The other day, I revisited my old neighbourhood. Just walking down that familiar street brought memories that had entirely faded from my brain, rushing back with clarity. I remembered small, impossible details like what my friend ordered that time we ate at the café downstairs, the happy conversation I had with the nearby florist, discussing the contents of paté with my Mother when she visited, shopping for a tiny christmas tree with my best friend, the nearby church I had visited when I was at my lowest… I could go on for days.
But instead of making me happy, these memories just made me sad. I spent the rest of the day mulling over why sadness was my first reaction, and I still haven’t quite figured it out.
What struck me was the familiar feeling of the weather. When I surfaced from the metro that very first early-autumn day in Paris, the skies were clear and blue, with some happy clouds, the sun was warm, but there was a slight chill in the air. And when I returned, a year and a half later, on a beautiful spring day, it felt so similar. How can everything look and feel the same, yet you’ve changed so much? I started wondering who lives in my apartment now. Are they also a student, do they love it as much as I did, what place in the world did they travel from to arrive here in Paris? Do the people I walked past everyday still live in this neighbourhood? And even more than that – did my presence in this minuscule corner of the universe make any impression? Does a part of me still linger here? I thought about my hometown, how even though I love the desert landscape and spending time with my family in our cozy house, I always end up feeling a little melancholy whenever I return. It’s like the puzzle piece (me) doesn’t quite fit comfortably anymore, and even though I am somewhat bothered by the awkwardness, there’s nothing I can do to change that. My mind then began to wander; what makes ME who I am? Is it the collective experiences, people, and places I’ve encountered? The spaces I’ve inhabited? The things I eat, the conversations I’ve had, the relationships and heartbreaks I’ve endured? I don’t think I’ll ever come to discover a final version of myself – I truly feel like being human, by definition, is a constant transformational experience. Although I’ve always sought change in my life, never wanting to become boring or stagnant, I sure do have a hard time coping with the passage of good times. Maybe the memories of my old Parisian apartment make me sad because I associate that time of my life with a better version of myself – a version with more passion and actual goals. Maybe I’m glorifying the past, and maybe I need to stop doing that.
“Let everything happen to you Beauty and terror Just keep going No feeling is final” ― Rainer Maria Rilke