The Mighty Logo

Digging Through the Past on a Quest to Quell My Newfound Grief

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

It’s like comfort food for your soul. Nostalgia is everywhere now. From the shows we binge to the movies we watch to the music we enjoy, we aren’t “Back to the Future” we are “Back to the Past.” And for me, that means the ‘80s and ’90s.

I’ve been finding comfort in nostalgia these days because my dad is having health and psychiatric issues. He has bipolar disorder just like me. It can be tough to be a good caregiver, but I am trying.

It’s times like these — during COVID-19, corruption in politics, climate change, voter suppression, rampant racism et. al —  that it can be helpful to embrace the familiar, rewatching, re-listening, experiencing everything another time.

“Nostalgia, a sentimental longing for one’s past, can serve as a resource for individuals coping with discomforting experiences,” says a study conducted in 2020. “Individuals experiencing higher nostalgia reported a decrease in intrusive thoughts across time, whereas those experiencing lower nostalgia reported no change in intrusive thoughts across time.”

Where is the Wayback Machine taking us? Well… Here is some nostalgic pop culture that you can tap into to lift your spirits.

The sci-fi epic “Dune” got the remake treatment. A “Ghostbusters” reunion film with original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Sigourney Weaver is on the way.

HBO is dripping in nostalgia with a new prequel “Sopranos” film, “The Many Saints of Newark.” There’s also a reboot of the show “Gossip Girl,” and a continuation of “Sex And The City” titled “And Just Like That…” is out Dec. 9.

“Stranger Things,” my favorite show on Netflix, is a sci-fi romp about kids in the ‘80s and its fourth season will debut in the summer of 2022. 

Remember “That ‘70s Show”? It was the sitcom with Ashton Kutcher, Topher Grace, and Wilmer Valderrama among others. Well, grab your grunge flannels: they’re producing a spinoff called “That ‘90s Show.” And there’s a reboot of “The Wonder Years” as told through the eyes of a Black family on Hulu.

From “Hair” to “Hedwig” to “Beetlejuice the Musical” and even a musical derived from Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” ‘90s alt-rock album, nostalgia is even being embraced by Broadway.

And then there’s music itself:

The Beatles are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their final album “Let It Be” with a brand-new box set featuring a remastered version of the record complete with outtakes and unreleased tracks, and a book. It arrives with “Get Back,” a three-part documentary by director Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”), premiering on Disney+ on Nov. 25.

I just got the vinyl reissue of Metallica’s 1991 Black Album — with the blockbuster single “Enter Sandman” — fully remastered special 30th anniversary edition. I’m learning that song on guitar with my teacher from 1994, who I found out was still teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. He is 61 now. I am 42. I was 14 when we first worked together.

Nirvana’s “Nevermind” featuring the groundbreaking, game-changing anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has a similar special 30th anniversary vinyl release. The album was pivotal in my youth and still resonates with me as a favorite to this day.

As a Gen X’er, I have trouble relating to the sounds of today. My taste in music definitely leans early 1980s to 2000s plus ‘60s jazz thrown in. While there are a few newish indie acts I like, I don’t have a finger on the pulse of pop music like I once did as a producer for MTV.

I can’t stand Auto-Tune, the device that automatically fixes the pitch of a singer or rapper’s voice or intentionally distorts it, often giving it a robotic feel. Everyone is using it excessively now. Whether it’s Post Malone, Justin Bieber, or Future, for me, it’s like hearing 10,000 banging jackhammers all at once. Auto-tune was cool when Daft Punk and Cher did it, but now it’s out of control. That’s why I dig Lizzo – she’s authentic, melodic, clever, and just plain amazing.

It is nostalgic pop culture that is keeping me sane these days. And I’m having a blast clinging to my teenage years, offering some hope of tradition and normalcy. Revisiting past songs, movies, and shows might help some of you as well. When life turns sad or scary, I attach myself to happy memories. I need escape. And it’s my pre-teen and teenage years that are doing the trick.

Getty image by Poike

Originally published: November 22, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home