I’ve been thinking about Barcelona a lot. Maybe because the novelty of being in a new place has worn off or because a ton of people have been traveling there and asking for my advice. Maybe… but what I’m most curious about is the nostalgia phenomenon and its effect on memory.
Nostalgia, by my definition, is just an idealized form of the past. If we are always longing for something that was not true to begin with, how can we convince ourselves to be happy elsewhere? How can we break this habit? How can one truly enjoy their surroundings, if they’re longing for a past in its untrue form? Nostalgia can be enjoyable for sure but when I deeply reflect on my time in Barcelona, I know that I am happier in Paris.
I was thinking of starting this post about what I miss most about Barcelona. My first thought was the legality of indoor smoking. The irony? I don’t smoke. Case in point. In fact I remember many mornings waking up in disgust from the stench of my cigarette soaked clothes and hair from being out the night before. And yet my first thought was “Ahh the luxury of being able to sit in a cafe and light one’s cigarette without a second thought”.
Perhaps nostalgia is some kind of evolutionary benefit. Maybe people live longer if they believe they’ve had happy, productive lives, whether or not that is how they actually felt at the time. Maybe people are happier if they only reflect on the good, or only look back to some kind of photo-shopped past. It’s always wonderful to remember the good, but maybe we should try to reflect on our dark hours too, especially in order to appreciate the present and further, to understand the complexity of life in every circumstance, no matter where you are.