Today, I found myself in my hometown.
I always thought revisiting the places I grew up in would overwhelm me with nostalgia, to the point I might get teary-eyed. Turns out my brain doesn’t care.
I was able to recognize several street names, I remember what the city looked like – I knew when I wasn’t in the town I work in anymore – and I could recall the inside of some buildings like the public library and the elementary school I attended. Some areas felt like they should be familiar, but I couldn’t place if I’d been there or not.
As strange as it sounds, I’m a little sad I didn’t have nostalgia. Ultimately, driving through my hometown didn’t feel much different than driving through other towns. The faint feeling of familiarity was the only difference.
Since I am nostalgic about some things from my childhood, I can’t help wondering why not even driving past my elementary school triggered feelings. Have too many years passed? Is it that I don’t remember most of my childhood? Is it because most of what I do remember is negative?
The things I’m nostalgic for are trivial; playing in the sandbox with my friends (whose full names I still remember) in kindergarten, cartoons and sitcoms I grew up watching that are off the air, playing on the playground without thinking it’s weird, my pet cat (I haven’t had another pet since he died), being able to climb and hoisting myself to the top of street signs, the many kid websites I used to play with (all but one – Neopets – no longer exist). The major things – like family and school – are experiences I’d prefer death to reliving. In fact, as I passed the other end of the sidewalk the school is on, I had one such thought: “Oh, there are the bushes my grandmother used to break switches off and beat me with.”
As I type that, another memory that immediately comes to my mind is my mother screaming at me “Have you been acting like that” and smacking me with a belt.
With those thoughts, maybe it isn’t so surprising nostalgia didn’t happen. Maybe the lack of nostalgia is my mind’s way of being protective. My very first childhood memory is a traumatic event. Maybe that shaped a part of me.
In my own mind, my life started at age four. The second memory after that first one is walking into preschool. I have more memories from kindergarten, but regardless, it’s hard to believe that small girl is now a centimeter shy of 5’4″. Though I can recall fragments of my childhood, I cannot recall being so small. I don’t feel like I was, despite I know I was.
Even my high school years have mostly faded from my mind, though again, I wonder if it’s a self-conscious protection because I hated my school years.
It’s said nostalgia makes the past seem better than it was. Perhaps that why I didn’t have any nostalgic feelings as I drove through my hometown. Because although I truly miss some things, I know the past was not better than the present, and nostalgia is not enough to filter it.
Or maybe it’s that nothing is really there for me anymore. I don’t have friends or family there to visit, I don’t work there, and any travel there would merely be passing through. Maybe I moved on without noticing. Maybe it’s that adulthood has uncovered family secrets I didn’t know during childhood.
Am I thinking too much about this? Most likely. I can’t say the past doesn’t matter because it built me into who I am. That past is part of why, for example, I don’t want to be a parent (although the present certainly tops the list of reasons!). The present is depressing and I believe the near and far future is dim. I’m unsure what does matter.
But since my attempts to part with this world never saw light outside of my head, my only choice is to see it.
It seems I will.