When we arrived home, they dropped me off at the college, nowhere specific. I walked along its campus and was killed, resurrected, and killed again by the nostalgia. It's only been one summer, but the college classes I took here, the friendships I made, and the very spirit of the landscape effervesce with warm memories. I didn't know how much I missed it until I returned, and I realized that I was home.
Returning to my local college was a distant dream before, something I thought was a nice idea but not all that emotionally significant, but now that I've gone other places I want to go back so bad. The people in population centers are so different. I live in a see of people living for themselves. It feels so empty to me. Back at the private college, it's very much a different atmosphere. Forget that my hometown is by its nature academically very ambitious: the real guts of the matter is that the people I met in my senior year of college were dedicated to charity, and old-time egalitarian American ideals prevail. I honestly didn't think that the atmosphere would be that different between a private school and a community school, but apparently it is in my case.
I was hit with a second wave of nostalgia when I heard loud cheering and realized it was coming from the football field across the street from the campus. I ran over and climbed the fence (ah, the good old memories of sneaking into football games), and I found a place in the stands next to a group of old friends, including my cousin and my best friend from high school. We had a few meaningful conversations, including how weird it was to be sitting where we were.
Seriously, it was weird. The class directly below us is now the senior class, but I've always remembered them as being younger. It's like being a parent and still thinking of his children as babies even once they're reached adulthood. Meanwhile, another younger cousin of mine scored a touchdown. A lot of people cheered, including a new class of freshman I have absolutely no familiarity with. I'm now some old misfit who no longer belongs. I wonder if I can still fully call this place my home.
Here's the thing about nostalgia: even if we appreciate the moment, once the moment is gone we miss it. We think "ah, those were good times." Does that mean we want times to be like that again, or do we wish we could literally go back in time and live it over, or live it again but change our decisions? Do we desire to have that time in our life as if it's a ball we can hold in our hands, a physical object that we can put in our pocket? Why isn't enough that we can watch old video game recordings? Do we want to continue the friendships and the experiences, even though they no longer serve us? The person becomes alienated from himself, no longer belonging in his own life.
Forget basic reproductive instincts and love - I believe that the most irrational human behavior is nostalgia. It can make even the bad times look good. It can drive people crazy as they dwell in the past, which they can never return to. We have survival instincts to keep us alive, but it seems that the only reason we want to keep on living is so that we have more and more memories of times that are now effectively dead.
I wish life was still simple. Certainly, you're only ever a child once. My childhood memories collectively still live in me. In many ways I am still a child, in addition to being an adult once adult memories are included. I sometimes wonder if that child is static, nothing but memories, or still has a mind of his own.
Continuing to feel nostalgic was no problem. The rest of the night was spent that way. I later returned to the local college to find college friends and see which high school friends stuck around. I already knew a few, most of which were from the nearby Christian school. I mainly talked to the people I knew directly from the college, however, and I found many of them that night.
There was...Dash, Ana, Katrina, Wendy, and Mark, among others. These names would mean nothing to the random reader, but they mean a lot to me. It was nice to discuss a variety of things, from my personal feelings of the night to movies to philosophy. Sometimes we simply recounted old conversations. Why those are even relevant I don't know, but I think nostalgia comes into play. Again, I am perplexed by the nature of this drive.
Do these past moments define us, or are we defined by who we strive to become?
Meanwhile, the party dissipated half an hour to midnight. I still stuck around for an hour more, made a few new acquaintances, and wallowed in bittersweet feelings. Gradually my mind made itself up. My heart has an anchor connecting it here. My convictions went to "maybe" to "I will definitely try".
Then I met someone named Megan. Every Megan I ever meet ends up being cool and dark-haired. The trend remains unbroken. I was talking with some other guys and said that I just instinctively loved everyone on campus, like I could just give someone a hug. She walked up to me a half a minute later, which confused me, and then she gave me a hug. While of course I found it awkward because I was caught off guard, I didn't object and I hugged back, because I meant it when I said that I could just about hug someone.
Meanwhile, the next day I spent time with a few Calculus friends and a fellow Who-vian. We ended up watching the Season 7 premier episode at a professor's house (where I met another good acquaintance with a few good memories). It was all cool and my only regret was that I didn't bring one of my bowties. There was also a friend who went emo, and I found myself missing the way he was before when he was more of a non-emo nerd. Why do I care about the way he was, though? Is that relevant? As Totall Recall ponders, "the past is not important", and what matters is who you are right now. Why do I continue to see him as if he's still the shaggy-haired nerd? It's part of his memories, I suppose, but are memories just some dead substance a person happens to carry around with them like undergarments?
If only I could be like the Doctor and just zip through the time vortex and stay with people as I knew them. Except that would never work, because in science fiction the simple answers never have simple results.
The next day, Sunday, I woke up early and went through all of my morning rituals. I went to church an hour early and met Lois. She's a part of the band (it's one of those churches) and was rehearsing early as well. We had a nice discussion about a wide range of topics including Superman, Carpe Diem, living selflessly, school, the past, the present, and the future. I guess I can have those conversations with just about anyone because people have now accepted that this is the way that I talk, but it's so much more rewarding with her. She got these conversations back when we were in middle school. She has insights of her own.
It's really worrisome that I should be returning to these feelings. I've had them before, but their irrational nature took me over and converted my mind into a machine for obsession, which was degrading and unhealthy. I've been to the lowest depths of my spirit when I was overcome by my obsessions; I don't want to return. That's one of the reason that, having fallen so low, I don't look up to Batman. That's one of the reasons I was afraid to have any feelings of attraction whatsoever until I was in my thirties, to just take a decade off. That's why for the last year I've been thinking a lot about how love should be rational, contrary to popular belief. And yet I act irrational. I take the effort to come back to a life that may or may not have any meaning for me, and that's what frustrates me. On the whole, I'm still capable of acting very rational. I have ideas of how to have relationships with other human beings based completely in healthy and rational behavior, and with these developing worldviews the way my brain has learned to process data has changed and it's easier to do that.
Like many people, I really want a better life, a life with happiness and love, a life with comfort and family. It occurred to me when I went to church in the evening with my uncle. It was one of those churches without the sing-song worship formula, far more formal, and everyone dressed up. The sermon was about how David stole Bathsheba from Uriah and about respecting relationships, among a wide range of other implications. A couple in front of me put their arms over each others' shoulders. Sitting there I felt a sense of belonging, a sense of family shared by everyone in the hall. Granted, the only two real relatives were my aunt and uncle, but there was still a fellowship very akin to family life. I realized that this would be the perfect place to have a first date, where a relationship could be based in fully rational behavior and positive thought, not in promising but empty cravings without direction like with Clark Kent's shallow crush on Lana Lang in Smallville.
For a moment, my behavior that week had been rational. Then I crashed the next day when I found myself in an existential crisis.
I walked in on a few friends on Labor Day at the college and randomly said "Life is nothing but chaos and we have no control, even over ourselves. We live for the future but there's no knowing what it's going to be like, and even then the future will one day be the past, which cannot be changed. Even the control over the self is an illusion, because I'm going to randomly move one of these chairs...So I ended up moving this one, see? But a moment earlier I was honestly thinking of moving that one over there."
That creates another problem. How can I be defined by what I strive to be when that is subject to change? Does that doom my childhood memories to meaninglessness, since I didn't strive for the same things that I do now? Am I then defined by what I am destined to become? In that case, I am defined by death.
I cogitated on this thought and others related to it for the rest of the day. I forgot someone's name, which provided another problem because that says something about the unreliability of memory. Just how significant is the past if for all we know it's nothing but a memory? I thought back to the themes of Total Recall, where it was impossible for Douglas Quaid to know what was real and what was not. For all I know, I forgot something completely significant to my life, or remembered things very contrary to the way they are. Writing about these thoughts a week later, who am I to say that it even happened? For all I know, I'm constantly reinventing a past all the time. Oswin in the latest Doctor Who episode did it. There have been numerous fictional characters who have had a lifetime's worth of memories only to find out that they were implanted in them and that they were only a year old, like the replicants from Blade Runner and the clones from The Island. I've written about a fictional character of my own, Deleta, who, using only the power of his chaotic will, completely forgot the most significant details to his life. For all I know I was born yesterday, and I have been having these thoughts, or so I think, since I was four or five.
Eventually I got over it.
After the week was over, I returned to WIT. Things went on as usual. Then Thursday came. There's a spiritual event that goes on at my hometown college every Thursday, and I made it a major priority this year to go out of my way to attend. I made sure to catch up with my commuting friends, Sky and his brother, that day so that they wouldn't leave without me.
They turned me down for literally no reason at all. It was a shock, because they had always seemed open to the idea. They said that would be trouble, even though all I do is sit in the back, make no noise, and let them listen to their loud music. I don't even request that they drop me off at my house. They just changed their mind at the last moment because it was apparently an uncool idea.
I was angry because these spiritual gatherings on Thursdays mean a lot to me, more than almost anything else. Sky knew that, and he turned me down very rudely.
My way of dealing with it was to walk slowly back to the dorms. There was a in informational group gathering in the common room. I interrupted and said (in a statement far less censored than this) "On a tangent, I'd like to just go behind my friend's back and say [insert profane insult here]! I just wanted to get that immediate thought off my chest in a large group. Thank you."
The sad thing was that it didn't even occur to anybody that what I said was completely inappropriate. That's the atmosphere I find myself living in.
Then I went back to my room and told the whole story in detail to my dormmate, "Lundgren", and best friend on campus, the details that I wasn't going to share with anyone else. He patted me on the back, I curled up on the couch, and I felt bad about my situation for a while. A part of me also felt guilty about saying what I said about him to a large group, even if it was anonymously.
However, after that was that, I forgave him and more or less forgot about the experience, or at least emotionally. Obviously, I remember it from an objective standpoint, otherwise I wouldn't be recounting this tale. A number of things happened that simply turned the angst off. First, I'm a Christian. It's what I believe. The second is that in high school there was a stereotype that drama was for girls and guys were just "cool with it", in other words having a significantly shorter short term emotional memory. Yes, that's thinking through stereotypes, but so long as in this instance it helped shape me into a more positive state of mind I thought I might as well use it to reinforce my mentality. The third was because it was in the past. It was done. It's nothing but a memory. There's nothing I can do to change it. Zip. Nothing. As far as I'm concerned, it might as well never have happened.
Fortunately, the existentialist in me didn't surface too much, thanks to the first two reasons.
Then something completely irrational happened, and it was potentially the most disturbing thing that happened all week. A girl I made friends with, "Polly Esther", who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, ADD, a speech impediment, and a few other autistic behaviors, came to me that night as I began writing this entry. She had an impulsive desire to go out into the nearby forest that night and go on a nature walk. It was late, and I had other feelings on my mind, including the emptiness of not being able to attend an event that was significant to me. it was also dark and none of us had any quality flashlights.
My first instinct was "This is dangerous." I went to my dormmate Lundgren and asked him to come along. I was very nervous. My hyper friend was getting more and more on the edge. I wanted to turn her down, but I irrationally didn't want to say no, so the most rational thing I could bring myself to do was to ask Lundgren to come along with, because there was no way I was going with only one person who spontaneously with no decipherable reason to go into the forest except for "I'm following my heart."
Lundgren was also really concerned. Apparently so were Polly Esther's roommates from her apartment. Lundgren kept on bringing up that a sexual predator was caught in the woods last year. I didn't know that until then, but he basically verbalized some of my fears. We tried talking her into going out into the daytime, but she really wanted to go right then. We walked her back to her apartment, and eventually I gathered the courage to voice my opinion and say that, for rational reasons, I agreed with Lundgren. It was painful to see her disappointment and hurt, but for the sake of sanity it was better to put a foot down here than letting the relationship reach a place where one of us would have been even more hurt.
By far, it was more disturbing than the horror film I watched lately, The Possession. I was never scared, but that night I found it difficult to sleep. Later Sky's brother, upon realizing that I actually meant it when I said that I would be accepting their offer to go home on the weekends, every weekend, said that I was being lame.
"I'm not being lame," I said. The point was irrelevant. The nostalgia might have been an irrational urge, but I didn't think that there was anything wrong with wanting to go home instead of sticking around on the weekends at WIT when no one else stuck around.
"Yes it is. It's really lame," said Sky's brother. So now I know the reason why they have occasionally screwed me over. Might I add, that's a really lame reason.
Thus concluded my week, and with it this reflective analysis from the perspective the theme presented in the title. It's interesting, by the way, what happens when you write about your own life from an interpretive stance, as historians often do. It gives life a little more meaning than just a jumble of events piled together, and it also helps to figure out where I am going and who I am in a more eternal sense.