A couple of years ago, I went to Budapest for New Years Eve with a friend. Post festivities I wound up with a serious bout of tonsillitis that rendered me flightless and going nowhere for two weeks. So I decided to stay in Budapest. And despite having no expectations I had the time of my life. I still remember the taste of the cottage cheese dumplings and paprika chicken from my favourite restaurant down the road, the awesomeness of the Roman baths, the incredible people that I met while I was there.
The thing is, it is never the same when you go back. After going back I walked through the place like a tourist of my own memories. The Starbucks where I bought mint tea everyday to soothe my throat. The cottage cheese dumplings that didn’t actually taste the same after going back. The charity shop where I bought the ridiculous wig that I wore to one of the hostel parties. The bars where I used to hang out. And none of it felt the same. I think that much of what you really love about a place that you visit has to do with the people that you meet when you are visiting the place.
The last time I was in Toronto, I walked around and it triggered the most amazing memories of times that I had when I lived there. But I chose to use it as a tourist exercise in re-exploring who I was and how far I had come since that point. That naïve girl had a whole lot of fun, but she also learned some really hard lessons. And truth be told, I wouldn’t want to recreate those times, knowing all that I do now.
There are some places in this world that I have decided to remember fondly and never go back to. One of these places is San Pedro La Laguna. The incredible people I met here and the amazing time that I had in such an emotional time in my life will never be able to be replicated (despite the fact I kept going back and did three stints there over as many months) and some things are better left alone as the memories that you have instead of tainting them with something that is not as good the next time around. A very large part of me came into who I was here. It holds such strong roots in my identity that I don’t want to re-visit. I also feel this way with a few other things, not just travel.
Returning to old relationships that have run their course for a reason despite your want to find your way back to the time when it was amazing. It is often in your best interest to accept the fact that it is gone and to sit back and look at it from a distance with fondness and embrace that it is over. Whether these be long term romantic relationships, passing flings or friendships. The point where we try to go back on something that is already too broken feeds into more distress and heartbreak. As hard as it is, it is best at times to just walk away.
Sometimes we remember something as being so good in the time that we had it, that it never quite lives up to the expectations you have of it when time rolls back around and the opportunity comes back to you. And sometimes things are exactly the way you remembered them, despite you trying your hardest to contort the memories to make them better than what they were. There are lessons to be learned. People change. Situations change. Feelings change. And sometimes they don’t. Wisdom is knowing what situation you’re looking at and following through with what you know you need to do. I have lived through these expectations so many times, and been burned so many times that I feel like maybe now, at thirty-four, I am starting to get it. Some things are worth fighting for, and others are worth leaving alone.
As humans we seem to spend so much time looking backwards and yearning for things that once were. Some people had the time of their lives in high school and long for those days back. We long for the glory days of our youth or when things were once better. I don’t want to spend time dwelling on trying to find what once was. To dwell on such things would be to ignore the ways that I have grown and the ways I have changed since those times. It would be to ignore the struggle. I look forward and want to embrace the things I haven’t yet done and keep moving. There is no point in looking back and trying to re-obtain it. The past is gone. It is a bundle of all the things good and bad that we should fondly look upon to help guide us forward. Because all we have is what is right now and what there is to come. And those things will never be amazing when you compare or try to get back what you had. Strive for something new. Strive for something better. Because that is who you are.