a great deal of time repeating the phrase “Oh yeah, I remember this!” Well, at least hopefully you will. It’s doubtful you’ll find an audio cassette Sony Walkman but at least there’ll be some modern version that will jog your memory. Hold your head high, child of the ‘90s. As short as our childhood was, it was glorious.