I am nostalgic. I love things that remind me of my youth. I love things that remind me of life before I was born. This is a huge part of why I have a degree in history. It’s also why I’m cognizant that my nostalgia is often artificial. I have no memories of the Civil War era, for example, but Ken Burns can still make me somehow homesick for a home that was never mine.
I am also blessed (or cursed, take your pick) with a bit of wanderlust. I want to go new places and see new things. I want to pick up and move to, say, Scotland. Why Scotland? It sounds interesting. It also could be the ginger population there. Dunno. I applied for a job in Texas late last year. I didn’t get it, but there’s something about starting over in a new place that’s a scary sort of exciting.
My sister recently obtained some court transcripts that included a brief outline of my late grandfather’s young adulthood. This was a story of a young man who simply would not stay put. He had several jobs in several states, including selling pickles in Oregon, working on a ranch in Montana, supervising rail line work in Idaho and bookkeeping in Chicago. These were rapturous pages for me. Nostalgia was awakened. I was meeting my grandfather for the first time, as this was his story in his own words. I can relate to his wanderings, too, as I often too quickly grow discontent with where I am and have an urge to go do something different.
My family is spread out across the country. I have seven cousins and two sisters. Between the ten of us, we’ve lived in at least ten states, and I think there are only two who lived in the same state their whole lives to date (at least that I know of) and one of those two spent a semester overseas (if we’re talking international travel, my sisters and I have all several weeks or more in other countries). I think I come by the wanderlust honestly. Maybe it’s something in how we were raised. Maybe it’s in the blood. Maybe we have a strong sense that this earth is not our home.
My wanderlust feels to me very much like discontent. This is my first confession. I’m rarely content to stay put. I want something different. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake. I’m honestly somewhat afraid of my wanderlust. I’ve survived nearly 9 years in my adopted state and I think I’ve learned a few things from it.
Lesson #1: There Is Nothing New
There is nothing new under the sun. Moving to a new place may give you culture shock. You may have to learn new roads, new grocery stores and food brands (I’m sorry, Eastern US, but “Bring out the Hellman’s, bring out the best” doesn’t have the same ring to it that “Bring out the Best Foods, bring out the best” does, and what do you mean your sugar isn’t made by C&H?), but people are the same and you’ll get into a routine quickly. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.
Lesson #2: Distance
Moving from one place to another taught me that the world is both smaller and larger than I realized. Want to go see a show in Connecticut? That’s a day trip. Want to go see your family? Better take a week off of work. Distance is a different concept to me now.
Lesson #3: Home
Home to me always meant the house I grew up in. Whether it had paint I’m pretty sure was officially called “Awful Avocado” or a more neutral tone on the outside, and whether the floors were covered in “Blech Brown” carpet or hardwood floors, the house was the same. It’s where I grew up. It’s just home. Now I’ve lived in 5 different places in two cities since I left California. I had a friend say one day, “Home is where you know how the shower works.” Yes, I think that about sums it up.
Lesson #4: Friends and Family
Friends, this is where my discontent and covetousness really come out. My closest family is a 10 hour drive away. I’ve seen some of my dearest friends no more than twice in the past 8 years, and some not at all. I am discontent because I miss those connections. I covet my friends who still get to see each other. Some days I want nothing more than to put my animals in my car and drive across the country one more time, and find a place to live near those friends.
Lesson #5: Time
Time only moves one direction. Regardless of what we do with the clocks twice a year, time marches on, and it takes us with it. You can’t go back to where you were and expect things to be as they were. I know very well that if I did pick up and move back to California, I wouldn’t be able to pick up where I left off. I would have to start again just like I would if I went to Scotland or Texas, because time has changed me and my friends. We would still be friends, but it wouldn’t be the same. Things change, and that is where nostalgia comes in. Did I mention I’m nostalgic?