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  • Writer's pictureHargun Sachdev

Nostalgia for a time I didn’t live through

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

I always liked old things, the ones out of style. At 13 I started writing handwritten letters to my friends and asking them to do the same. Nobody understood it, letters seemed archaic! I mean, that was the time of Facebook and bbm.

For my 19th birthday, I bought myself a sky blue typewriter. And I made my sister – who shared a room with me at the time – go absolutely crazy with the clicking of the keys. But the ‘ding’ was the most satisfying sound for me and I couldn’t get enough of it, I typed away on it day and night. Even though my parents had just got me a new laptop a few months prior.

Reading Shakespeare's plays and wishing people spoke in that way. Not necessarily the 16th century English but the poetic and over-the-top drama laced into words. No, don’t tell me your need for revenge. Tell me, If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

Yeah, okay, maybe you can see now why I wasn’t the most popular kid in school. Or why I was bullied (not that anything justifies bullying). But I don’t know. I always felt more intrigued by things of the past. There was always this strong sense of nostalgia for a time I wasn’t even born in. And it wasn’t specific to a certain era or time in history, it was just these random elements.

But lately, I have been feeling a strange sense of longing for the 1990s and 2000s. Not that time exactly but the experience of growing up during that time. People who were probably born in the mid 1980s and who came of age in 1990s, who went to college and started adulting in the 2000s. I? Well, when it turned 2000, I was three years old and too busy shitting myself.

The time before the internet. Well, I guess more like the time before social media? When emails were a new thing. When blogging was a new thing! Where people just had a blog where they wrote about their life, thoughts, and hobbies for the pure purpose of talking about these things. When SEO wasn’t what generated topics and when blog posts were one big overflowing stretch of paragraphs, unbroken by subheadings or packaged into listicles. When the times were simpler.

Simpler times. And by that I don’t mean that people didn’t face hardships or sorrow didn’t plague their lives. It’s just without social media and dating apps and being attacked by digital marketing every fucking minute life seemed more authentic and grounded. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking.

I have been reading blogs of people I know through work – people who are over a decade older to me and who had like Blogspot blogs from 2000s? That’s so crazy to me! The OG bloggers. Reading about their college life, love life, first few job experiences, I realize that the internal struggles of human beings remains quite the same. It’s like that passage from The Catcher in the Rye:

Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.

That’s also why I love reading the journals and letters of writers and artists like Sylvia Plath and Vincent Van Gogh. Even though they are from decades ago, their 20s in the most fundamental ways, at least the kind of thoughts and emotions they struggled with, remain true even today. It all resonates with me so deeply.

And now reading these blogs from the 2000s, I feel like I missed out on a kind of innocence. Friendship and dating meant a whole other thing before social media.

I grew up watching movies and TV shows and reading books that promised college and the rest of my 20s to be the most fun time ever. There was no warning of a pandemic but more importantly there was absolutely no prediction of modern loneliness and severely fucked up collective mental health.

I’m not putting all of this on the development of technology and the introduction of social media. It’s just that at this point this is the only thing I can put my finger on. Surely there have to be other factors too.

A kdrama I really liked was Reply 1988. That hit me with this sense of nostalgia that I have been going on about. Neighbours being friends. Going over to each other’s homes all the time. Having meals together. No bloody cell phones! Watching television together. Falling for people around you instead of talking to strangers online.

Playing board games with friends. Clicking pictures that you can eventually hold and not just stare at on screens. A promise of a better tomorrow – socio-economically. Walkman and denim obsessions. When teenagers looked like awkward teenagers and not Instagram influencers.

I have stopped writing letters. I mean, to people anyway. Still write them to my past and future selves and all sorts of things personified. My typewriter needs to be fixed – since the last 3 years. I have given up on uninstalling Tinder and Hinge because why bother? I don’t quote Shakespeare in speech anymore. My blogs almost always have subheadings and lists. I use my phone for each of my waking hours. I talk shit about capitalism but am a part of it. I hate on marketing yet I am a content marketing specialist. You have to get on with the times, yeah? Especially if you were born in them!

This kind of nostalgia for an era I didn’t live in makes me ache so bad sometimes. I hope I never run out of 2000s Blogspot blogs of people I know to read. That I keep finding artists and writers whose journals and letters speak to the abandoned corners of my mind. And that more kdramas like 1988 are made. And perhaps, someday again, I will write a handwritten letter to a lover that I will physically bump into somewhere.

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