When I was in eighth grade (I think it was eighth grade), I learned the true meaning of the word nostalgia. The first part of it, nos, is a Greek root meaning “homecoming” and the second part of it, algia, is a Greek root meaning “pain” or “ache.” Basically, it’s feeling pain because you miss the good old days, when you were “home,” or when you were at a happy point in your life.
I remember, upon hearing the meaning of that word when I was about 13 or so, missing the “good old days” of sixth grade. I knew that life would get more difficult and more challenging as I got older, and I already felt nostalgia for the simpler times. But I also knew that, someday, I would look back on the present day and feel nostalgia for it. And I do.
Nostalgia doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It can bring us into a more peaceful state of mind, or it can help us remember exactly what was so good about those times so we might recreate them. Nostalgia is not about dwelling extensively on the past, but about recalling something that once made us smile.
That also makes me think of sehnsucht, a German word that translates to something like “intense longing.” Sometimes it is not precisely clear what this longing is for. Perhaps it is for times past, or maybe it’s longing for a particular person or desired mental state. It could even be a type of nostalgia, wishing so hard you were back in the “good old days.”
The way I see it is that we will always feel nostalgic, and the older we get, the more things we come to know and be responsible for. We always wish to return to simpler times, times when we were more innocent or ignorant. That is why we should enjoy the present day; there will come a time when we will long for it, and miss it. Perhaps it will rank among the “good old days,” so let’s all live in the present and enjoy what we have now.
Where has my heart gone
An uneven trade for the real world
I want to go back to
Believing in everything and knowing nothing at all
-Evanescence, “Field of Innocence”