April 22, 2014

Places I once knew

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.

Older Chests by Damien Rice on Grooveshark

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

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  1. Hi Hana, this was a beautifully reflective post. I hope you're feeling OK. The power of memory eh? My work offices are currently being moved and I'm going back to the building where I first started out in my current company...Right now, it feels like I'm going backwards (I don't have too many happy memories from the building actually) even though I'm further on in my career and have friendly colleagues and some colleagues who have even become friends...When are we trying out a new café/that place we were both shocked I had never made it to yet...let's get a date set! Lou xx

    1. Thank you Lou, writing this post was cathartic. It's strange how much of an impression places can have on us, and how long that impression can last!

      Oh yes I remember, Sainte Chapelle! We should definitely go there! I'll send you an email :)


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