post written by: Marc Chernoff

Always A One Of A Kind


One Of A Kind

The Real Thing

Last night I saw Donny at a house party near the beach.  He was wearing an Armani sports jacket and loafers while the rest of us wore shorts and sandals.  I thought his choice of apparel was interesting, because back when we lived together he didn’t even own a sports jacket or loafers.

He also brought two bottles of Cristal (really expensive champagne) to the party.  It was the first time I’d ever seen Cristal – outside of hip-hop music videos.  Actually, the closest I’d come to seeing it was on my first date with Angel several years ago.  After a nice dinner, I ran to the liquor store, bought a bottle of Cristalino (a cheap sparkling wine), cut the ‘ino’ off the label, and tried to make her laugh.

“Inventive,” she said, “Just not too smooth.”

But this was the real thing.  And several party goers circled around Donny hoping to grab a glass before it was gone. “Just like old times, man,” Sam said to me. “Donny is still the life of the party!”

Still So Crazy

After the two bottles were gone, and people were again drinking Keystone Light (a cheap beer), I stood on the patio with Donny, Sam, and Chad – my old college buddies.

“Do you remember that time when Donny got drunk and broke every lamp in our dorm?” Sam asked.  “We spent three whole nights studying and eating by candlelight until he bought us those ugly Victorian lamps he found at a garage sale.”

Sam, Chad and I laughed at the recollection.  Back then, it was normal for Donny to spontaneously smash little things (like beer cans and plastic cups) when he was drunk.  But that night he went on a rampage.  And we owned a set of gaudy Victorian lamps for the next two years to prove it.

Donny shook his head disapprovingly.  “Come on guys, not in front of my girlfriend,” he said, directing us with his eyes to the girl on his arm.  “I’ve moved on.  Respect me for that.”

I looked at the girl gripping Donny’s arm.  Though she’d been with him all night, I hadn’t really noticed her, and she hadn’t said a word.  I looked at Donny and smiled, but I didn’t know what to say.  Sam and Chad were smiling too, but they didn’t know what to say either.  Luckily, Donny broke the awkward silence.  “Why don’t I get another bottle of Cristal out of the car,” he said. “Ya know… for old times sake.”

“Yeah man, yeah!” Sam said. “You’re still so crazy!”

Nostalgia and Negation

When I got home last night I stayed up and thought about what happens to us as time passes.  We change.  And as we change, we grow and move toward new people and experiences, and we make decisions and judgments about the people and experiences that we move away from.

We typically either choose to engage and move closer (nostalgia), or we choose to disengage and move farther away (negation).  Nostalgia isn’t good because we’re holding onto what’s no longer there.  But negation isn’t good either because we’re pretending that what was once there never existed.

When we’re too close to something (nostalgia), we can’t see clearly.  Sometimes we even see things that aren’t there at all.  For example, Sam wanted to know Donny as he remembered him – a crazy party animal.  But the bottles of Cristal didn’t make Donny crazy, they made him high-priced.  Donny had long since stopped being the party animal we all knew in college.

When we’re too far away from something (negation), we can’t see it at all.  And we begin to lose a part of ourselves that can be a source of great happiness, understanding and direction.  For example, Donny had lots of good friends and experiences from his college years, and his girlfriend would have loved to share in them with him.  I know this because she told me before I left the party last night.

Clarity

Clarity comes, I think, in being able to recognize the perils of both nostalgia and negation.  It’s simply about appreciating the past without trying to relive it, learning from the past without running away from it, and seeing people and experiences as they are in this moment – sometimes happy, sometimes sad, never perfect, always a one of a kind.

Photo by: Gonzalo Ar

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19 Comments

  • Wow. I’d never thought about it like that before. Thanks for your insight.

  • I was just talking with a friend about how we sometimes try to rewrite our personal histories to suit our current needs.

    Good point about realizing the past is something to appreciate - both for the good times and the good lessons that came from bad times. But that’s all - the real energy should go for living right now.

  • Appreciate sharing the story… your thoughts about nostalgia and negation was awesome, regards

  • You’ve written the events so beautifully that I guess we all could relate to it without even being there. Things change, people change, priorities change… and that’s the rule of life.

    Great blog you have! Very motivating!

  • Memories, let’s cherish them before it’s too late. Agreed!

    –Parker

  • This rang so true for me.
    I went to a school reunion full of excitement. Everyone bubbled and chatted, full of ‘Do you remember…’ and ‘Whatever happened to…’
    We were all trying to recreate the past, to see the child’s face in the balding man or the not so attractive woman.
    Yes, it was fun, but also wistful. We were trying to bring back those childhood days, to be those children again, in a way.
    We exchanged numbers, promised to keep in touch but we realised that what we had in common was simply that we were childhood friends and once upon a time we went to the same school.
    The day was nostalgia filled, but I’m not sure we saw those people as they were at that moment. I wish we had.

  • Thanks. I’m in a nostalgia moment. This is helpful.

  • What a beautifully crafted post and what a poetic look at life.

    I used to think back all the times, I was reliving my past and that felt miserable. While most people argue that the past is a part of you, I’d rather fully live in the present moment and focus entirely on the future - what’s next.

    Nevertheless, it was still a magical insight, thanx !

  • @Katie: We all have a slightly different way of thinking about the same exact topics. That’s why I love reading some of my favorite blogs. Oh, and you’re welcome. ;-)

    @Betsy: I think its okay to rewrite our histories to a certain extent. As long as we aren’t lying, but instead simply tailoring our stories from yesterday to make our tomorrows a little brighter and more productive.

    @Parker: Agreed. In the end, all we have are our memories. So let’s make them count.

    @Linda: Thanks so much for sharing your story. My ten year high school reunion is this fall and I haven’t decided if I’m going to fly across the country to attend yet. But if I do, I’m sure I’ll get caught up in the same nostalgic situation you did. It’s interesting to think about.

    @Mohd and Shomoita and Flor: Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. ;-)

    @Mars: You got it. The past isn’t life. The future isn’t life. Right now, this moment, is life.

  • I love this one! You nailed it. I have been trying to express this for years and could never find the right words.

    Well done! ;)

  • A personal story filled with honesty, truth, and a new way to see things.
    Exactly why I like to read this blog. :)

  • Thanks Marc, great article as always :)

  • The clarity you have stated is what I call balance. I always believe that it is better to be observant of our propensities so that clarity can make its way. :-)

  • There’s something to be said for the way you gather meaning from everyday life.

  • @Kirsti, Carrie, and Dia: Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    @Walter: Progress is all about awareness. It’s hard to figure out where you are today if you don’t know where you were yesterday.

    @Blake: Isn’t all meaning derived from everyday life? ;-)

  • Nice thoughts Marc
    rather than sticking to the past and living on it why not change the present, that’s the conclusion i made after reading the post

  • This could not come at a better time for me. I just recently graduated from high school and I have had trouble coping with the fact that I may never see half of the people I know again. Yet, this shows me the importance of achieving an equilibrium between old and new. Thank you very much, I enjoy everything that you write!

  • Excellent observation. I have so many friends that I drifted apart from because I got married and moved on with my life. I try not to judge them but its hard because I grew up and they are still in the same place in life as the day we parted.

  • Ahh! I’m reading through your website and each new post makes me want to stop and really think for a while… but I’m so impatient to go find out what the next post says, and the next, and the next… it’s addictive. Thanks for writing. :)

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