When I traveled back to Dayton, Ohio, last month, on a quick break from tour, I felt revived by waves of nostalgia as I maneuvered through my hometown. Walking the downtown streets amid towering buildings glimmering in the summer sun. Driving the outskirts of town through cornfields so green they appeared radioactive. Passing my childhood home, inhaling the memories of adolescence.
But there’s a problem with nostalgia: it tells only half-truths. And thus the full truth isn’t as fragrant as my wistful reminiscence. Most of those skyscrapers are abandoned. The cornfields are subsumed by cookie-cutter suburbia. And the house that raised me is boarded up after decades of disrepair.
Nostalgia is a rose-colored rearview. Not only does it falsely represent the past, keeping us clinging to a two-dimensional version of life that didn’t actually exist, it dampens the present and clouds the future.
If we want things to be “the way they were,” or if we hope to make something “great again,” then we’re missing out on how good this moment is, and how great the future can be. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my hometown—not for what it used to be, but for what it is right now, and for what its future holds.