Like clockwork, it is suddenly June. I have begun to ruminate upon the varied versions of this season I have experienced in my lifetime. For me, June is a season of change. It can be felt even in smaller instances—the early morning air now leaving my nose and toes cold to the touch. A shade of 6 a.m. sky that makes my heart ache for a winter passed, every year revisited in quiet contemplation. This connection between my memories and my emotions forms what is defined as nostalgia.
It comes to me through taste. With each sip of my morning coffee I can recall when I first began making it a ritual. Winter crisp, red nosed, unsure of the difference between latte, cappuccino, and flat white. Coffee is just coffee, right? That’s sort of how nostalgia seems to work. One word surely can’t incapsulate the enormity of these feelings. It seems, however, that all of my senses are defenceless.
Two Wednesdays ago, a song came on the radio and I had to stop the car because tears had suddenly blurred my vision. Five notes like whiplash and I was somehow left debilitated by something three years passed. It cuts into me and leaves me heaving over the steering wheel, suddenly alone aside from the deafening noise of my own heart beating.
Yet it is, at the same time, soft, as if nudging gently at the corner of my subconscious. It returns through an act long forgotten, finger knitting, as muscle memory recalls the feeling of being seven years old. The motions conjure up the smell of paint, crayons, and wood, yet somehow I am turning 20 soon.
Staying up all night and watching the sun rise has now become equated with the first time I fell in love. Colors in the sky, ephemeral, beautiful—inconsequential. How does the sky get to create such a show of color and energy but suddenly plunge me into darkness?
Taking a photo never seems to conjure the way those colours made me feel. This is what I’m trying to convey right now, and similarly, words never seem to make me feel the way I felt. Even being the one who experienced them I seem to be constantly chasing letters, vowels, synonyms in an effort to express the way my experiences have shaped me.
The creeping discomfort when your feet stand in places you once created parts of yourself. Only quieter now, and all alone, picturing the fractured ghost of someone you once were. Did my sentimental heart make this place brighter, more vibrant? Am I standing here, missing a place I despised? Romanticized images of pain and genuine suffering, idealized now through my hopelessly emotional heart. Imperfect experiences become movie scenes in my imagination. The silent violence of my own thoughts is some sort of sick joke. The cynic in me loves to argue that nothing is as good experienced as it is remembered.
Even worse, the nostalgia for a you that you’re fairly certain you hated. Freckles from a forgotten summer, now paled, become objects of affection. A laugh too loud, too bold, too much, forever stifled. The noise that tumbles from my lips now is somehow a stranger.
Do I trust these moments I live now to be the truth? Sitting here, these words, this thought—how long until I can miss them until I can read this and wish I viewed my world this way? Does nostalgia leave me less grateful, less present? Or does living experiences over in your head give them more relevance? Sometimes, I begin to feel as though they aren’t even what I experienced at all. Does missing them somehow attribute worth? Were these memories just as special to me then as they are to me now?
In more optimistic mindsets, I realize how these memories are simple gifts. The past lives on for a reason. Recreations of my memories do not serve as punishment, rather a reminder of the beauty that is always there. These flashes of places, people, sound and sight, forever proof of this strange and heart-wrenching experience that reminds me of the beauty of being human.
Nostalgia is a reminder to always take that photo of the sunset. A reminder to give my all, let the pain and pure joy come and go and come again. A reminder to laugh so goddamn loud I drown out my own insecurity. To stand in uncomfort and to witness it forcing me to be stronger. To love harder, say more, smile at my own face in the mirror, because all versions of myself somehow love me even if this one doesn’t.
June is a season of change, but in that same way I find each month, week, day, full of change. I woke up today, and May seems a distant dream, a me I know but can’t quite feel. Interpretations of my identity, molded and developed with time, experience, day after day.
So, if anything, this is a reminder to linger barefoot on the tiles this morning, feel the cold for a second longer. To feel the nostalgia, feel the simultaneous tug of past and future, and to live in my every breath, every heartbeat, every millisecond of my present.