To me, memories exist as a warm, blurry, slow-motion filmstrip. They live and breathe in the past, but I find it difficult to leave them in that spot, often remembering and comparing to my current life. I live in a constant state of nostalgia.
I did this a lot – too much – during my time in Portland. I had just returned to Maine after a year volunteering on a farm near Edinburgh, Scotland. Though Maine was my home for 23 years before my trip, it was difficult to see Maine with the same eyes. In my head, Edinburgh was my home. Within that framed Scottish chapter, I found my confidence. I traveled alone for the first time, easily made new friends, learned to salsa dance, and drank far too many Jagerbombs and tequila shots. I felt immeasurable happiness and independence. It was the most creatively alive I have ever felt.
Also within this chapter, I felt completely alone. I dealt with loss; multiple losses. I lived amongst people battling with mental health issues, therefore stirring up my own. But when I let my mind drift back to the farm, to Edinburgh, I can hear the quiet apple orchard, I can visualize the expanse of medieval architecture, the Royal Mile, hear the mugs clinking in my favorite coffee shop on the Mound. I remember laughing till my face hurt, and dancing freely, and the genuine warmth of true happiness.
I’m aware of the highs and lows of my time there, though I can only extend my focus to the warm, golden moments. Edinburgh even replaced Maine as home in my brain. Why does the past have this quality to me?
One night nearing the end of my placement, my friend Diego and I were discussing the philosophical concept of returning to a place you once loved. Is it worth it? Or is it similar to the rule of never meeting your heroes?
I’ve been removed from that life for a year and a half. Moved to a new city, became a teacher, lived alone in a tiny apartment, and fell in love. I’ve gotten married, packed a suitcase of my favorite things and moved to Germany. But, no matter where life has taken me, the Scott Monument stands tall in my recollection, forcing Edinburgh ahead of my current chapter.
With Diego’s words ringing in my ears, I now have a fear of going “home”. Will it live up to my memory? Have I put this place too high on a pedestal, doomed to fall?
Next week, I’m finally returning to Scotland. Here lies the issue: should you ever return to a place you once loved?
The Edinburgh that is shrouded by my rose-colored lenses is not the Edinburgh that stands there still. I have changed. Many of the people I loved in Edinburgh are not there anymore. But, I feel more drawn there than I feel drawn anywhere else. Perhaps this is for the sole reason to finally understand that my obsession with this beloved place belongs in the past.
Until the trip, I can only speculate and juggle the feelings of elation and nerves, hoping that my favorite place will live up to my expectation, and at the same time hoping it won’t.
Is it time to move on? The answer awaits until next week . . .