There was a time in your life when your neurons fired off like assault rifles. Thoughts burned through your brain leaving permanent scars. Everything mattered and the universe opened a door to your awakening. We call this time adolescence. Like all important events, we focus on the end, the disappointment, the disillusionment when that great door slammed itself in your face once more. It’s why we shame nostalgia. What existed in our middle childhood that didn’t turn out to be an illusion?
This view of nostalgia hides ambivalence. We crave that time, those emotions. The scars left by adolescence no longer hurt, but we run our fingers across them, feeling the memories. Our economy uncovers our desires. Our most popular entertainments are based around what twelve year old’s love. Superheroes, robots, dinosaurs, etc. are topics of wonder. Wonder is the domain of children, before the door was shut. Intellectuals decry this state. Where are the adult entertainments they say, as if Joyce’s Ulysses wasn’t nostalgia for gods and monsters or The Godfather wasn’t an adolescent power fantasy. We all want that moment back. Be truthful.
The desire to shut the door on the universe permanently rivals the desire to reopen it. We are stuck. Our brains will never again burn as brightly as a twelve year old’s. We strive to move on, but the scars bring us back. We struggle to recapture that reality. The door doesn’t open as widely anymore. Some, who’ve locked and blockaded their doors, look askance at our efforts. They label it immaturity. Peter Pan syndrome. Pointless.
Yet the door remains. The scars run deep. They exist whether you hide them or risk reopening them. Running from the past, eschewing nostalgia, is not running toward adulthood. It’s cowardice. The door of wonder may never fully open again, but you can squeeze your head through. Look around. Your view will be different. Your conclusions will have nuance, but those old neurons will fire. You’ll be more alive. In touch with your former self.
When guilt attacks for buying a toy, or watching a cartoon, or getting wrapped up in a story from your childhood, rebuke it. The door is closing. Be brave. Keep it open for another day.