On Nostalgia

The nights where I am tired and still keep myself up trying to work are the nights where I miss living abroad the most. Arguably the pandemic has now eaten up a good chunk of life back in Canada, and while I am thankful that neither family nor physical health has really been affected all this time, I suppose it has played a part in that I have found it difficult to feel fully home again.

The area where we live still feels foreign at times. I know it well, having walked my neighbourhood probably more times than I’ve walked the streets around the house where I grew up, but even so, as I walk I expect to have to say goodbye soon enough, like all the other cities we’ve been in so far. See the photo at the top of this post? That’s from Luxembourg City. Jack bought a board game, Rosenkonig, in a shop a little ways from a large market square. We ate roast chicken with nothing but our hands and mopped up the juices with a loaf of bread, then finished off our meal passing an apple back and forth. I realized in Luxembourg that I enjoy steak tartare so very much, but six years later, the chicken-in-a-square is still one of my favourite meals to date. Luxembourg was cobbled streets and sunny walks, and modern art museums purporting the benefits of woven meat.

That exhibit on woven meat did nothing to decrease my appetite for bloody moo-meat.

While looking for an email from Canadian Blood Services, I opened up another one from my first principal in China, welcoming us to the school. How strange things were. To be able to hop from one country to another without regard for much anything else. Every year had the expectation of something new and strange and unknown. Now there are a hundred golden threads holding fast my head, my hands, my feet. There’s still the expectation of the unknown, and perhaps what’s happening is not that things have slowed down but that things have sped up so much, so that I can scarce catch my breath knowing that every day is so unpredictable. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m sure it’s good.

You know what’s crazy? A year after we were in Luxembourg, we were at the Shanghai Museum of Glass.

In Shanghai, we haggled over (possibly) fake Converse shoes with a group of co-workers, shared bunk beds in hostels, and made new families that have left me feeling as though pieces of me are still scattered worldwide, because the people I used to see every day are in strange new places and we still haven’t come back together. I can only look forward to eating with them, sleeping under the same roof, walking into new adventures together again. And perhaps when we meet again, we’ll be joined by the small feet that have run circles around and over my head and my heart.

Nostalgia isn’t an enemy until it fosters discontentment; perhaps, though, my past discontentment has stemmed from a condescension towards memory. I have so many stories to share, especially about my travels, and yet few people have shown any interest in them, so the message I have received is that these experiences haven’t mattered. But writing these memories out reminds me that not only am I very thankful to have had all these experiences, whatever message I may perceive from others is irrelevant to the value of my life lived thus far. I still feel uncomfortable living where I am at times, but I hope to welcome nostalgia better as a friend.

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