When we arrived in Melbourne, I spent a good month weeping at odd moments. The car seemed to be a particular problem spot. I guess no one in the back seat could see my tears and that provided me with a freedom. Driving the boys to story time at the new library, to their new swimming lessons, to their new daycare, to the supermarket that never had any parks, the tears would well and inevitably spill over. We were in the car a lot because of where we lived so I had plenthy of opportunity. Wherever we were, I would think of the Sydney equivalent and sob. Remembering my family, my friends and tears would fall. Somehow, our life in Sydney seemed to make more sense. Our family made more sense. We had an identity. We were us. In Melbourne, I felt we were anchorless. Bar a couple of Cam’s friends and his family, no one knew who we were. And in particular, no one knew who I was.
I can’t remember now when I stopped crying. But I did. I must have. We fell into the swing of things, or I guess I did. Life in Melbourne became our normal with its ups and its downs. But it became that, life. Just normal beautiful heartfelt life.
But the crazy, nutty thing now is that being back in Sydney, falling straight back into the life we had, my family around to love and help us, my friends dropping by, sharing a beer and hanging out with us, I can’t help but miss Melbourne terribly. Like enough to cry in the car again. Is it change that disrupts us, enough to unsettle us or is nostalgia a fundamental human experience?
Nostalgia is defined as a yearning for the past, often in idealized form. It is what I have exactly. Since I’ve been back nothing in Sydney equals that in Melbourne. I feel completely unsettled again, like the family equilibrium has been disrupted and we are now ‘out of place.’ This is nuts given my same response when we arrived in Melbourne. I know my memory is skewed. I mean, Melbourne was a fantastic city to live in for our family – so much better for kids – but I was lonely and I’m back now amongst those I love and yet I feel so dislocated.
Another historical definition for nostalgia has been homesickness. And in the 1800s it was even considered a medical condition, a disease. This interests me because my experience of this, this nostalgia, this longing, feels out of my control; as if no self-talk would make any difference.
I guess I’m trying to work out why. What function does nostalgia play? What evolutionary role does it have? It is to help us adjust to change? It haunts me, follows me wherever I go. And it fits so neatly into the glass as half full or empty. Is my nostalgia just another inherent way that I vew the glass half empty? If so, that scares me. I guess now that I’ve articulared it, now that I am aware of it, I can change it. Well, I’d hope so.
What are you nostalgic for? As there been a time in your life when you fell this intensely?