Nostalgia And The Aber Effect, According To Other People

Strokey Adam just realised, in only his fifth blog post in the last 12 months, that it’s now ten years since he first moved to Aberystwyth. I remember when I came to the same point, last year, and sent a scary e-mail to the new student who adopted my University username. In Adam’s blog post, he talks briefly about his experience of leaving home and going to university, and now says that he’s “…realising that life will probably never be as much fun again as it was in Aber.”

Now I’m a huge fan of nostalgia, but I’m going to take Kit’s side on this one. Kit pointed out that “…a massive chunk of the Aber effect is the people…”, and he’s right. It took until only a year or two before I left for that to start to become clear to me, and it never really became true until I thought about it in hindsight, after moving to Earth.

Earlier this year, Rory announced out that for him, at last, “It’s time to leave Aber,” going on to observe that “Most of the people reading this have either already buggered off or are making preparations to do so. Expect to see plenty of moving related drama from us all as we rip up our roots, climb out of our ruts and generally start fleeing for more fertile pastures.”

He was right. The exodus had already begun, as many of the people we’d gotten used to seeing on a week-to-week (sometimes day-to-day) basis had already left. In the case of Rory and I, among a few others, we’d seen this all before – over the course of a decade you’ll see a lot of people move away from a university town. But there was something special about the last few years in Aber: for the first time, we were finally seeing all of the “hangers-on” beginning to disappear. The people who you’d begun to suspect were never going to pack up and go were at long last moving on.

Coming back to Strokey Adam’s thought: I don’t agree with the notion that everything in Aber was whiskers on rainbows and kittens in the sky. Sure, it was fun, but like Kit said: what made it fun were the people. And the people still exist! I’m not denying that there’s things I miss. Liz recently said to me that she missed that time “…when you could make a phone call or send a few texts… and within half an hour you could be sat in a pub with all your closest friends,” and I miss that too. But it’s not as if all those people fell off the face of the Earth. There’s always some excuse, just on the horizon, for people to get together again, whether we’re talking about the West Blockhouse excursion, Murder Mystery parties, or any of the many, many weddings and similar parties that seem to just keep on cropping up (why is everybody getting married? I don’t know, but the parties are fabulous!).

I think that there’s a tendency for many people to remember their youth in a particular way. Nostalgia is an important part of our identity, and it’s valuable for people to be able to point at the happy events of their past and say “That’s me. I am that person, who did those great things.” But for me, defining myself in terms of the past seems to be a little bit too much like tying myself to it. I want to be able to move on, to keep exploring, and to find new and exciting things to be involved with and to be happy about. Sure, I’m sickeningly nostalgic (comes with age), and I love to spin a yard about the more-ludicrous things I used to get up to during my university days… but I’d like to think that what defines me better is what I’m doing now. Like Marty McFly, we can visit the past, but we shouldn’t want to get stuck there. Unless you really like Huey Lewis.

If you’re looking to steep in a little more nostalgia and navel-gazing, I’ve got two more nostalgia-laden blog posts planned for this month: one coming later this week, hopefully, when I have a change to kick the magic box that will make it work, and the second scheduled for the end of this month, when as part of my On This Day series I’ll be looking back to my first year at Aberystwyth, too.

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