Once again, it’s late at night, when I should be soundly asleep, but I just couldn’t get comfortable until I had spilled my thoughts and feelings to the world. This is becoming a bit of a concerning trend.
Nicholas Sparks novels and movies make me nostalgic… Not for the romance or the emotion, but for the scenery. I have no great love for the state of North Carolina, where I was born, but I do have happy memories associated with it. Crazy, I know. Who gets nostalgic for air so humid I like to describe taking a stroll in it as “swimming through air”? Who misses the Spanish moss infested with little biting insects? But strangely enough, I do.
Sparks seems to have great love for NC, and upon a quick Wiki search I discovered that he moved there shortly after his marriage, and seems to have stayed there ever since. The way he paints a picture of the small coastal towns, shallow marshy lagoons, rolling country hills, and sweeping old plantations calls to something deep down in me. I remember summer trips to the coast, spending time in the Outer Banks with friends in my childhood, watching 4th of July fireworks displays like no other, and the hot, muggy air making every part of my skin sticky. Usually, the notion of that air makes my skin crawl with disgust. I hated it. I hated being hot, never feeling clean, taking 3x 5-minute showers every day so I didn’t go crazy… I remember running through the marsh grasses, my toes sinking into the mud, and running on the sand dunes, where the sand was so hot it burned the soles of my feet as I raced over it, trying to find a cool spot.
I don’t know what it is about those memories that makes me so nostalgic. Maybe that it was a simpler time, when my greatest worry was having enough daylight to keep playing, and trying to explore everything in the few weeks I had in that coastal air. Now, when I am 3 weeks away from graduating from college, and I have to face the real world and pull up my big-girl pants and enter adulthood, those childhood memories are strangely comforting. Now, when my emotional self is in flux, when I have so many damaging memories from my teenage years, when I sometimes can’t handle being me and having to remember the past… now those childhood days in the sun – my skin scoured by the salty ocean air – make me so nostalgic for a time when everything was simple and fun and easy.
As we grow older we collect scars; physical, emotional, mental, psychological… We carry around a huge, old-fashioned trunk, filled with all the lost opportunities, hurts caused by people we thought we could trust, loneliness, the hopes and dreams we dare not speak aloud for fear that the universe might snatch them in a cruel joke and prevent us from ever realizing them. Life gets messy, and it’s no longer possible to be carefree and happy while playing in the sand. Every choice is calculated, every decision weighed for fear that it may be the wrong one. We can no longer just be children playing, trusting the adults in our lives to look after us and prevent anything bad from touching us. And that’s for the people with relatively charmed and happy childhoods.
When I think back to those simple, easy times, when my biggest hurt in life was a week’s separation from my cats, I start crying for the loss of that simplicity. Tears drip down my cheeks as I weep for that innocence, the one I can barely remember. My life now is full of painful memories, excruciating fears for my future, fear of losing the close relationships I have taken for granted with friends and family. Some days my past haunts me, close to the surface and nipping at my heels as my brain tries everything it can to run away, to keep safe and functioning, or else I’ll shut down and be useless as depression claims me for days at a time. The emotional pain of memories and my extreme reactions and inability to corral and stave off my mental pain scares the crap out of me most of the time. So thinking back to those simple times as a child is almost even more painful. That little girl playing in her back-yard, running in the sand dunes on vacation, playing on the floor with her best friend – she has no idea what she’s going to have to live through in her future… my past. She has no idea how hard it’s going to be, how she’s going to wonder sometimes if she can even make it to the next day, the next week… She doesn’t know how it’s going to colour everything – both good and bad – in her life after that. She doesn’t know that the next decade of her life is going to be a marathon of pain and loss and fear.
Sure, there are beautiful moments, amazing friendships, incredible opportunities for learning and growing that will come to her in the future. And most of the time, those brilliant, golden moments make up for the bad stuff in-between. But moments like the adult, 21 year old Lara is experiencing right now – that brutally honest self-reflection… those moments hurt and she will want to rip out her heart so she don’t have to feel that pain and loss anymore.
So this is what I get for taking a break from a stupid, unoriginal plot, Nicholas Sparks movie called “Safe Haven”. I get a half hour of uncontrollable crying that leads to a better understanding of myself and my emotions. But it hurts like a bitch to get there, and now for no logical reason what-so-ever, I want to get on a plane and fly back to the place I was born. I illogically want to spend a week running across those dunes again with my best friend from my childhood, cursing the humidity and sun that turns me into a well-done lobster. I want to be once-again constantly amazed at the rednecks and country-hicks I grew up bumping elbows with, drinking room-temperature sweet tea that is not at all refreshing, and eating fried chicken in weather that removes the necessity for any cooking implements beyond a sidewalk and a frying pan when making that fried chicken.
I want that care-free, beautifully innocent child-like simplicity back. Sadly, that’s the one thing in life we can never ever relive, and we won’t appreciate it until it’s long gone and we look back and weep for the loss.