Nostalgia is hitting me like a temperate ocean wave: warm to the touch but chill-inducing when the water evaporates. I mark my days by the school calendar, and it has been a year full of bittersweet memories and a cyclical turn of phases. I’ve entered my senior year of college; my brother is ending his senior year of high school. Many holes in my heart were healed by the presence of a new group of friends whose stay was temporary, but profound. Two of my best friends got into grad school, my mother received her Ph.D, and my dad upgraded from stern father to lovable friend. As the summer draws nearer and my brother’s graduation comes frighteningly closer, I find myself growing increasingly reminiscent, reflecting upon childhood memories of lopsided snowmen, countless baseball games, late-night firefly hunts, and sweet-smelling bonfires so strong it took days to wash the smell out of my coat. Our young lives have flown by so quickly and some days, I want nothing more than to grab the nearest clock and stop time.
Mostly, I’ve been missing the simplicity that is the past. Maybe it is because the world is becoming a more daunting place to live in or maybe I am just growing up, but life when I was younger seemed much more idyllic and enjoyable. My brother and I were allowed to stay out and play with our neighbors until the streetlights blazed; my parents never worried about who we were with or what we were doing. Now, in light of the domestic attacks within our own country, I’m nervous about the idea of letting my future children out the front door without my careful eye upon them at every second. Back then, programming such as Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, Boy Meets World, and old family sitcom reruns of Full House and The Cosby Show dominated the television airwaves, setting good examples for the generation that was attempting to grow up and learn about the world. Now, the phrase, “sex sells” is the motto for all producers and creators, giving viewers role models such as The Kardashians and mothers from Teen Mom to look up to. Music also seems to follow that particular tag line, and it is difficult to find an artist that does not sell his or her body in order to garner public attention and gain sales. Kids much younger than me are undeniably attempting to act adult-like with each passing day; they dress older, they talk older, they behave older, some beginning this progression at the age of eight. I was fairly left-of-center compared to my peers while growing up, but I don’t remember my classmates ever feeling as though they needed to leave their youth behind too quickly.
It would be hypocritical of me to regard myself as societally conservative, because I do understand that with the passing times and the rapidity that generations age, the American customs and cultures will change accordingly. However, I miss the safety and security I felt when I was younger. These days, I find myself hopping on YouTube, searching for old cartoons and theme songs that are comfortingly familiar, and DVRing shows on Disney Junior that I enjoyed fifteen years ago (yes, I unashamedly admit to this). I miss the innocence that comes with being a child, roaming around with a carefree attitude and running straight into the arms of my mother if ever life threw me a hurdle. Now I know that the world is a very difficult place, full of enigmas and obstacles just waiting to throw you a loop; my mother won’t always be around to wipe my tears and smooth my hair.
Tim McGraw has always been great about choosing tunes that fitfully acknowledge the bittersweet memories that come with the past, such as, “One of Those Nights” and “Something Like That”, but “Back When” is by far my favorite. McGraw sings it best when he claims he misses back when, capturing the essence of the problem with his directness and his conversational voice: Back when a hoe was a hoe/coke was a Coke/and crack’s what you were doing/when you were cracking jokes. McGraw wistfully reminisces about the good ole’ days of Mayberry, when families would gather around the table for dinner and vinyl records were all anyone enjoyed. He longs for peanuts in a bottle and the old and outdated way of life over slang vernacular and pop in his country. I can’t help but agree. So while the world moves forward around me, I’ll follow in suit, only I’ll bring my past with me and hold it close as a reminder of who I was back when and how that has shaped me today.