Nostalgia can be a Mood Booster

Yesterday I was looking for a mosaic kit to do with my six year old and I came across an old shoe box of letters. Yes, letters that were handwritten and posted with an actual stamp on the envelope. It doesn’t seem like so long ago, only the 1990s when mobile phones and email were not so prevalent for us. The letters were from my time at university and I read them with great enjoyment.

 

The contents were from a few close friends and even some postcards from my mother. You see, I went to stay in another city for my studies. For most of my childhood I had to play the adult role, bringing peace and order to a chaotic environment. I was the mediator between all the various factions in the family. As I’ve mentioned previously, harmony is my top strength on the Gallup Strengths Finder. So it was quite a blessing to go away to university and to be able to have some fun. I consumed far too much alcohol and have memories of a few antics that I’d rather forget. Finally away from the tension and drama of home, I let my hair down and really relished the university life.

In the first year I had to share a room with a rather interesting roommate. She was stick thin with short dark hair and very pretty. All the boys envied me and tried to elicit details as to what she looked like without her clothes on. Her childhood was not neglectful but rather oppressive. In true student style she rebelled and was intoxicated almost every night. She partook in something called ‘bush diving’ where you fling your body into nearby bushes after taking in sufficient liquid courage. Needless to say she didn’t obtain her degree and left university after a few attempts at various other degrees.

I felt no need to rebel since I was given a front door key when I was about thirteen. My brother and I spent a few Christmas holidays on our own, throwing some rather fun dinner parties on the lawn of our family home. We lost our home due to my father’s company debt while I was away at university. None of my toys or possessions were kept so I have very few items to hold onto for nostalgia. I suppose that is what made reading the letters such a treat. Losing everything  helped me not to hang onto material things because they can always be replaced. It’s relationships that are the key to a happy life.

Reading the letters and notes from university friends and my old school friends, I noticed how many people were thanking me for favours. I found it so wonderful how people took the time to actually write in the first place, let alone such a lovely gesture to thank me in writing. In recent years I’ve been so consumed with my troubles and my stress that I have had difficulty being a good friend. Graves’ disease has symptoms such as irritability and depression and the pure fatigue caused me to be really ratty with those in my vicinity. I’m noticing as I get better that I have the capacity to notice what is happening in the lives of others. Hopefully I can regain the ability to be a caring friend again as I sort out my health.

The contents of the letters made me laugh at what things were important to us at age nineteen. It’s sometimes the daily routines and the small things shared that keep relationships alive. The little notes at my university residence telling me that I missed a tea party and the letters from school friends saying that they missed me. I found cards from my family and our cleaner even, who is now deceased, welcoming me home and saying how much I was missed.

I think at school and university I used to laugh such a lot. I had a great deal of energy and had so much more fun than I do now. I often wonder if my daughter somehow extracted my fun when she was born because she seems full of life as I used to be before having children. Isn’t it a pity that we lose our fun-loving side when stress and responsibility take their toll?

I have always enjoyed small groups and one-on-one interactions. I like to have discussions on a deep level, discussing issues that bring real meaning to life. I struggle to enjoy situations where the men separate to drink beer and talk business and the women discuss child rearing and grooming.

I think I’m getting so much better spotting the appropriate depth that I require in a friendship. I have also come to realise that when you have an experience such as a serious diagnosis, you can outgrow some relationships. Some things that seemed so important in the past have become trivial and don’t require the same focus. It is sad to have friendships dwindle but I think that as I recover I will attract a different sort of person into my life with friendships that will feed my soul more.

This weekend I was amazed to see a school friend post something on Facebook that suggested she has no hope or desire to improve her life. I find that to be frightening. For me life is more than having things just happen to me reactively while I wait to die. I know that I’m empowered to change my life for the better, despite what the wet blankets say. I’m already doing it in fact. I want the people around me to be inspiring and to push me to improve myself and enhance my happiness. More active happiness enhancing and less despair, please.

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Kathy
I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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