This question proved to be harder to answer than a simple yes or no, as most questions are.
I suppose we should start at the beginning.
After a stressful rearranging of flights, I landed in my favorite city late at night, the place I have been living in my mind for over a year, Edinburgh. I immediately felt comfortable because I already knew the airport, the bus routine, the money system. I had done it all before. I felt capable, a feeling I rarely experience in a foreign country.
As the bus drove into the city, I recognized buildings and neighborhoods that had been scrubbed from my memory, the details hazed over with time. It filled in the missing shadows and I couldn’t help but feel complete. We entered city centre, Princes Street. The evening got the memo of how nostalgic I am, so the weather was windy, the dark clouds visibly rolling across the navy sky. Lights created the outline of old town. The castle appeared on the right, exactly where I’d left it. I was home.
I fully expected to cry when my feet hit the pavement, but my brain was in business mode, not allowing me to soak in the moment. It was chilly and I was carrying about 50lbs on me. I need to get to Lena’s flat, about a mile walk. As I marched up the bending Cockburn Street, it was as if I could see a past version of myself frantically running down the cobblestones and laughing as I caught the last bus of the night. Echoes of memories rippled through the air. I passed St. Giles and remembered bringing J to the cathedral, listening to an unexpected chorus and locking eyes, knowing how he felt about me. I continued on my mile to my friend’s flat, recreating memories that constructed my year there. I felt I was fulfilling an unsaid first step – to remember.
I was so alive here, I could still feel the effects.
Now, desperately wanting to remember again, remember all of it, I began the journey of visiting my old stomping grounds.
As I walked the Royal Mile, I found a street poet typing his art into an old typewriter and giving it to strangers. I almost walked by him. Almost. But something told me to wait. I told Ben The Poet about wanting to read a poem about returning to a place you once loved. He dramatically rubbed his hands together and began writing. As I waited for the masterpiece, a person in line and I began a conversation. I asked Neil what subject he wanted a poem about and he discussed feeling personal happiness and fulfillment. Finding joy in the simple things and not getting bogged down in his career. It turns out waiting for personal poetry creates personal conversations. It was odd to talk deeply with a stranger but our brief conversation enlightened me. We all are looking for happiness, for answers. The answer might just be in a poem by a random street poet. You can read Ben’s poem below.
True to form, my week in Edinburgh consisted of visiting favorite sites, favorite walks, and my favorite cafe. I had that fickle feeling that no time had passed at all, but also that so much has changed. I spent hours sitting in Cafe on the Mound, my favorite cafe on earth, writing and sipping mochas and remembering. During stressful moments in the year that followed my Scotland adventure, I often imagined sitting in this very spot, hearing the cups clinking and the steam from the espresso machine, looking out the window at the expanse of New Town and the National Gallery. But, after a few days of physically existing in this spot, after a year of recreating it in my mind, something I wasn’t expecting became alarmingly clear.
With each memory that came, the majority was of J, the single weekend he visited. Two days out of about three hundred, and those moments were the highlights of my entire year. With each day I missed him more, and not just him, but our life together in Germany. I missed the odd familiarity of the army base, my few but loyal friends there, our home we share. I was back in Edinburgh, the place I wanted to be more than anywhere, yet I missed my regular life.
I didn’t miss Edinburgh anymore. I missed what I already had.
This iconic city that stood on a pedestal in my head didn’t change at all, it was me who had changed without realizing it. I found who I was while I was in Scotland, and it took returning there to realize I like who I am now more than ever.
This may sound like an expected response to some of you, but this realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Unknowingly, I had let go of the hold that this city had on me. It was freeing, but I felt bare. I couldn’t hide behind this idea that I belonged in Scotland anymore. I belong exactly where I’ve already been.
So, if I could time travel back to that fateful philosophic conversation with Diego, I know how I would respond.
Yes, return to the place you once loved, because it will make you so thankful for how far you’ve come.
Returning to Love
By Ben The Poet
Eyes in the forest spy me, wings flit
And rustle the green canopy ere I can
Trace their place;
Sparkling water running, structures of wood…
A place of odd dreams.
Swimming in the rendezvous of the echoes of my past self – – – my future self,
Merging with the plantlike,
Irish laughter, fiddles and rosy cheeks
Fill me heart;
The familiar knock of Home on the door,
Sweet scents, fruit trees, musical notation,
Score of grasshoppers
Place exist in manifold spaces,
Unseen lingerings carried.
We carry the fire in our hearts and our