The Perks of Being Nostalgic

When my great gaggle of friends and I were seniors in high school, we became obsessed with the book and film The Perks of Being a Wallflower. We felt like we related to that group of misfit high schoolers- a mix of guys and girls with crushes and dreams and that all-too-familiar youthful desperateness to keep things as they are and grow up at the same time. The kids in the movie talk about feeling “infinite”, and we felt that way too. Best friends forever, out of reach from all things serious. We rode around in a jeep with the top down, screaming, and in that moment I swear we were in that movie. We all felt that way.

A year later, a year after we all moved to separate colleges and left just like the end of Perks, things are not the same. Most of us are still best friends, and most of us have even grown closer than ever before. But things are not the same. Infinity did not last. Everyone is busy with jobs, some friends have disappeared, and none of it stayed completely in tact. And unlike seemingly everyone around me, I cannot deal with the fact that friendships and life and situations just don’t stay the same. I can’t stop myself from looking at photographs from summers before and falling under a wave of nostalgia. It’s never going to be like that again. It’s over. The group, the car rides, the freedom from responsibilities, everything there, it’s gone.

The other night, when these feelings intensified, I started re-watching clips of  the Perks of Being a Wallflower and re-reading excerpts, thinking about how much me and my friends related to, looked up to and wanted to be like that group of friends. But you know the sad thing? Even that “infinite” group of people would not have lasted forever. Maybe some of them would be in touch forever. But Charlie and Bob, Charlie and Mary Elizabeth? Still hanging out when they’re thirty five? No. The group would have split up, not necessarily in a dramatic I-hate-you-way, but they would have scattered around the globe and started their own stories. It makes me sad. Maybe they’d see each other once in a while, send Christmas cards and talk on the phone. But they wouldn’t be like that island of misfit toys ever again.

Now, I didn’t love high school. Most of the time I put my fingers in pistol-formation up to my head as I sat down in class. A lot of times I felt really out of place and awkward, unlike college here in the city where I feel at bliss below all the buildings. But I get what people mean when they say there’s no time like high school. There really isn’t. I don’t mean it’s the best time, but it is definitely a particular time. No friends know you like those ones did, in the boring days, in the wholesome days.

“I wish I wasn’t so nostalgic and sentimental” I say sometimes to new friends and old. I really do. I grow pretty miserable over how things change, like a slow motion panic. It’s not a nice way to feel. “No,” the response always is. “It’s a good thing!” I can see why they say that. It’s important to remember, to hold on to details, especially for a writer or artist or person of the likes. It’s nice to move forward and look to the future, but it’s not cool to act like you don’t care about anything. To care, though it can be painful, is a lovely thing to do.

But why? Just like how nobody ever says what the actual perks of being a wallflower are, nobody knows what the perks of being nostalgic are either. But people like nostalgic people, in the same way that a wallflower could never be hated. People like to be noticed and remembered. We all feel a little hurt when others don’t care. To meet someone deeply nostalgic and feeling is heartwarming, and though we may take those sentimental at heart for granted, we’re always happy they’re there. I know that whenever someone tells me they remember a story from third grade, or that they miss seeing me after school, I realize I’m not the only person who sometimes dwells on things long gone. If you ever feel this way too, it’s okay. Though the movie ends and things change, and though life always goes on, to miss the way it was isn’t a bad thing. It just means it mattered. So pin those old photographs up, feel good about the good times they were. But after, go out and feel infinite again. Because even in the movie, he says it more than once.