Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Imagining the Future is a Kind of Nostalgia

This is one of those blog posts in which I will take several paragraphs to say what John Green said in a single sentence. Looking for Alaska is not my favorite John Green novel, but the line "imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia" will never fail to pack a punch for me. Because it is so very, very true.

Nostalgia in the not-Alaska-Young-defined sense means looking back, milling over the past and wishing for its comforting certainty again. It means a longing for a kind of lost perfection that may or may not have really been there in the first place.

But you can do that with the future too. Spinning out hopes and dreams, constructing the perfect future in your head, isn't that rather like constructing the perfect past? All these things that you hope will happen - getting perfect grades, falling in love with the perfect person, finding the perfect job, getting the perfect agent or book deal - won't happen, at least, not in the same way you dream they will. Sometimes you won't get exactly the grade you want. The person you fall in love with will have his or her own flaws. Even dream jobs can drive you crazy sometimes. And getting an agent or a book deal only means there's more work and more rejection ahead.

But that's okay, I think. As long as those perfect ideals we build up in our heads don't become all-encompassing, it's okay to build them. It's okay to strive for that perfect dream.We need something to reach for, even if that thing isn't something we can ever truly catch.

I'm in a place right now where I feel like my life is made up of nostalgia, of both kinds. I'm in the last seven weeks of my undergraduate education, and soon I'll have to start acting like a real adult. Getting a job. Paying rent. Buying my own groceries. All this is both terrifying and exciting. And I'm stuck in a weird in-between space, where I'm both missing the past and longing for the future. I miss the (rather insane) confidence I had when I first started writing (probably the only thing I will ever miss about being thirteen). I miss being able to solve all my problems simply by going home. I miss London every single day - I miss the way London made me feel like I could go anywhere, be anyone, do anything; all I had to do was hop on the Tube and go.

And yet I have all these plans, plans that require me to move beyond what has already happened. I'm going to get a job. Some kind of job. Any job. One that'll pay the rent and where I can work with nice people. Hopefully that'll get the chorus "I really need this job / please God I need this job" out of my head (I am SUCH a musical theatre nerd guys). I'm going to get my own apartment with my made-of-awesome roommate. I'm going to get a kitten and call him Mr. Darcy. (Because what else does one name one's future cat, right?) I'm going to get to the other side of this querying tunnel, find an agent, sell a novel. I'm going to be a real, proper, adult-type person, one who is confident in her own skin, one who really can do whatever she wants rather than just feeling like she can.

I'm going to do all of those things. Probably not as perfectly as I imagine them - the pile of query rejections in my inbox, which is now being joined by job rejections, will attest to that. But I'm going to do them.

For now, though, I'll content myself with nostalgia, with sending off a zillion emails and hoping against hope that I can reach that unreachable star.

... More musical theatre jokes? No? Okay, I'll stop.


  1. The future may not turn out as you've planned, but you will still be happy in it because that is the person you are and always will be.

  2. I feel the exact same way. I'm 22 and almost finished my undergraduate. I'm terrified that I won't accomplish all I imagined I would, and I miss the confidence I used to have about it. I even feel nostalgia for the future I imagined years ago, so like.. past-projected-future nostalgia...

  3. It is really the Yetis quote. Sarah said it on their first date :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiYlBxVXcJY&ebc=ANyPxKpkbLrwb8BuCwvar2ion3bG4MOCAO1lSfmiiQL_mMfVsrhr3BRV4iUOlQBSfMLsKtdRow_z5ZSecvld8eH_ot3bc84GIA

    1. I scrolled down to say this, but you beat me to it by 2 years!