YMWW #18: Pain of the Return Home

Monday, April 19, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

I started a completely different note last week. It was about how I’d describe my living situation: somewhere between being too comfortable to be “living on the edge” but not comfortable enough to be “stuck in a rut.” I would have called it “fringe living.” I got half a paragraph in and then lost interest, which is a shame because that note was my attempt to make an excuse for not writing as frequently.

Oh well.

Instead, you’re getting an unplanned rant, a nostalgia trip that hasn’t been thought out. I’m free-writing right now, hoping that by the time I get to someplace that looks like the end, I’d have made a revelation. Or, at the very least, a point. Let’s see where this goes.

Not more than an hour ago, I finished rewatching the student film Prince Movie by my friend Corey Bridwell. I can’t describe it as anything other than ridiculously ridiculous. . . which of course made it the talk of town during my senior year of college. It took place in familiar apartments and starred familiar faces. By the time the credits had rolled and the bloopers came on, it hit.

Nostalgia.

We welcome the feeling as though it were a refreshing stroll down memory lane, but the truth lies within its poetically dark translation: pain of the return home (it’s Greek, look it up). Those happy feelings don’t exist within physical places and reoccurring events, only in the memories of situations we know we can never relive. That’s why it’s painful. If you really dwell on it, it’s painful.

During the holiday season I went back home to California and during my stay, spent a day in Berkeley. College was the best four years of my life and I wanted to get a little taste of it again. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. College as I remember it wasn’t the campus or my old apartment building or my favorite restaurants. The City of Berkeley is a fantastic place, but it alone did not bring back those familiar feelings. What I missed were the people: my roommates, my older Rally Comm buddies, my newer film studies classmates. If only they were here with me, I thought, it would be the same.

After watching that student film and seeing my old friends in recognizable dorms and apartments, I realized that wasn’t the full truth. Even if all my favorite Berkeley people were there with me in the Bay during my return, it wouldn’t have been the same. My college experience was that exact situation in that exact time. It was me as a student with my old roommates as roommates and my old apartment as mine and my film friends as classmates. That again can never happen. That’s when I realized what true nostalgia was.

So now what? Did I turn emo? Did I just enter a state of depression? Hell no! If you know me at all you know that’s not how I do things.

I took this revelation as reaffirmation that what I’m doing is right. Maybe people stay in familiar places in hopes of reliving the past, in hopes of re-feeling those nostalgic memories. If that’s the case, all we can really do to stay happy is experience new things and make more memories. That’s what I’m doing in Hawai’i. I have new roommates and new friends and a new job and I love them all. They didn’t replace everything I had in Berkeley. Nothing will. That situation in Berkeley was special, and I’d be damned if I didn’t try to make my current situation special as well. I can’t do that by pining for the past. Maybe, in the future, when I’m living in New York with my model-doctor-artist girlfriend, I will look back on my time in Hawai’i and feel a little painful nostalgia.

One can only hope.

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