Nostalgia OR Visceral Vignette?

So, I’ve been experiencing some strange phenomena lately and I’d like to take you on a journey to get to the bottom of what’s been going on.

It all started a few years ago, when I moved from Chicago to Indianapolis. Ever since I started grad school in 2010, I had put my creative pursuits really by the wayside. I thought I had to, in order to become a “professional” in the “business world.”

After completing my course of study, getting a few internships, getting a job, getting my soul absolutely eviscerated by that job, and then finding another, I had really lost a lot of my creativity and personal passion for life. I decided to try and get back into photography to get my creative side to wake up. I bought myself a new camera and took a ton of photos. I loved doing it and it reminded me that life is more than data, deliverables, and dashboards.

Then, I took a job in Indianapolis and resolved to myself to spend more time on leisure, creativity, art, and music. That’s when I decided to join a few community music ensembles (shout out to Pride of Indy Bands and the Indy Winds Flute Choir!). After my car accident in 2018, I stumbled into crochet and knitting as well. That led to spinning yarn and eventually weaving fabric. Fiber arts are a fantastic creative outlet and at the end of the day you’re left with something useful! How great…I thought. 

I recently realized that while it was a creative outlet, I was also letting my unyielding need for productivity just have another form to take. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a workaholic and define myself by what I do for a living, what I make, and how well I perform business tasks to an unhealthy degree. I know, shocking moment of self-reflection, isn’t it?

Recently when my crafting passion took a bit of a break, I realized it was a great chance to look into something else creative. Something that isn’t useful but just is for the sake of being. 

What a freeing experience! I took some online classes that focus on embracing your creativity, divergent thinking, and self-expression. The most impactful thing that came up in the class was the fact that we’re all born creative, we’re born to combine things in new, weird ways. But the world ensures we suppress that natural creativity and tendency toward divergent thought and forces us to focus on convergent thought. Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that results in one, specific right answer or solution to a problem. Convergent thought isn’t bad, but it needs to be balanced out by divergent thought processes. “Thinking outside the box” is a type of divergent thought process that I’m sure we’ve all heard before. 

So, I’ve been taking all these classes on creativity, learning to draw and paint in Photoshop, understanding what makes art art and why not everything needs to be art to be enjoyable for someone to make. (Remember that “productivity focus” thing I mentioned earlier? Not this time. Nuh uh. I’m drawing cool things for the sake of it!) Throughout this process over the last few months, I’ve noticed a bit of a change in how my brain approaches things, what catch my eye, and where my thoughts wander.

One weird thing that’s been happening a lot is that I get moments that I can only describe as nostalgia on steroids. They kind of freeze me in my tracks and force me to stop and think about what the source of the memory/thought/moment was and think about what triggered it suddenly. And we’re talking about memories of things that happened years and years ago.

A perfect example of this occurred today. I was out on a run (4 miserable miles in 90F weather with something like 80% humidity) and as I hit the second mile I was just stopped in my tracks. I was taken back to a moment in my past that I didn’t even realize I remembered. I was in my elementary school, looking out a window, and had just the most intense feeling of ennui wash over me–and the same emotion came over me in that moment as well. It rang though my soul clear as the day it happened, I could see it in my mind’s eye, and I still have no idea what on Earth caused that moment. 

So, there I was, dripping with sweat, trying to look like I wasn’t absolutely dying on the running trail, and totally flabbergasted by what my brain decided to dig out of the deep banks of my memories. It wasn’t just a fun nostalgic thought or a fond remembrance, but a visceral sensation of being back in that moment in time. 

I don’t know if it’s related to my recent efforts to balance my brain between convergent and divergent thought, because I’m getting old, or if the months of COVID quarantining finally took the last bit of my sanity, but this is an entirely new experience for me. It’s not unsettling but is always unexpected and not always an opportune time to get totally thrown off my thought track. 

So, what do you think? Does this ever happen to anyone else? Let me know I’m not crazy by leaving a comment, please!