A sticky dance floor, a suspicious smile across the room, an “Oh, I thought you were someone else.” Sometimes going back to a place that once held so many memories — a city, a bar, a landmark — can seem uncanny at best. The bouncers and vinyl booths may look familiar, but there’s still a sense that everything has changed. Or maybe it’s just you that changed.
When did the room get so small? Are those people waiting in line for the bathroom or just leaning against the pool table? Did that fifty-year-old woman just flash everyone? Surely, there’s a certain comfort in going back to the places you frequent most. But, these local haunts may be haunting in a different way. Walls are instead filled with former angst-ridden conversations, nights fueled by secrets and song.
To come back to a place that you once found solace in months or even years ago, is like returning to a lost place. A familiar, but spooky house of yesteryear. The places rarely change; it’s you that changes, making it all much stranger. It’s the feeling of encountering foreign faces of your former self. These haunts don’t elicit the same rush of excitement and potential they once did. Instead, those feelings are replaced with a greater self-awareness bordering on anxiety.
Time traveling back to 1997 feels different, but still rings true. Shades of my eight-year-old self recently came to surface after seeing the ever-hyped re-release of “Titanic.” It was the year I sang the iconic Celine Dion theme song in front of my elementary school peers. The year I spoke in an English accent. The year after my mom died.
We travel back and forth in moments and memories, not realizing the places that were once dear to our hearts don’t have the same meaning for us anymore. Not that they’ve lost meaning, it’s just that they’re remnants of who we were — whether that past self is far off in the distance or a familiar face just months old, slowly moving away.
It is in this wave of unbalance, that finding yourself, or a clearer version of yourself, seems the best possible thing to do. It’s much harder than it looks and a lot easier to just take one day at a time. To encounter a local haunt of your own isn’t tragic, it’s bittersweet. It’s saying, “We’re moving on.”
As each day rushes to shore, we put on our faces and method act through it all, searching for meaning in new places, new haunts of ourselves. Some days are easier, while others feel like crawling on hot cement. We wonder when things will go back to normal…but what was normal anyways?
You can read more from Alex Morales on her blog.