Firsts are terribly important. In our culture, we have been driven for thousands of generations on stories. Firsts are a means that we use in our own lives to define beginnings in our tales, since the stream of consciousness viewpoint to which we are ultimately subjected does not lend itself well to any solid form of beginning or end. As we live our lives, the contiguous plot points tend to melt away, leaving a blur of days or weeks, with only the major peaks left to lend ourselves definition. Context, characters, scenario, they all must have some anchor point, some level by which they are all related, so inherently they tie themselves back to those moments, those firsts, to which they are inevitably linked, however tenuous.
It's a first kiss. A first job. A first contract. A first car. A first trip. A first note, first fuck, the first time you hear your favorite song. The first night you spent alone, the first night you spent with someone else. As we move forward, there are so few opportunities for more firsts. Wherein lay the trap.
The birth of nostalgia is almost always an attempt to recreate that First. Having an anniversary dinner at the same place you had your first date. Going back to the places where you first learned to ride a bike.
The dirty secret, the awful truth? Nostalgia should be locked away. It's great to relive something in your mind, but it's also a thing that, almost without exception, will always fall short of expectation if you attempt to re-enact it.
(I know I misjudged you. And myself. What We could have been. I'm almost certain there will never be another shot, but I'm not giving up hope. I can't help but find you incredible, and I want so much to know more.)
Don't blame yourself for this fault though. Unless you're one of the infinitesimal amount of people with an eidetic memory, your brain is lying to you. It does that. Your brain will cast a certain rosy glow on events you may have considered at the time as monuments, and turn them into idols. The reason you can never truly satisfy nostalgia, is because you (probably) never actually actual felt as good about [the thing] as you do in hindsight.
Personally, I can recall one of the moments in my life that I felt the most incredible I have ever felt before or since. However, it is not a night I am particularly willing to attempt to relive. It has more to do with a drug induced serotonin dump than any actual good thing happening. I recognize this fact, and understand that the happiness and amazing level of empowerment that I felt are things I would sooner find on my own than attempt to pill my way towards again.
But that's the crux, really. We attempt so often to find moments that match the memory, but the memory is flawed.
Instead, we should strive always to find new things to try, new firsts, new moments to define the starts of our stories. Because there is no good reason in existence for our stories to stop beginning, because eventually, inevitably, no matter how hard we try, our stories will end.
Art is not yours. If you are somebody who has ever attempted to create any sort of art, or really any form of creative work, that is the one thing you will have to get over. If what you make means something to you, or has a particular set of circumstance that requires it to have relatability to you, then you need to come to terms with one simple rule:
Once you set it free, once you let one single other person in on it, it's not yours anymore. Whatever you intended it to mean, or infer, or impose, you lose all right to that.
This is not to say that you can't maintain your own view, your own import on the subject, merely to explain that it no longer belongs to you. If you write a song, your lyrics that you so carefully crafted about your heartbreak may, to the next person who hears it, send a message of loneliness, or hope, or strife, but whatever it is, they own that. The way they felt about the song they heard is something that they own.
A lot of artists don't understand this, or do, but find it revolting. They don't want any of their precious context or personal struggle to be taken for anything other than what they intended. I'm here to tell everyone, but especially those people: Stop it.
If you can create anything, a song, a poem, a sculpture, a painting, a story, a joke, that can relate to even one person, you have done something beautiful. Whether or not they received your 'intended' message, you have delivered a message that means something to someone. And that's incredible.
I've always been particularly averse to people telling me what songs are 'about,' and it's where I run into this problem most often. To tread on a dangerously personal level, I'll use the example of 'Brick' by Ben Folds Five. When the song came out, I was all of thirteen, and I loved it. It's a great song. I had put it on mix-tapes (yes, I made many) and mix CDs on and off for years. Then I went maybe six, seven years without hearing it. Somehow, it popped up into my periphery, with somebody telling me it's all about abortion. I was dumbfounded. I hadn't heard the song in a long time, but somehow that explanation seemed not only wrong, but completely against anything that I had ever believed about it.
To give complete context, at this point I had had a fairly recent, complicated, and emotional experience with abortion. Then I listened to it again, for the first time in years. The summation I had heard was completely right, and regardless of the explanation I had been given, it's a conclusion I would've come to completely on my own. It's a rare instance of the song's “original meaning” hitting home so directly in a way I hadn't experienced before.
Even then, it wasn't until I started writing this that I decided to fact-check [the random person] who had given me the “what it really means” speech. In reference to that song, Ben Folds had this to say:
"People ask me what this song's about... I was asked about it a lot, and I didn't really wanna make a big hairy deal out of it, because I just wanted the song to speak for itself. But the song is about when I was in high school, me and my girlfriend had to get an abortion, and it was a very sad thing. And, I didn't really want to write this song from any kind of political standpoint, or make a statement. I just wanted to reflect what it feels like. So, anyone who's gone through that before, then you'll know what the song's about." (Emphasis is mine)
That's pretty much my point. I had already related to the song on some level long before I had any explanation of what it was 'supposed' to be about, and then was later able to relate to it on an entirely different level because of my life experience. Again, “...I just wanted the song to speak for itself.” That is all that anybody who does any sort of creative work can ever ask, is that their work speaks for itself.
If it is supposed to convey a specific message, it will do so on its own merit. If it's something more personal, expect people to relate it to their own lives, their own sufferings and triumphs. Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, if what you have made has given something to somebody, no matter how far it may stray from what you meant to impart, don't you dare try and take it away from them. Because no matter what you've made, if it means anything to anyone, that is just as important, if not more so, than whatever it meant to you.