I find myself in need of a word to describe the almost tangible feeling that I really should be in a different time or place than I actually am depending on things like the season, the feel of the air, or sometimes the time of day. It goes beyond nostalgia, even though that’s certainly part of it. If you are watching The Man in the High Castle, it feels a little like that alternate life, complete with memories that feel immediate.
Both our our kids were adopted at the same time of year, two years apart. We did our first trips for each child in March, and the trip to finalize each adoption was taken in late April. We were back home in Boston with T on May 1, and with P on May 5. For years afterward, when the light would really start to change, and there was the smallest hint of warmth in the air in very early spring, my husband and I would feel like we should be packing for St. Petersburg again. It took years for that feeling to dissipate.
Every September, probably really starting in late August, I feel this incredible pull to be on a college campus again. There is an enormous hole in my life because I am not taking a class, or teaching a class, or a part of a learning community. I think I first noticed this the year I took a couple of classes at Boston College. Walking around campus, I really felt like I belonged; not at BC specifically, but in an academic setting. That was over 20 years ago. I never did get to pursue a Ph.D. and I didn’t get to stay in the dream job that I had on a smaller campus (long, ugly story), so there’s that pull, mixed with tremendous resentment and regret.
More recently, I have been experiencing the certainty that if I stepped out of my house and got into my car, I really should be driving around the town I grew up in and the town where my grandparents lived instead of where I actually live, several hundred miles away.
This is a weird one. I don’t really want to live in my old hometown anymore and most of my friends and cousins are no longer in the area. I’m constantly grateful I am not living surrounded by people who knew me when I was a teenager. There’s really nothing left for me there. I couldn’t afford it now, and with the exception of my senior year, my time there wasn’t that great (this is more about where my family was emotionally than anything to do with the town). What is the draw?
I wonder the extent to which the draw is regret. I suppose this is related to my cousin’s death a few weeks ago, and that visceral feeling of reaching out for a person slipping away from you too soon. My mother’s family went their separate ways after my grandmother died. I regret that we all lost touch for so long. I regret decisions our parents made, actions that my generation had no say in, and so many of us were left adrift without our anchors. After twenty years, I had only gotten to know my cousin again at her father’s funeral. As we always do, I assumed there would be other occasions to connect.
I wonder too, if the “should haves” in my life have that much power over me, that I can feel them physically, as sing posts, or perhaps even roadblocks. It is a question for therapy, when I’m finally able to start. My life is pretty good but the should haves in my life are enormous. How do I continue to make something meaningful and satisfying out of the path I did take?