The Nostalgia Filter makes memories look pretty amazing. It’s also making us unhappy.

Summer is here, and it’s got me thinking about being young and carefree, about lightening bugs and warm beers on humid nights. And mostly not wanting to do anything that feels like work or responsibility.

And it’s got me thinking about how good we had it as kids and young adults. Youth is a certain kind of happy.

Knowing I’m a grown ass woman who can take care of myself (and others when I have to), is another kind of happy. While I recognize that, I sometimes still find myself putting a Nostalgia filter on my memories.

Wishing for what was.

Facebook is making a cottage industry out of stoking our nostalgia. I keep getting served up memories of 1 year ago, 3 years ago, or even 9 years ago. The first thing that crosses my mind when I see these pictures is (I cringe admitting this): “OMG, I look so young. I look so good.“ Then I remember, that I probably sifted through 20 digital versions of the pic, and chose the one that I looked prettiest, thinnest, best etc. And then I most likely ALSO put a filter on it. So what did the real moment actually look like?

From there, my next thought is to question how authentic the moment truly was. How important the moment was to me. How fun was it? Or was it something that just “looked cool” at the time? Ok, to be honest – seeing My Morning Jacket at Bonnaroo really was pretty damn awesome. And hanging with my nieces and nephew at Descanso Gardens, that was pretty awesome too. That work dinner at blah blah blah steak house, maybe not so much?

I can also find myself dusting off memories from before Facebook existed. And I repaint them with the “could have been, should have been” brush; and all that does is rob me of present happiness.

Swimming out to a dock in the middle of a lake at age 19 was pure bliss at the time. Or dancing at a club in Barcelona (in white jeans and a tube top!) with my bestie at age 28… that was a magical moment in time. Can I let that be enough? Can I enjoy them as memories that will stay with me always? Or do I turn them into stories that cast a grim reflection on my here and now. I’m not at a club in Barcelona right now, and frankly I wouldn’t fit in very well, if I was. I’m not too old for this earth, but I probably am too old for this club (to quote “Knocked Up”).

Why do we get all wistful then? Why isn’t right here, right now, enough?

All of these memories have brought us to this moment in time. They’ve been a step on the path. They help make up our unique individual journeys. But they are not where we pause on the side of the road and pitch a tent. Whether we wanted to move on, or the universe gently nudged us on, we moved forward and past that moment for a reason. You broke up with that girlfriend for a reason. You quit that job for a reason. You moved away from that city for a reason. And maybe the why doesn’t even matter. Maybe it’s enough to stop and notice where you are today. That you are safe. That you are healthy. That you are loved. That you have self-agency. That you are breathing air.

I’ve got gratitude for the wild & exuberant joyful memories I created when I was younger. As an adult, my gratitude is now in the little things. Perhaps I have a bit more 20/20 hindsight vision. Perhaps I know how easily it can all slip through your fingers. Or maybe I’ve just got a lot of years of good and bad, and recognize that the good ends and the bad begins and then the bad ends and the good begins again. Sometimes you can’t change your circumstance, but you can change your attitude. And by drifting back in time to “easier” moments we are choosing to fall asleep at the wheel vs. facing what’s ahead with open eyes and an open heart.

I choose today, with all its imperfections.

But damn, I sure looked good in those white jeans. Sigh.



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