It’s being forever in the midst of a mental civil war. Things quiet down for a while, but the minute that creeping doubt begins to breed again, you’re right back where you started. You’re getting older. You thought you had left this behind somewhere between college and full-time employment. You didn’t. The doubt was always there, planning. It’s getting better at pushing your buttons when you least expect it, though you should. After the third bourbon, your careful facade shows it’s cracks, these days. You consider putting down the bottle altogether.
It’s fucking up enough times to know what you’re capable of, but not succeeding enough to truly believe it yet. The scars from your youth have stopped aching, and only bother you if you poke at them hard enough. Part of you almost wishes you could be cut like that again, because for something to hurt you so badly means it must’ve been deeply important to you at the time. It’s a stupid thought. You make sure to think it several times a day as you sit at your desk and stare at the wall.
It’s meeting someone new after shutting out the world for a while. It reinvigorates you. It’s not a chorus of angels. It’s not life-saving. It’s not single-handedly pulling you up from the ditch. But it’s raw. It’s going to an empty bed two days later, finding one of her long hairs – black as a raven’s wing – on your pillow. It makes you smile. You’re not sure if it’s from happiness, or to hide how it makes you nervous to the bone to open up this way again.
It’s realizing that if you hold on too tightly, you’ll suffocate it before it starts. So you hold it gently, setting it free. You never see it again. You aren’t nearly as adept at either nurturing or playing it cool as you thought you were. You scan the pillow as you go to sleep. There are no further reminders for you to discover.
It’s going for coffee in the neighbourhood you had to leave and thinking about the good times there. It’s been long enough to forget how the sirens kept you up at night, or the drunken brawls outside your window in the early hours of the morning. You hated it there, but it’s easier to miss something that never really existed in the first place than to admit it was all a mistake.
It’s driving past a bar you used to love and seeing the windows boarded over, and feeling a pang of loss. Not because you were planning to ever return, but because that option’s off the table for you now.
Because that’s what it is. Doors are opening for you in one direction, but you can’t help but hear others softly closing all around you. The cavalry isn’t coming. Choices and potential futures are quietly removing themselves from your grasp as you grind your teeth and hope beyond hope that you’re on the right path. So you push forward, because you don’t have any other route to take.
Nostalgia, literally translated, means pain from an old wound.
The problem lies in discovering whether that wound ever existed to begin with.