“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
The feeling of nostalgia has been very salient recently and it has taken me weeks to make sense of it and to write it down. There has been a repetition of me reminiscing and replaying moments and memories in my head more often now than before.
Here are some examples of the replays:
I walked by the river during lunchtime at work some time ago and pointed out to myself that under this bridge was where Janks told me the funny story about the strange receptionist at his hostel in KL. I walked past a flight of stairs in university and I pointed out that by those stairs was where he sat and waited for my lecture to end to have lunch together.
At that spot by the stage was were LH and I stayed till almost 4 in the morning, filling each other in on what happened the whole of the last year.
In that market was where Steph and Jar were floored by the sheer range of spices and food (it was truly quite a sight) and they were so excited, they seemed like children in a candy shop. At that stage was where we saw a group of performers and Steph danced along to the song even though he had no idea what the lyrics meant.
By that balcony was where Ti and I stood for almost an hour, feeling the light night breeze and sharing about our lives and dreams (we are both going to publish books in the future- him a Dutch one and me an English one).
Riding on this wave of nostalgia, I feel myself missing the memories I’ve crafted only months ago. I think about the time when Soph and I walked by the beach to pick up seashells for each other (we both have a similar set), our yoga and cooking classes together, our longest and deepest talks; the time when Jan and I watched the sun set by the beach bar with our unbelievably expensive, by Indonesian standards, cocktails.
I am experiencing again the time when Jam and I were at the Ramayana ballet and how that night turned out so much better than I ever thought it would; I am reliving again all of our time together at Jogja, Gili T and Ubud.
These memories and images are still so vivid in my mind’s eye that when these replays happen, I half expect to see these people (sometimes even myself) right in front of my eyes.
As I go to/ by these places again, physically and in my head, I relive these memories and I feel two emotions at once. I am teeming with gratitude because I am reminded of the innumerable precious people I have had the privilege of knowing and of making memories together. I am also deeply yearning to relive these memories again, to meet my friends again and ask them if they think about the times that we shared as much as I do. If they miss them as much as I do. Because I do, I very much do.
There is this sense of discontentment, of feeling a void that should not be gaping but filled. A void created by a yearning for the buildings and lights and hopes and dreams of a different place, a better place. A better life.
There has been no real sanctuary recently and everything feels loud and messy, and all that is happening is a desperate grappling for logic, for something to make sense amongst this chaos that is (in) my mind.
There has been a desire to run, to take action, to make logic happen myself and to see a ripple of reactions and repercussions. To feel something other than fear and hesitation, feelings that overwhelm and keep one stagnant. To take chances and make life happen so that I do not get left behind and given up by myself.
But I have been– am- doing my best, and this, I think, is a consolation and is all that I can hope for.
I teeter at the precipice
stuck between worlds I
ponder: to stay or to go?
– Crossing Universes
It was enough then and that is enough now.
I was treading slowly, careful and apprehensive, lest we fall into the same pattern too quickly, too naturally, too much like the past.
But just like you’ve always been, you are patient and perhaps unconsciously, you have been quietly, slowly chipping at the walls I’ve erected.
And they are all still here. The monuments and ruins from our love untouched and sacred and now turned into a shrine; I walk through it and run my fingers along the cracks in the walls because these, these are still here too.
We bring nothing when we come and we take nothing when we go.
In the midst of all that is happening, I am looking for answers (for help) and I again find solace in existential philosophy.
In the face of questions of whether to leave or to stay, whether to stick with it and plough through or to give up, I hear Jean-Paul Sartre in my head. I hear him reminding me that we should all aim to lead meaningful lives and to be authentic beings, and that I am no exception. To be authentic is to make conscious and intentional decisions to do things that you want to do, not to do things for others or to do things based on a previous decision. A gambler who wants to give up his addiction of gambling is only authentic when he stops gambling because he wants to stop, not because someone else wants him to stop, not because he decided a year ago that he should stop. An authentic person renews his choices frequently and acts based on these always renewed choices.
I hear Martin Heidegger reminding me that a Being is a “being-towards-death”. I hear him advising me that when I can carve it in my mind and remember that life should be seen as flight towards death, I will be pulled out of inauthentic living, out of making decisions that I don’t want to make but think that I have to, out of living life for others and for the future.
In my quest for authentic living then, I think I have very consciously and intentionally, with full knowledge that my life is a flight towards death, decided that I will leave. No matter if it seems unwise to others, no matter if it pushes back my plans for next year.
‘You are your life—and nothing else,’ Sartre proclaims; if my life is not a culmination, or at least a string of attempts, of what I want it to be, then I am not sure what I want it to be.