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  • Anya Fernihough

The Influence of Nostalgia

The meaning of nostalgia differs from person to person. For some, it is at the core of their entire personality, and for others it’s something they rarely experience and almost try to push away from. It is the feeling of sentimentality for things in the past that have since gone, and a sort of yearning for those times to re-enter our lives. Nostalgia can be applied to almost anything in life, from music to food to TV. I think this is largely because nostalgia stems from human experiences, so if anything were to trigger a fond, old memory, this sentiment would come rushing back. In addition to this, nostalgia is subjective: everyone has a different perspective on life and their experiences and as a result different things can be nostalgic for different people. I also feel as though there is a kind of melancholic undertone to nostalgia; this fondness of the past can be bittersweet as we have to accept that time has moved on from these old memories, and acts as a reminder of how we have grown as a person. The idea that something as simple as eating a particular type of food can bring us back to a certain point in our lives is quite fascinating, making us almost like time-travellers of the mind, and the ability to have such a strong recollection of a past event is rather incredible.

For me, I’m quite a sentimental person, and I almost feel like this drives my desire for nostalgia. The music I listen to is what my parents played me when I was younger, the clothes I wear are reminiscent of past style trends, and the places I want to travel to are generally places I have been before or have a certain connection to. Even if some of these things aren’t specifically nostalgic for me, that overall sense of sentimentality is something I find quite comforting.

I think this relates to other aspects of life that are technically nostalgic, but perhaps without the same level of personal emotion or attachment. For example, trend cycles in fashion are the processes of reintroducing trends from the past, such as the return of flared jeans from the 70s and low-rise mini skirts from the 00s. In music, artists are influenced by others from the past, bringing new ideas into a certain genre and the overall music industry. The nostalgia for the past is the inspiration for the present.

In reality, I think it is quite hard to create something that doesn’t trigger any sense of nostalgia for anyone. People interpret art and media in different ways, and as we all have different experiences to each other, there will undoubtedly be someone who finds a certain thing nostalgic, even if nobody else does. There is the possibility that this means nothing will ever be new or never-seen before as everything is just an iteration of its past self, however I don’t think that this is necessarily the best viewpoint to have. Sure, you may be inspired by something else when making that artwork or cooking a meal with your friends for example, however there is still space for innovation and the possibility of making something new.

Of course, not everyone wants nostalgia in every aspect of their lives. Whether that’s a need to move on from past experiences or a desire for innovation depends on the person, and to some extent I can agree. There is a definite need for progression in society, and while a bittersweet sentimentality can be comforting, a determination to strive for new ideas is equally important to ensure an advancing world. It’s clear that the influence of nostalgia should be avoided in some of the more practical aspects of life, nevertheless when it comes to artistic expression and subjects relating to the matter, it is up to the individual how they choose to be inspired.

All in all, nostalgia can be an extremely useful tool to aid expression, a way to improve on trends of the past, or a personal comfort. This subjective sentimentality is a fascinating inspiration that can have many positive outcomes and allow us to travel back in time in our lives, and view our most fond memories through rose-tinted glasses.


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