Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nostalgia Smacks Me Upside the Head

I had a heavy encounter with nostalgia this afternoon. I was cleaning out my closet to make room for things I don’t use but that I’m not willing to give up yet, and I found a huge box labeled “PHOTO ALBUMS.” Knowing that opening the box would be a guaranteed time suck, I was just going to move it to the back corner of the closet when one of the flaps rasped open.

I had to take a quick peek inside. One thick gold-embossed album stood on its spine between two others, so that its pages were slightly fanned and I could just barely see the edges of the photos. I know my old photographs so well that I immediately recognized one of my favorite pictures just from seeing its edge. A friend and I are taking a picture of ourselves by holding the camera at arm’s length and putting our heads close together. We are laughing so hard that the photo is mostly teeth, lips and nostrils.

Naturally, I had to pull the album out, sit on the bed, and browse through my past. I marveled at how thin I was, how big and white my smile was, how young my skin looked, and then I had to laugh at the requisite heavy makeup and the ridiculous things I did with my hair (hey, it was the 80’s!).

Looking at this younger version of myself, I regretted having “let myself go” in the years since. (That phrase is so funny, as if I’d put my young self on a train and waved goodbye as she pulled out of the station. Of course the changes were more gradual than that.) I’m not the first to comment on how youth is wasted on the young, but it sure feels personal when I look at pictures of myself at age 20! What a twist it is on that theme for a nutritionist that when I looked my best, my diet was the worst (just like every college kid).

This summer I’m working as an assistant for kids’ cooking classes. These kids know so much more about food and cooking than I did at their age. They know what “whole foods” are, they know the difference between dried basil and oregano. They even love seaweed! They’re being raised in the same decade in which consciousness is being raised about the role of food in our health, from its impact on our bodies to the impact the food industry has on the environment and the sustainability and safety of our food supply.

Oh, this gives me hope. Hope that it won’t take the kids of this generation as much time as it took me to realize the importance of eating well. Hope that to them it will be second nature to account for the environmental costs of their food as well as the amount they pay at the store (or the farmers market). Hope that they’ll take such good care of themselves from a young age that when they get to midlife they’ll look back at their college photos and think, “I still look good!”


  1. Carol,

    Certainly I can relate to that feeling-- I have been contemplating age a lot lately since my mom is about to turn 60 and 30 is only 4 months away for me. I definitely looked better in my early 20s, but I think I'm actually healthier now, and I'm sure you are too. Your post made me think maybe you had given up-- don't! You are defintely not old, even if you are no longer a kid. There's always time to improve for all of us :) I plan to be way hotter at 45 than I was at 25... :)

  2. No, I definitely haven't given up! I feel better now than I ever have. I just wish I'd known better when I was younger, or started being conscious of my food choices at a younger age. I still feel very young and plan to age very gracefully!