Romanticising The Past

November 25, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

Ever think back on “the good old days” or “the golden years?” 

Looking back on the past can be a lot of fun. Reminisce with friends and family on those special moments or times. They always put a smile on your face.

I’m sure as you grow older, you look back on your past with fondness and nostalgia. 

Romanticising the past is very easy to do, and easier to fall into its trap. Often times we look back with rose tinted glasses. Is it in my head? Is the mind playing tricks?

A lot of it depends on your life situation. Where you were raised, your upbringing, the time period, your experiences, social class and income; it all impacts you.

Looking back, growing up as a kid in the early-mid 2000s, it always puts a smile on my face. A time before social media and technology’s strangle hold on society. When toys were fun, creative, and high quality. Playtime was outside with your friends. A white Christmas was guaranteed. All the time in the world, and no responsibility. A perfect blend between old and new lifestyle. The simplicity, and innocence of growing up always makes me yearn for those ‘glory days.’

But that’s a problem, because constantly thinking of the past makes us dislike the present. Always looking down on what’s happening now, refusing to acknowledge when it’s good or sometimes better than the past. The mind takes bits and pieces, only what we choose to remember, the positive stuff.

Looking back to past eras, ones we weren’t around, again, can be fun, but still a trap. 

As my parents talk about growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, I’m enthralled by it. But it could also be just where and how they grew up. Still, I’m fascinated by that time period and at times wish I could travel back and live in that era. It seemed to be of prosperity, hope, simple good values and high moral standards. Where the world wasn’t in a rush. You could actually own a home and get an enjoyable job after college!

But take those rose tinted glass off and put regular ones on, it shows a different sight. Depending on your age, race, skin, and gender, it was a great time or a not so great time. Though I’d have a great time, I realise I wouldn’t have my video games or DVDs. 

Often times we romanticise eras we didn’t, or anyone we know, lived in. And that’s even trickier to tell which glasses you have on. Those eras are heavily romanticised in pretty much any form of entertainment, and how they’re presented – regardless of historical accuracy – can heavily impact one’s perception. 

Recently I re-watched for the first time since I was a kid, the 1980’s CBC miniseries, Anne of Green Gables. Boy, it set off a trigger of emotions. I was sucked into it; a massive reason was the romanticism of the time period. The way the characters interacted with each other, where and how they lived, completely made me want to live in the late 1800s/turn of the 20th century. That sense of enchantment, content, privacy. The world wasn’t so daunting, it was idyllic. The atmosphere felt magical. 

I soon remembered back then, all you did was pretty much work and survive. Social etiquette was very strict. You lived poor, and could be very isolated. If you got sick, good chance you’d die because of a lack of medication, and a readily available doctor. No electricity, insulated homes, or modern sanitation. 

Your brain says one thing but your heart says another. 

Or the vision of the American South like in Gone With the Wind. The aesthetic, the landscape looks breathtaking, the décor of homes, the extravagant parties; makes it look like a fairy tale. Of course, your enjoyment of that era depends on which side of the whip you’re on. 

Whether a rum drinking Caribbean pirate, a brave adventurous pioneer, a fearsome gladiator, or a gunslinging cowboy; entertainment always has ways of neatly wrapping up an era and lifestyle with a romantic bow. And it does so with music, characters, landscapes, and stories. 

Romanticism isn’t entirely a bad thing. Relying on it is. Seeing something and experiencing it are two different things. 

Looking back on the past – personal or not – always warms your heart. It’s easier to remember the good things. I believe as long as you recognize the bad alongside the good, you’ll be able to appreciate the past much better. 

I wonder how our time will be romanticised.

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