The Revival of Happiness Through Nostalgia
“… ways in which individuals pursue or compromise their happiness”
Poem: “Swing Valley”
Oftentimes, individuals will reminisce about their childhood and days of youth to revive the memories of their innocence or mischief. Reflection upon one’s childhood specifically tends to prompt the flood of longing for such days of youth and a revival of one’s memories of childhood and past glories – a pureness of happiness in days gone by. This pureness is what individuals will seek in the face of present circumstances that demand the rise to maturity and responsibility, as reminiscence upon times of freedom from expectations will allow one to pursue a temporary sense of happiness. The pursuit of happiness through nostalgic relief is depicted in the poem “Swing Valley,” as the poet, Frank Gaspar, reflects upon childhood memories of his mischievous, yet innocent tendencies with his friends during his youthful days. Through “Swing Valley,” Gaspar depicts that when an individual faces unsettling circumstances in their present, they will pursue nostalgic relief to revive their childhood days of innocence and contentment, thus pursuing a temporary sense of happiness.
When an individual encounters a demanding circumstance in their present, they will utilize memory and nostalgia of childhood as a means to pursue a temporary sense of happiness. The initial reflection of the speaker upon days of childhood is illustrated in the line, “Summer, winter, summer, of course those old ropes rotted now and then.” The evident use of a past tense tone and repetition imply how the speaker is reflecting upon his past – specifically returning to the repetitive nature of those days upon which he reminisces. The fact that the speaker directs the reader’s attention towards the passing of his days of youth implies a sense of longing for the emotions that were woven into the past. By initially introducing a rope swing that the speaker used to ride on with this friends and subsequently mentioning the passing of days, the poet further suggests the mindset of permanence that follows a child’s perception in regards to the emotions induced; this past assumption of the permanence of contentment and childhood freedom is conveyed as being a factor of longing by the speaker, suggesting the avoidance of a present circumstance through reflection upon past. The adversity of the present situation is reinforced in the line, “The earth still loved us then, and the sky watched over us,” as the emphasis on the word “still” conveys an understanding that the present nature of circumstances is not in the favour of the speaker, as opposed to the circumstances when younger. This line further implies a content nostalgic reminiscence, as the referral to the natural setting of the sky and earth conveys the rooting of the speaker in the comfort of the moment – as the “sky watch[ing] over” them symbolizes a motherly reassurance that was prevalent during the days of youth. Furthermore, by repeating the mention of the speaker going on the rope again after the faltering notion of the rope wearing out through the line, “a few days later we went up with another rope,” the speaker hopes to extract a sense of reassurance from his childhood. By using memory to pursue happiness, the speaker exemplifies the use of memory to further motivate his use of optimism in his present, as the reflection upon resilience in being able to return from the incident of “rotting ropes” suggests his use of nostalgia to stir a sense of motivation alongside contentment simply to pursue a temporary sense of happiness. In reality, individuals often utilize memories of past situations of being content – almost gleefully satisfied – to pursue their happiness in their present. Through the use of nostalgic relief to temporarily distance one away from their present circumstances, a sense of contentment and motivation can be revived, as the pursuit of temporary contentment in memory can lead to the development of an understanding to translate past happiness into present happiness. This use of memory – particularly childhood memories – to pursue a sense of temporary contentment and possible motivation is an experience I too have had several times.
Now as I approach the final year, final months, of my high school career, I have been finding myself looking backwards to find a clarity and sense of contentment in my past that I do not seem to feel in my present. Since establishing a definite understanding of life-choices has growingly become a prominent adversity in my life, I have been noticing myself nostalgically referring to my childhood days in middle and elementary school as an escape from the chaos of my present perpetual uncertainty. Particularly, when various adults, both known and unknown, approach me to ask about my future career pathway, I reminisce about my childhood when I was so committed – during different phases – to irrelevant career choices, yet no one seemed to depict an interest in my “commitments” – thus I would be willing to tell them myself without being asked. The assertion of my temporary interests in becoming an architect, an art teacher, a motivational speaker all seemed to be so definite when younger – clearly being in contrast with my entire indecisiveness and feelings of uncertainty in my present. Now, in solitude, when overwhelmed with the uncertainty of my present, I reflect upon my childhood memories to pursue a temporary sense of contentment and happiness. When speaking of career choices, a particular memory from grade three often tends to drift into my mind: we had been asked to write our dream career onto a slip of paper and attach it to a class tail on a kite. When our teacher had instructed us to write this, I clearly remember not even thinking once and assertively writing my decision to follow the career of becoming an art teacher at the time. This assertive nature continues to strike sudden laughs from me when I remember this in the most unusual of situations, as my reflection upon this past childhood memory allows me to pursue a temporary sense of contentment and happiness in the most uncertain of circumstances in my present.
When individuals encounter a circumstance of uncertainty or adversity in their present, they often tend to reflect upon childhood memories of innocence to invoke a temporary sense of happiness. This use of nostalgic relief to pursue happiness is prevalently utilized by numerous individuals at various points in their life, as was exemplified by the poet in the poem “Swing Valley” and my own current experiences. In “Swing Valley”, Gaspar centers on the use of his childhood memories of mischief to alleviate the implied adversities of his present, thus pursuing happiness through the use of reminiscence. Likewise, through my own experience, I can relate to this method to pursue happiness, as I more frequently have been referring to my memories of being assertive in regards to spontaneous career choice, allowing me to pursue temporary contentment in my present chaos of the last year in high school. Overall, the use of fulfilling childhood memories of past happiness allows individuals to pursue happiness in their present, as it has growingly become human nature to use memories of youthful contentment to alleviate circumstances of uncertainty and adversity in the present.
Image Source: Image. Designs, MotionAge. “Children Playing Outdoors by MotionAge Designs.” Pixels, pixels.com/featured/children-playing-outdoors-georg-pauli.html.