18 September 2009


As an adult, I have often known that peculiar legacy time brings to the traveler: the longing to seek out a place a second time, to find deliberately what we stumbled on once before, to recapture the feeling of discovery. Sometimes we search out again even a place that was not remarkable in itself -- we look for it simply because we remember it. If we do find it, of course, everything is different. The rough-hewn door is still there, but it’s much smaller; the day is cloudy instead of brilliant; it’s spring instead of autumn; we’re alone instead of with three friends. Or worse, with three friends instead of alone.

- Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian
It's amazing how some writers can perfectly express a feeling. This passage (taken from a novel I'm currently reading about Dracula, no less) does this to a tee, at least for me. Kostova refers to the sense of rediscovering a long-ago-visited place. As a fellow traveler frequently afflicted by wanderlust, I can completely relate to what she's written. I'm sure everyone has experienced this feeling as well, whether it's going back to your old grade school or visiting the bookstore where you and a significant other first met. You want to try to match the emotions and experiences you've kept locked in your memory, to refresh them, and to give them new meaning. Because perhaps you've been feeling melancholy, or you want something old and safe to hold on to as you tread uncharted territory in your life.

But upon arriving, you find that things aren't quite the same. The school looks dated; the strong, comforting steel of the playground equipment in your memory has been replaced by bright plastic monstrosities. The swingset used to be over here. The bookstore strangely doesn't hold the same allure in real life as it did in your mind. The wrong music is playing overhead, and it wasn't this bright before. So it pushes you the tiniest bit off-balance, and your memories become slightly discolored.

And at the same time, you have changed. You've grown older, hopefully wiser, definitely more cynical. You realize that everything changes with the passage of enough time, and absolutely nothing stays the same forever. The best thing you can do is take those new memories and filter them through the sentiment of the old.

Maybe it's the shorter days and cooler, cloudier weather, but lately I've been feeling more introspective than usual. I've been attempting, with mixed results, to instill an sense of stillness and calm in my life in reaction to the whirlwind that has been 2009 so far. The traveling I have been doing the past few weeks wasn't to distant physical spaces, but to memories and experiences in my mind of when life was simpler. I know things have changed; I have changed. And I'm not trying to "go back to how it once was" because that, in the grand scheme of things, is impossible. But there's the next best thing. And that's to go forward in the best way possible, with a sense of purpose, awareness and gratitude that past memories have served well to guide me thus far.

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