Article image

13 Wistful Quotes About Nostalgia

Memory is a great gift. Calling back moments of joy, from a loved one’s wedding to a favorite concert, keeps us close to those happy experiences long after they end. Nostalgia, meanwhile, is a particularly potent form of memory, and one that tends to be bittersweet, as it often comes with a pang of sadness from longing to return to the past.

At its best, nostalgia lets us appreciate what we’ve had; in yearning for the way things once were, we understand how lucky we’ve been. That fond recollection can even be a call to action: When we remember those moments when we felt most alive, we might seek out more of that feeling, filling our lives with experiences to treasure.

It’s important, though, not to let remembering tip over into regressing, as memory can be an unreliable narrator. As Marcel Proust wrote, “Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” Nostalgia can make us view the past with rose-colored glasses, glossing over the hard times while fixating on the good. While looking back is nice to do every now and again, too much of it can blind us to the good parts of our current lives, preventing us from living fully in the present.

Nostalgia, like many things in life, is a powerful force that may be best in moderation. Below, we’ve collected quotes that contemplate the blessings, drawbacks, and quirks of taking that sentimental stroll down memory lane.

How sad and bad and mad it was — / But then, how it was sweet!
Robert Browning, poet

Share Quote

I’d trade all of my tomorrows for just one yesterday.
Jenny Lou Carson, songwriter

Share Quote

Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.
Doug Larson, editor

Share Quote

Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything.
Terrence Malick, filmmaker

Share Quote

[Nostalgia] is a kind of evoking in my head of the memory of the first discovery… that moment of the fun and the thrill of it all.
Robert Wyatt, musician

Share Quote

Nostalgia is a sweet place for a poet and writer to be in. But it's an indulgence; a distraction. You can't live in a distraction.
Gulzar, poet

Share Quote

I always make a distinction between nostalgia and sentimentality. Nostalgia is genuine — you mourn things that actually happened.
Pete Hamill, journalist

Share Quote

One is always at home in one’s past.
Vladimir Nabokov

Share Quote

I am not among those who engage in nostalgia because I think that locks you into a moment in time without thinking about where you are, what needs to be done now.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, politician

Share Quote

Nostalgia is a very human trait.
Stephanie Coontz, author and historian

Share Quote

Nostalgia, more than anything, gives us the shudder of our own imperfection.
Emil Cioran, philosopher

Share Quote

We long to have again the vanished past, in spite of all its pain.
Sophocles

Share Quote

Nostalgia is the only friend that stays with you forever.
Damien Echols, author

Share Quote

Photo credit: Allkindza/ E+ via Getty Images

Author image
About the Author
Paola Bennet
Paola Bennet is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She writes a fortnightly newsletter that treasures the mundane, called Small Histories. Find her on Instagram @paolafbennet.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
Fill in the blank: "The time to make up your mind about people is ___." - Philip Barry

More Inspiration

happiness theme icon

You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything.

separator icon
Stephen Colbert
motivation theme icon

Ultimately, art is trying to see things that other people don't see.

separator icon
Trevor Paglen
hope theme icon

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

separator icon
J.R.R. Tolkien
love theme icon

Freedom lies in being bold.

separator icon
Robert Frost
wisdom theme icon

Failure is a greater teacher than success. Listen, learn, go on.

separator icon
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
happiness theme icon

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

separator icon
Jane Goodall
motivation theme icon

He who has a why in life can tolerate almost any how.

separator icon
Friedrich Nietzsche
hope theme icon

We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.

separator icon
Helen Keller
love theme icon

There's no such thing in anyone's life as an unimportant day.

separator icon
Alexander Woollcott
wisdom theme icon

Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.

separator icon
Rumi
happiness theme icon

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.

separator icon
Helen Keller