The Problem With Nostalgia: Why We Need To Stop Playing The 'I Used To Be' Game

by Shannon Zuber

Nostalgia is a funny thing.

Miraculously enough, after every weekend comes another Sunday, and after every Sunday, comes another Sunday night where we can’t sleep.

As we stare at our clocks, dreading the fact that reality is about to set in as the workweek creeps up, those familiar feelings of boredom, restlessness and nostalgia awaken. Sunday night insomnia is in full swing, and it's rarely a good thing.

So, we turn on our computers and log on to Facebook. One thing leads to another, and suddenly, you’re stalking your brace-faced pictures from 2008 and reminiscing on the fun times of high school days bygone.

Thoughts seep into your head: 'I used to be so thin. I used to be so funny. I used to be so carefree.' Sadness and self-doubt set in, and the “I used to be” game is in full swing. Been there, played that. We all have.

Social media outlets are a necessary evil, as they give us, Generation-Y, the unique opportunity to document every single thing we do. On any given day, we can go back to old pictures, statuses and tweets to relive memories of yesteryear.

Fun and innocent, one may think, but when a stressed and lost 20-something takes a walk down memory lane, it could be a dangerous stroll. We all do it: We all regret it, and it’s become very clear that the “I used to be” game is one that needs to be put back on the shelf.

Dwelling on the past will get you nowhere. Sure, you were probably skinnier; you probably were funnier, and you were probably more carefree.

But, although it may not be an easy pill to swallow, the past is never coming back. Instead of focusing on your past-self qualities, focus on your current self — your best self. A positive outlook always wins.

And, let’s not forget that although you may be different now, the things that changed are all so you could gain something better. You may not be as thin because you basked in every experience to go out and have a great time with your friends.

You may not be as carefree because you are ambitious and choose to take every experience to better your future.

The “I used to be” game ignores the fact that life is a tradeoff. You used to be thinner, but now you’re smarter. You used to be funny, but now you’re stronger. You used to be carefree, but now you’re more driven. You win some; you lose some, and now, we just have the pictures to prove it.

As it’s important to look back on our memories fondly, it's vital to remember that memories are just that — memories. Far too often, I find myself comparing the girl I used to be to the girl I have become. But, the truth of the matter is that is completely unrealistic.

Those aren’t expectations, just old pictures that represent old times. Things change; people change. Take your old pictures for what they are; remember the good times and how you used to be, but move on.

How can you move forward when negative feelings from the past are holding you back? Don't be bitter; you were having fun then, and you're still having fun now.

So nostalgia is a funny thing, but let’s keep it that way. It’s okay to look back on your life and the person you once were, but when you do, make sure it’s done with a smile on your face and your chin pointed toward the future.

The “I used to be game” is one where no one wins, so it’s time to put it away and say "game over."