Daydream for a moment and imagine that you’re standing in the wings of an auditorium, looking at the empty stage in front of you; the set pieces have been taken down, the lights give off a dim white glow, and it’s absolutely silent. You slowly walk forward, and you can hear your footsteps lightly thud and echo. You stop at the very center of the stage and you stare at an audience of empty seats. Now, you walk up the center aisle and up the stairs until you reach the exit doors at the very back. You turn around and take in every detail; the curved walls, the empty seats, and the silent stage. Then, you close your eyes and remember.
Okay, so the ending of one of my high school theater shows probably wasn’t that melodramatic. But whenever I think about those moments on that stage with people I loved and the months that brought us together, that’s what I picture. I remember my first audition: my hands were shaking, and my voice trembled as I watched the face of the director. I remember that at a cast celebration at our favorite diner, I laughed for 3 hours straight with a best friend I would never have met otherwise. And I remember crying, the last night when we all hugged and said our goodbyes. Things end, and not everyone stays.
Nostalgia is a hard feeling to describe; it’s both happy and sad, both regret and fulfillment. So rather than examining it as a feeling, I’ve tried to view it as a moment; that point in time just before you walk out the exit doors, when you glance back and shed a tear for a piece of your life that you know you will never experience again. But then, you smile and shed another tear because you know it will never leave you. As time goes on, I’ve also realized that the experiences we get nostalgic about don’t have that significance because they made headlines. The applause we got at the end of each show was memorable, but not as significant as the little things we went through together; the 3-hour laugh, the nervous audition, the bloopers, a falling set piece. It’s the little pieces of our lives that make us nostalgic.
There’s a quote from Doctor Who which is the inspiration for the title of this post. The Doctor and his wife River Song are spending their last night together, and she realizes that this is all the time they have left. So, she says to the rather cynical and increasingly lonely Doctor, “Happily ever after doesn’t mean forever. It means little time.” That’s what this blog is about; the small, ordinary things that are part of living an extraordinary life; the nostalgia that comes from living “little time”. Well, professors always insist on concluding with some takeaways, so here there are: be nostalgic, enjoy your little times, and live so that when you stand at the exit doors you can smile and cry as you take one last glance at the stage.