Creative Nostalgia

Talking about my past accomplishments is a strange experience for me because I keep wondering if the people I’m talking to ever think that I’m a has-been because I haven’t accomplished anything recent. Yet, I do it anyway because it’s comforting to remind myself that I was “great” at some point in my life.
For one, I was never a good student. To me, a good student is either a person who learns concepts quickly and without much effort, or a person who has the courage and discipline to try and work hard in spite of their shortcomings – neither of which I am. I don’t think that is even a little bit debatable. To me, I spent most of my time in primary and secondary school doing the bare minimum and somehow managed to do fairly well. That isn’t to say that I didn’t try at all, but I definitely did a lot less than I should have. When I was completing my diploma, I beat myself up repeatedly over how I rarely got As anymore and how I was working much harder than ever but I never saw the results I thought I deserved. I did more damage to my self-esteem by comparing myself to my peers who were doing much better than I was, who didn’t do as well as I did in the past. I realise that a person’s past accomplishments does not reflect their recent or future accomplishments, but I’m not always rational and/or kind to myself.
This problem goes past school achievements and has occasionally bled into my “capital C” creative work. I believe that my best poem has already been written and I feel demoralized by the crushing belief that nothing that comes after will ever match up. I suppose I have these feelings out of fear that I will never be able to write as honestly or, dare I say, creatively as I have done before. But really, what is preventing me from doing so? More importantly, why am I convinced that whatever I’ve done in the past is as good as it will ever get? I used to be proud of my past work, even the terrible pieces, because I wrote it at a point that I truly believed that it was the best I could produce. Usually, I felt like I improved by minor increments. However, this mindset changed the moment I wrote a poem that I didn’t think was as good as the one before it, and another after that was even worse. I haven’t written a new poem in years.
I look at the last poem I deemed acceptable with some kind of creative nostalgia that both comforts and stings, and I wonder why I can’t seem travel back to a time where I didn’t feel that I was always trying to come out from under my past self’s shadow.

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