Suburbia. New Jersey. Essex County. High School. First kiss. First friends. Baby brother being born. First time singing. Baggy jeans. Rap music. Skipping class. Trips to the shore. Coors light. Falling in love. Sneaking out. Prom. NYU first day of school. Seeing mountains for the first time. Starting a band. Radiohead obsessions. Sucking at Basketball. Mentoring under crazy artists. Getting depressed for the first time. Many more memories than I could possibly list here.
After 6 months of the Raw Emotions Project I’ve officially spent a lot of time thinking about how we are affected by our emotions. I’m proud to embrace the lack of control over my emotions and continue to be shocked by the unpredictable power of our minds. This month’s emotion is a weird one for me: nostalgia. I can’t tell if it’s the fact that the majority of the previous emotions were very heavy, or if it was writing hundreds of sad songs last year or if it’s finally seeing the light at the end of a depressive New York City winter, but I’ve reacted very positively to this emotion. I’ve consistently noticed myself finding the positive in any nostalgic moment. After MANY conversations with friends, fans, artists and even psychologists it is clear to me that feeling nostalgic is not that simple for most people.
I was looking at a photo today of myself on my 17th birthday. I was so happy, you can literally feel it through the image. It made me happy. I instantly posted it on my insta story. Then, a flood of other thoughts came through. I broke up with a girl the next day. My favorite director in high school died suddenly at 29. I had my first set of deep depressive episodes 3 months later. I had suicidal thoughts only 2 years later. Suddenly this same photo scared the shit out of me.
So is feeling nostalgic something to resist? How many times in life does something happen that makes us feel an uncomfortable emotion and we divert, block, hide or run? I’m a pretty open person (as you can see) but the monster in my mind still finds fascinating ways to close off and stop me from feeling. Do I also need to protect myself from the past?
If I’m honest, I really don’t know the answer. I think nostalgia might just be melancholy. For me, any emotional experience I can remember has a spectrum of “positive” and “negative” energy. I remember being at my grandmother’s funeral and cracking up afterwards drinking whiskey with my cousins who came back from college to be with the family. My grandmother was everything to me, and losing her was so hard for our family, but whenever I drink Bullet it brings me back to that moment, and it’s both joy and sadness. It’s really complicated the more I think about it.
This month’s song, inspired by nostalgia, is called “Suburbia”. If I were to psychoanalyze myself, I’d say I handled writing this song in the same way I handle nostalgia. I kind of hid all of the sadness deep in the bones of the song and highlighted the good. It starts with pretty dark lyrics about being “in a daze for 6 week spending all my nights alone”, and then moves into words about pushing away anyone good so I can stay isolated and detached. The music represents a subconsciously positive reaction to nostalgia though, it has a driving beat, complex pulsing rhythms, interesting chord inversions and hints back to old influences of Passion Pit, M83 and vibes that I’d imagine driving to in a convertible with friends. At its core, “Suburbia” is a song about emerging from a very dark place, but you’d have to dig deep to find that. It’s hidden under what I would describe as something that simply “feels good”.
So with these last two weeks of the month of nostalgia I’m going to be looking back at old photos, asking my parents about the memories I think I remember, watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and trying to feel all of the corners of any nostalgic moment. I want the good, the bad, the exciting, the ugly and the painfully sad. Oh, and go blast “Suburbia” driving with friends, and if tears come up… F*** it, let em flow.