A sixty year old woman looks at her wrinkled face and wishes she could be 20 again. A 72 year old man fails at being sexually potent and prays to god he was 18 once more. But what happens if you actually are that twenty-year-old feeling nostalgic for youth? Young people are feeling nostalgic for youth. Yes. Youths want youth. That doesn’t make any sense, says everyone. Or does it? Being constantly drowned in imagery of what youth should be like, what it should look like, it might make sense that young people feel like they miss something.
It all starts with high school. Ask yourself, how would you describe high school if you’d be asked to describe it in general? I bet that description would be very different from the one you’d give if asked to describe your high school experience. What you’d answer to the first question, is probably the concept of high school that was fed to you throughout movies and media, ever since you were somewhat able to watch movies. Cliques, lockers, prom. The description most of us would give, I believe. The answer to the second question would be very different not also from the answer to the first question, but also different depending on who would answer it. The ‘classic’ concept of high school is based on American high school. Highly romanticised of course, but still, an American person would describe their high school experience somewhat in line with that idea of ‘classic’ high school. A Brit would have a fairly different story. An Italian would too and someone from China would’ve had another experience too. This is where the problem arises for the first time. Everyone thinks the ‘classic’ high school is the right one. The cool version. The version that’ll give you an amazing love life and a close group of friends and a strong sense of belonging (or maybe being that one cool outsider). Of course there is some kind of awareness of that concept being romanticised and maybe even fake to some extent, but it is often better than reality, so hoping for that high school experience is nothing but human. People get a sense of failure when the reality of high school turns out to be nothing like that almost holy concept. They feel like they haven’t made the most of it. This is where the nostalgia starts. Nostalgia for that ‘perfect’ high school experience, because if it wasn’t like that ‘you never had that amazing youth’.
At a certain point in our (still very youthful) lives, we stop watching high school movies and we stop identifying ourselves with high schoolers. We trade high school for something even harder to live up to. I couldn’t describe it any other way than ‘the perfect 20-something experience’. I know this almost sounds like a new joy-ride in an amusement park and it comes pretty close to it, would it not be for the perfect 20-something experience being something highly unattainable. The perfect 20-something experience is something I would describe as having a life full of partying, travelling, ‘having fun’ -whatever that may be- and that life being very fulfilling too. A lot to live up to if I may say so. It’s in the imagery surrounding us: if you to make the most of it as a young person, you have to go on epic road trips, visit 60 festivals each summer, make long journeys through Asia, go to underground parties, wear the coolest clothes, listen to groundbreaking music, etcetera. I could go on forever. What’s not in the imagery is that young people are broke most of the time, have to work, have to study and live in shitholes because they can’t afford anything better. Of course, that doesn’t sell, but it is reality. What’s in the imagery is fiction, fantasy. It’s impossible to achieve and that’s heartbreaking, knowing how every single (yes, you too) twenty-something strives for this kind of life. When they feel it just doesn’t work out the way they see in movies, they get a strong and saddening feeling of nostalgia again. Because if what they see is the life youth is supposed to live, then obviously they are failing. Right? They have a sense of nostalgia for something that has never been. Fantasy, you could say.
Nostalgia doesn’t mean a longing for the past anymore. Today, it’s become a lot broader. It’s the longing for something that’s not there. Either fantasy or reality. And in some way, you could even say that what the youths are longing for, did exist. It exists in movies, ads, music videos, you name it. In what way is that so different from history in this context? History is no longer there, it also exists in books and movies now. As long as it exists in their minds, in your mind maybe, it’s as real as history. So repeat after me: I, young person, desire the fantasy-reality called youth.