If you have read my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I am very prone to nostalgia. I often experience nostalgia as a painful and intense longing for a past time and place.
Nostalgia hurts because you know there is no way to ever recapture the time and place of your imagination. It probably wasn’t as great as you remember it being. Whatever anxiety or fretting you did back then is forgotten because you know now that everything turned out alright, or at least you know that you survived. But, even if you could go back to a place you left long ago, it won’t be the same. Or worse yet, it will be the same but without you.
I have had the opportunity a couple times in my life to go back to places I had left behind many years before and to catch up with long lost friends. It is always a humbling experience because you realize that the place or the community you were so much a part of kept going without you. People who were once part of your daily life now only barely remember you. Or they are happy to see you but they have grown up and changed and done things with their lives all without you.
It is weird. I am never sad when things end. I am always excited to leave places and move on to the next step in my life. I usually say good-bye to people with a smile, rather than tears. But the sadness of long lost people and places will hit me many years after the fact, and then I find myself googling all the people I used to know and feeling wistful when I realize that my old classmates have moved on so far and so unpredictably. They have become U.N. volunteers and restaurant owners and riot grrrrrls and “unschooling” moms (don’t ask) and environmental journalists and struggling actresses. I wonder if they ever feel the same way I do about the past time and place we shared together.