I've been reading My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares. The main character, Daniel, is a man who has lived several lives but unlike most souls, Daniel remembers his past lives. At one point he remarks that there are several "firsts" that he wishes he could experience for the first time all over again.
Remember the first time you ever ate a peach? The soft sweetness crushed between your teeth, the delicious juice running down your chin?
Remember the first time you "discovered" the music of one of your favorite bands? Hearing those magical notes for the first time, those lyrics that seemed to speak directly to you that made you feel like you weren't alone in your experiences, that other people understood and they'd even had the courtesy to put their feelings and YOURS to music?
As we grow older our opportunities for "first times" grow fewer and farther between. What once was fresh, new, and exciting grows old, mundane. But we take comfort in what we know and maybe mundane isn't the best word, as we age, what once was new becomes a personal "tradition" of sorts. The "old" becomes a reminder of what it was like to experience something for the first time.
I once read that nostalgia is a sentimental yearning for the past. At first that seems like an appropriate definition, but if you think about it a little deeper, is it really? Isn't nostalgia more a yearning to be able to experience your favorite things for the first time all over again? It's not that you want to go back to the way things used to be. You want to experience the joy and euphoria of your "firsts" all over again because as good as they can be, your seconds, thirds, and fourths never really match your firsts.
I was reminded of this earlier today as an old favorite song of mine came up on one of my playlists. It had been awhile since I'd heard it. It reminded me of the joy I'd felt the first time I'd heard the song. A smile crossed my face, but enjoyable as it was, the newness of it was gone. It didn't make me want to go back to how things were when I had first heard the song, it just made me want to "feel" the song for the first time all over again.
Once upon a time, not even that long ago, I actually wished I could go back to the way things were. However, with life experience comes wisdom and the passage of time has brought me the realization that I don't want to go back to the way things were. I've learned so much and value the experiences I've had far too much to want to go back to "the way it was," that nostalgic tugging I often feel isn't a desire to go back and replay life's greatest hits, it's that longing to "re-feel" my firsts.