Present Moment Nostalgia

If you’re lucky, maybe a couple of times in your life you’ll love someone or something enough that you’ll feel nostalgia in the present. Before the moment is gone, you are already missing it.

It’s like being sad that Christmas is over on December 1st. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because the season has just started (unless your Starbucks, in that case it’s already started in early-November and is halfway over).

To some extent this “present nostalgia” strips the joy out of the moment. You are missing and grieving what isn’t gone yet. Worrying about a future that hasn’t even entered the horizon.

To some extent, this feeling also enriches the experience. You are acutely aware of how blessed you feel by this moment right here that you’re already missing it, already trying to grasp it tighter.

You are alive in the present, yet simultaneously aware that this moment is fleeting.

I’ve had a few moments like this in my life. Present nostalgia seems to come through when something is coming to an end. Whether that be the life of a loved one, a long vacation, time spent in a particular city, or even just a chapter in a relationship. It could be months, even years off but the feeling is acute.

Like holding my mom’s hand while we “slept” in that hospital bed; I wasn’t missing her yet, I was missing that moment. Like that 6-mile run up the East River in March; I wasn’t missing NYC yet, I was missing that moment. Like that time J and I moved into our first apartment together when I didn’t know if we’d ever leave. I missed it already.

These moments force us into presence, yet into the future, too. What will it look and feel like when things are different? When I am different? What will I miss? What will I long for?

It’s weird to feel nostalgic for the present.

But I feel it right now as I write these words. I’m acutely aware that I will never do this again.

Never again in my life will I be as I am, thinking as I am. Never again will I love as I do. Never again will I write like this. Never again will my struggles be these ones. Never again will I live in this place. Never again will I be in this moment.

That’s pretty sad when you think about it.

But it’s also what makes it beautiful.

Kate Ward