Sending tinted postcards of places they don't realise they haven't even visited


Now that comments are back, here's a "Has this ever happened to you?" post.

Last night I was driving home and I heard a song on the radio (this is unusual for me, but I was avoiding NPR's pledge drive) that was popular in Spring 1998. I hated the song back then, but I found myself enjoying the experience of listening to it because it made me feel nostalgic about my freshman year in college.

Only here's the thing. I hated my freshman year in college. I was miserable most of the time. I was still working out my high school angst, I hadn't gotten used to being treated like crap by the university, my roommate was a pain in the ass, I couldn't get laid, I couldn't hang in Honors Physics, and the idiots on my floor kept me up all night with their loud music including, notably and ubiquitously, this particular song.

So what was I getting nostalgic for? The idea of being a freshman in college? Of having all that newfound freedom, that yet-to-be-squandered potential? On some level was I imagining how much better the year would be if I could somehow re-live it? Or are we just hard-wired to get all mushy when some unexpected sensory input takes us back in time?

(In case you were wondering, the song was "Ghetto Superstar" by that hot girl and the two dudes.)


I get that same way about songs that I heard too much of while riding the bus to school as a senior in high school. The fact that I was riding the bus to school as a senior in high school should tell you all you need to know about why I should not feel nostalgic for that time in my life.

I have that with songs from my college freshmanhood also. I think because I only ever listened to those songs when driving, and driving for me always meant freedom from the dorms and the horrible people there.

Why, when so many people hated and feared their freshman year, will we turn around and encourage our own kids to go off to college when they turn 18?

Do we remember songs that we associate with happy times? I can't remember any songs that remind me of college per se, and I had a great time from first year on.

However, I strongly remember songs that I listened to while living in Idaho the summers before my first and second years, because then I was miserable and couldn't wait to get back to my "real" life in college.

I should look this up- there must be a related study on memory and trauma in psychinfo or something.

my freshman nostalgia song: 'barbie girl' by aqua. i used to lip synch along to it with 5 boys in my bedroom. i have pictures so they can't deny the irrefutable pull of barbie girl sweeping the 1997 nation! man, i loved everything about freshman year of college. maybe what you need to do, kristen, is just encourage your own kids to go to my alma mater and not yours.

Well, you were also in a house with the twenty smartest kids on campus. I was in a dorm with possibly the fifty stupidest women I've ever met. It's a lot to do with how a campus handles housing, I think.

I also loved my freshman year! Even the low-points of it we amazing. Lots of music will take me back there as music was a very important aspect of the college experience for me.

There are also a few SMELLS that take me right back to the dorms. Namely Nag Champa incense and stream-tables.

I think I tend to get nostalgic over just about *any* sensory memory stimuli when the evoked memory happened more than a year or two ago. I start thinking about how time passes and a lifetime is so limited, and that before we know it we'll be dead and gone, and then what? An eternity of nothing.

Do people of faith get nostalgic too?

They're nostalgic about the next coming.

I think you're right about the power of simply *any* sensory connection spanning half a decade or more. The slightest taste, merest whiff, or single strum of a song can instantly transport you years and miles, stretching those heartstrings to the breaking point. Madeleines drive me absolutely to tears, and I don’t remember ever having eaten one. Music has such an essential, powerful effect upon our lizard brains that we bathe ourselves in it at every moment and use it like a drug to alter our moods. Have you ever noticed how the music in ascending elevators is gently uplifting, while that played in the lobby-bound cars is subtly downbeat in a get-ready-for-that-crazy-dog-eat-dog-hustle-bustle-of-the-street bop-a-lop? (My therapist doesn’t notice it, either.) And it has long been recognized that there is something in the combination of speed and night, the thrum of the open road and peculiar twisted audio dynamics of a car radio that packs a quadruple wallop. If you’re my age and remember tuning in a distant scratchy AM station on a cross country jaunt -- WABC, WKBW, WLS (readers west of the Rockies, please substitute K for the first letter; northern neighbors, a C) -- you know what I’m talking about.

It’s almost better than an old girlfriend. Maybe actually better: the song never changes. Girlfriends have the right to get older, just as fast as we all do. Songs (and favorite tastes and smells) don’t. (As a matter of fact, you could make the case that songs can even improve with evolved technology and remastered editions on superior media. Poop! I maintain that the first time you heard that certain song, no matter how crappy the reproduction, you will remember it like sitting in the middle of an orchestra. . .or hot tub or someplace with really good acoustics.)

Anyway, I do agree with all of you, that there is some dangerous hard-wiring in us that triggers this tsunamic nostalgia, no matter the logical negativity. I would suggest that CSI should play closer attention to what song was playing on the radio at T minus 2:30 whenever they are forensing a dead body in a crumpled car at the bottom of a cliff or melded with a bridge abutment.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on January 30, 2007 4:21 PM.

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