Prestalgia, Theory of

This morning has been long on what I call “prestalgia” — pre-emptive nostalgia for the present. Moments when you suddenly appreciate that you are in the sweet spot of your own life, and you get a glimpse of the rose tinted haze through which you will see the present moment in years to come.

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, the word “nostalgia” was on a school vocab list, and the definition stuck with me. I remember it to this day — “a wistful yearning for things and events in the past.” There was something peculiarly resonant about this sequence of words, sing-songy and fun to say on the surface, but speaking to some kind of deep muscle ache of human experience.

Since then I have identified nostalgia as the enemy — a glance or two in the rear view mirror now and then is fun, but any more than that siphons off one’s capacity to fully enjoy the present. It’s in effect a bet on the past rather than the present or future, a hedge in the wrong direction. I love New York for many reasons (more on this to come), and one of them is that it is a city with history that is not stuck in the past, a city whose heyday is unfolding.

I like to think prestalgia, unlike nostalgia, is a healthy experience — it’s the recognition of the value of current experience in the context of our finite lives. It’s a way of saying to oneself, earmark this page … sit back, smile, and take it in.

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