The Sneakiest Enemy to Success in Your 20s

Nostalgia is a Liar

Do you know the sneakiest enemy you have to succeeding in your twenties?

For years this held me back and I didn’t even realize it.

It’s barely visible and very seductive.

It rarely gets discussed, yet it will stranglehold forward movement.

It will lead you into a Netflix or Hulu black hole vortex. Unable to move. Watching four straight seasons of your favorite re-run. Every episode intensifying your desire to live their TV show life, not yours.

It will prompt you to Facebook message an ex. Who just months before was the source of all your problems. Now you’re 99% sure will assuredly be the answer.

This enemy will make you believe that your life is not much of one.

What is this sneaky, deadly enemy to twentysomething success, and more importantly, is there a cure?

The Sneakiest Enemy to Success in your Twenties

Nostalgia.

Yep, nostalgia.

And I love nostalgia.

I love watching re-runs. I love thinking about all the “best years of my life”. I love writing about the life lessons from Oregon Trail and Saved by the Bell. I love painting a beautiful picture of my past when my present looks pretty lack-luster.

It took me years to realize – it’s impossible to step into the future if you’re obsessed with the past.

Nostalgia is like running a three-legged race. Backwards. With your leg tied to the leg of your living room couch.

Nostalgia is a liar. Plain and simple. It looks at the past with rose-colored glasses as if it was problem-free.

Problem is – there were always problems. Nostalgia just avoids talking about it.

As I first wrote in The Twentysomething Declaration, each season carries with it the good, bad, and the mediocre.

The worst way to be present in the present is to be obsessed with the past.

If we only see the good in every season only after the season is over, then we will never actually see any good.

The Root of Nostalgia

I believe the source of nostalgia is fear. The unknown of the future mixing with the awkward of the present that makes us want to go back to the past.

Nostalgia has a selective memory. It forgets all the questions, doubts, and pains you had in that season.

Nostalgia is a Liar

Nostalgia forgets how badly you wanted to leave that season and go out on your own.

Nostalgia forgets the heart-ache.

We don’t feel at home in the present so like a Hallmark movie we play scene after scene that is too good to be true of what was.

It’s funny how being scared out-of-your-mind about the future will make you fabricate the past.

Like sweet red wine nostalgia feels great going down, but then comes back up after you drink too much of it.

Binge-watching reruns solves as much downing a 12 pack of beer.

Nostalgia and Transitions

With every transition I’ve faced, I’ve struggled to find meaning in my new existence. I’ve sworn that God, this time, had finally forsaken me. This time he was off saving some kid in Romania and just flat-out forgot about me.

But I can look back and see that each new season always led to something better somehow.

The past season was the foundation to the new sculpture. The past is supposed to be the base to build the present, but I kept trying to make the past the centerpiece.

How much quicker could I have seen the good of the present, and the path to the future, if I wasn’t walking backwards staring at the past?

No more nostalgia.

No more wishing to go back.

Being nostalgic is like cheating on the present with an ex.

The best way to honor the past is to use it as the foundation of your next future creation.

Live where you are.

Live nostalgia free.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

Can you see anyways that nostalgia has held you back?

19 Comments

  1. Brittany

    Thanks, I needed to hear this today.

    Reply
    • admin

      Great Brittany! Thank you

      Reply
  2. Madison

    When I checked my email and read “The Sneakiest Enemy to Success in Your 20s” as a means of procrastinating, I had literally just told my roommate that I was nostalgic for the summer and a dating relationship that had recently reverted back to friendship. The thought that maybe I had made a mistake in my decision not to date him anymore and the temptation to text him flashed across my mind just before I read this article.
    Thank you for addressing prevalent issues straightforwardly, because God knows we in our 20s need to hear this stuff. This article couldn’t have made it into my inbox at a more appropriate time. I am looking forward!

    Reply
    • admin

      Yes Madison! Well said and perfect timing indeed. Love it!

      Reply
    • admin

      Awesome! Thanks Brianna. Great minds think alike

      Reply
  3. alana

    This is soooo me! especially lately. I’ve been escaping my stressed reality by wishing I was still a child. You know- “life was so much easier when I didn’t have this to worry about, when I had a plan, before real life set in. That sounds pretty sad now that I’ve put it out there.
    Even when I was a kid I never looked forward to being an adult.
    But adulthood isn’t so bad. I’ll find my way eventually.

    Reply
    • admin

      Thanks Alana. Nostalgia is so sneaky isn’t it? It feels great at first, but when we over-indulge it leaves us strung up on the couch unable to move

      Reply
  4. Gabriel

    I think that the overall message of this article is true. If you are stuck in the past (that has likely been fabricated in your mind to be better than it actually was) then you definitely cannot enjoy the blessings of the present or look to the future. I think it is okay to be nostalgic for a moment or two when something reminds you of a good thing from the past. But yes, overall, it is unhealthy to think “If only the present could be that good” all the time

    Reply
    • admin

      Well said Gabriel!

      Reply
  5. Kelsey Ginck

    Late to the party on this one, but it was too relate-able not to comment. I didn’t realize it, but I am definitely falling into this trap. In a huge transition of my life as a recent grad working my first job, juggling grad school, and moving in with my boyfriend — in a new state no less. Sometimes I feel so out of control of all of these things, it’s easy to look back on the past and think about how great it “was.” Thanks for opening my eyes and refocusing me on the present and the future. I always enjoy your blog, thanks for writing!

    Reply
  6. Greg

    yea… nostalgia is my big one. retrospect sums things up nicely. i need to get over it and focus on making new things happen

    Reply
  7. Stephen Bassette

    So I can’t go crazy buying copies of all the old Playstation games I used to play as a kid?!

    Lol, just kidding. I kinda need a job to do that, anyway. 😛

    Reply
  8. Vivien

    This is such an accurate description of my present situation that it hurts.
    Nostalgia, for people like me, is just another word for fear. The fear of actually living.
    I neeed that reminder, thank you.

    Reply
  9. Mark R.

    Little late but this REALLY hit dead on for me. I’m 26, hate my job, in the stage & uncomfortability of asking God “what’s next?” and most time I obsess over what my life was 2-3 years ago when I was in school, with my Ex girlfriend, and when I was more “happy”. But I’m seriously trying to push FORWARD and make new happiness & new victories where I am & where I’ll be. Needed this article.

    Reply
  10. Caro D

    Ugghh I needed this so much and will be reading it over and over. I’m turning 25 in two months and find myself feeling “old.” I never thought of 25 as old, but I think as I settle into real adulthood I begin to panic and obsess about time passing by. I’ve spent the whole day thinking about how great college was and how much I miss it. And I ask myself, “Were those the glory days? Were those my only glory days?” On a good day I can accept the change and enjoy this new stage of life. But on a bad day it feels like my most fun years are behind me, and they were too short.

    It seems that this article was written a while ago but it is definitely timeless. Nostalgia can be so cold-hearted.

    Reply
    • Paul Angone - All Groan Up

      Thanks Caro! Well-said. Yes, nostalgia is a sneaky liar. Like drinking too much. It tastes so good until it doesn’t anymore. Each season has the good, the bad, the mediocre. Keep warring for hope that there’s some amazing stuff waiting for you ahead. Because there is!

      Reply
      • Caro D

        Thank you 🙂

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