Like sand through the hourglass…
On the weekend I travelled to Victoria to attend a wine festival. That sounds far more classy and cultured than the reality. I should say, on the weekend I went to Victoria to meet up with some of my closest friends so we could go drink copious amounts of wine at a “wine festival”. There were four of us ladies who attended the festival. One of my closest friends, her sister and their mom. We have done the wine festival thing before, a different one, in Vancouver, several years ago and thought this would be a perfect “girls night out”. This is my adopted family. Yes, I have a family, but this one counts too. They have pulled me through some tough times and vice versa. When we attend these events, we inevitably drink too much and the night ends with many “I love you man’s”. Ah well, there’s a lot of love there!
I grew up in Victoria. Sort of. I was pretty nomadic as a youngster, which interestingly, has stuck with me throughout my life. However, from the time I was 9 years old until I was 25, I lived and grew up in Victoria. At 25 years old, I decided to spread my wings and I moved from the Island to the Mainland and somewhat settled down in Vancouver. This was spurred on by the fact that my roommate AND my then boyfriend were both moving to Vancouver for work and educational opportunities. Since everyone else was doing it… Unlike many of my friends who eventually moved away from Victoria, many have since returned to raise their own families, my family also moved away and came to the Lower Mainland. My older brother started the trend, when he and his young family made the big move. Then it was my turn. Eventually, as my brother’s children continued to grow, my folks made the decision to migrate as well. The final members of my family left the Island in 2005 (or was it 2004?), leaving me with no real reason to go back to Victoria. So I didn’t. I feel this is a contributing factor to my sense of familiarity, yet distance from this place of my youth. It might feel different if I had continually visited for one reason or another, but for ten years I don’t think I went back.
Recently, in the last few years, I have started to return to Victoria to visit my adopted family. Every time I drive off, or walk off, the ferry, I feel like I’m having an existential crisis…or maybe a midlife crisis? This most recent time, I have finally reached the diagnosis of ‘Nostalgia with a touch of Nausea.’ The drive to my friend’s place is filled with landmarks of my old life. My old childhood home, the lake where I swam, ran and “parked”, the shopping area we hung out at, schools that I played field hockey against, the house where I first moved in with a boy, the Dairy Queen where my mom would buy me a lemon lime Mr. Misty…it all feels like a distant memory, like it happened to someone else.
The nostalgia follows me on that drive. It fills me with a strange feeling while I take in the foreign city, that is so very familiar. The changes, that are so prevalent everywhere, are so much more noticeable when you only drive down the street a few times a year. I am filled with a sense of knowing, that is coupled with a sense of curiosity about what it is now. The nostalgia comes with the memory of so many firsts that happened in the life of that young girl and woman. In that town. So many years ago.
The nausea also comes. It comes as a result of a mixture of thoughts, feelings, memories and missing memories that all culminate in a sense of shame, satisfaction, courage, regret and whimsical longing. The memories that come flooding back, give me a sense of disembodiment. As though, this young girl/woman with all her hopes, dreams, thoughts, feelings, decisions and experiences, happened in another lifetime or to someone else. However, she is intimately connected to who I am now, at my core. This is the existential part.
There are many decisions and choices that young woman made that, at this time in my life, I do not agree with. with that realization comes a feeling that I can only describe as shame. Rationally and intellectually, I realize that she was making decisions based on the information and the context she was in then. Not with the information, knowledge and experience that I have now. I could even go so far as to argue, that I would not have the knowledge and experience I have now, without having made those choices and decisions then.
Shame and regret are powerful emotions, causing my nausea. The shame stems from some of the decisions and choices I made in that previous lifetime, that inevitably, ended up causing pain and hurt to others, and myself. Those feelings, those shameful moments, I leave behind every time I get back on the boat to return to my new home. I convince myself they happened to someone else, in another world, a lifetime ago. The regret comes from what could have been, what might have been, but in the end wasn’t. It’s been 15 years since I left Victoria and left behind many of those shameful moments and regrets. But I’ve also left behind the whimsical silliness of being a little girl and a care-free teenager. I’ve stepped into and embraced being an adult. An adult who still has hopes and dreams and can still make them happen. I’m learning to integrate those two lives, the two ‘me’s into one. I’m learning to accept the past and the mistakes and decisions and rather than feel shame (thanks Brene Brown) learn, grow and acknowledge the choices. I have gained strength and resilience in the process and know that I will continue to move forward, and I am doing just that!