Slow It Down, Go Easy On Me

I have been feeling unfailingly nostalgic recently. You might argue that I am always unfailingly nostalgic—and it's an argument you'd win; it does seem to be my default state—but I am feeling, I guess, particularly nostalgic as of late. I don't know why. Perhaps it's the wisteria, suddenly out in full force around the buildings at work, and how the scent of it takes me back, like a punch in the gut, to the wisteria that burst into life every spring at school, a riot of purple blooms climbing up the brick between the staff room and the ladies' toilets. Perhaps it's because the place I work now has a campus, and that campus—teeming with impossibly young, impossibly clever people, all beelining towards a bright future—sometimes feels like school itself. Perhaps it's that almost every band or song I listen to anymore is from the 90s. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older and trying, desperately, to pedal backwards. Perhaps it's because it's later than we think. 


I go there when I'm trying to fall asleep.  I picture myself arriving for the first time, walking in through the heavy double doors, taking in the somber portraits in the hall. I walk through the corridors in my head, sticking to the right like we were taught to do, passing the library, the dining room, the chapel. There's the classroom with the folding desks, the locker I had to kneel to get to, my navy tights catching on the unfinished floorboards. There's the payphone, the netball court. There's the conker tree I ran to in the rain, my mother standing under it like a mirage, our first reunion in weeks. There's the gymnasium, the dormitories, the chemistry lab. There it is, all of it, familiar. When I walk through it, it calms me. If I visit in my head, none of it has changed.  


I want to write a book about it. Original, right? Who doesn't want to write a book about the things that gouged the surface of their psyches in adolescence, the places that drilled so deeply into their core they ended up settling there as permanent foundation for their character to build on top of? I want to write a book about it, and then I think but I'd have to write a book about it, and the thought stops there. I'm too lazy to write a book about it. I go to the website instead, and scroll through the names of teachers, recognizing none of them. Everyone's moved on, like we have. Everyone's gone.  


I have been listening to this a lot, mainly for the line "we all got old at breakneck speed." That's how I know I'm not a teenager anymore. No-one I know wants to get old. 


I've said it before, I know, but I can't wrap my head around the fact that we can't go backwards. What if you could visit, just for a day? What if everyone got one trip a year to the past, and you could choose the time and the place? What if you could be young again, sixteen, twisting your hair into those Bjork pigtails and wearing a skirt you'd rolled up twice at the waist? You can't, though, and if you think about it too much, it's heartbreaking. Don't think about it too much. 

Jen (The Trephine)
Mar 16, 2012

I was just telling Andy today that this is the first year I've really started to feel that I was aging, in both good and bad ways. I, too, work among impossibly young people. It's been such an interesting perspective, such an exotic mix of pity and envy.

When it comes down to it, though, I wouldn't go back. Not for anything. Things become sort of sacred to me as they happen. I appreciate their cumulative truth and respect it too much to want to change it.

Mar 16, 2012

Reading this "All the young dudes" comes on the radio....fitting!

Mar 16, 2012

I came across your blog by chance while I was planning my wedding (and yours was amazing, by the way!). After a few weeks I started reading back in the archives and then realised that I knew you (sort of!) - I was in the year above you at school. Every time you describe it, it hits me with a similar force. I drive past every now and again - it still looks exactly the same from the outside, but I suspect its completely different inside now. Presumably they've got rid of the weirdly painted walls with pink speckles.
You have it wrong about walking down the corridors though - we had to keep to the left, not the right. Just like traffic!

Mar 16, 2012

As always, fabulous writing. Really enjoyed this post, thank you :)

Mar 16, 2012

I could read these nostalgic posts from you all day long, they are so beautiful. I wish you would write that book! But I'll settle for the blog. :)

Mar 16, 2012

I defintely think you should write that book. You will, when you're ready. And we will all buy it and I will ask you to do a book tour, and reading in Waterstones, London!

I wouldn't want to go back to those childhood/teenage days, but that's just me.

However the concept of time does do my head in a bit too. It goes so quickly these days, and all of a sudden you're twice the age you were at 16, which doesn't feel like it was THAT long ago. How come time goes faster now?

I love The Vaccines too. Listen to the whole album, it is brilliant.

Chrissy (The New Me)
Mar 16, 2012

I think you should write a book about yearly trips to the past. That sounds like an amazing/terrible idea. (The trips. Not the book. The book would be just plain amazing.)

Mar 16, 2012

sometimes I wonder if it all every really happened. It just feels so far away.

Mar 16, 2012

My husband and I were just fantasizing about going back in time to re-live a week in our lives before we had kids. What did we do with all that time? Oh to be able to loll around on the couch for a day, going out for dinner or drinks on a whim, uninterrupted reading for pleasure, etc. Or even going back to the days when we only had one kid would seem like a luxury now. But the nice thing is that, while I can fantasize about a temporary visit to my pre-motherhood life, I wouldn't want to go back to a time before my kids existed for very long.

Mar 16, 2012

It's interesting that you have these thoughts at such a young age! Did you ever see the movie "Peggy Sue Got Married"? I saw that soon after my grandmother died and still get a lump in my throat thinking of the scene where she goes back in time and goes to her grandmother's house.
My husband recently said he thought it would be fun to get to relive one day from each year of your life. At 56, I am much older than you, but I look at my parents who are 80 and 86 and imagine how much more intense the nostalgia is for them.

I've never commented before, but really enjoy your blog!

Mar 16, 2012

Have you seen Midnight in Paris? This whole post made me think of that movie.

Mar 16, 2012

This reminds me so very much of the play Our Town (which I suppose I now need to dig out of the attic):

“Now you know! That’s what it was like to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those...of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another."

Mar 16, 2012

Please write your book. Please.

And I know exactly what you mean. If I think about it too much, it's like someone is twisting my stomach in two. When I was younger, I never wanted to grow up. I never thought past the age of eight. I never wanted to leave my childhood and that might explain why I was still playing with baby dolls at 17, but oh I was so happy. So content and so excited every Saturday morning because I could do anything today. If I could go back, I'd go back to being eight years old, sprawled out on my stomach in my bedroom, playing with all of my miniature things (tiny dolls and tiny animals and tiny houses). I had a white, lace eyelet bedspread and I had American Girl books in my desk hutch and I could hear my mom laughing on the phone in the living room.

I'll be thinking about this post all day now. Thank you!

Mar 16, 2012

I'd go back to the night when I was about 11, my sister 6, and my mom and dad were both alive and still married. There was a huge snow/ice storm, school was cancelled, and there was no electricity in the house. We all curled up on the living room floor in front of the fireplace and my mom cooked scrambled eggs in a pan over the fire. It was one of the best times in my life.

P.S. You're right... not good to think too much about that stuff, it's hell on mascara.

Mar 16, 2012

When I read your posts I think, "she's writing about my life". The music choices, the little things, like rolling the waist band on your skirt. All things that were SO my life. But you say it way better than I could ever. Keep it up, I enjoy reliving all those little things that I have forgotten.

Mar 16, 2012

Every time you post about nostalgia and your past, I really identify, because I'm the same way. I think about the past quite often--probably too much. And now that I have a little girl (she's 6), I think about what life is like for her, and wonder if she has the same feelings about life that I had as a kid, if she's happy and content like I was, if she feels lucky and excited, like I did. I want her to feel like that. I had a great youth, from childhood to teenager-hood. There were problems and unhappiness, but I had a good life.

My husband did not have such a great time, and so he doesn't identify with me when I reminisce and say, "Wouldn't it be great to go back? Just for a day?" He can't imagine WHY you'd want to go back, and that makes me so sad for him.

Having said all that, even as good as I had it, and as lucky as I felt, and as much as I enjoyed life, I don't think I *appreciated* it all enough. I wish I had savored every day. But you don't know to do that, do you, when you're in that time?

Mar 16, 2012

I am less concerned about the past and more concerned (panicky, really) about the present and not soaking it up enough, recording it enough, EXPERIENCING it enough to give me the lasting, meaningful memories that I will need to keep me happy in my old age. I mean, I figure I've only got another seven or nine years before the girls think I'm not cool enough to hang out with. I feel like it's a bomb, just TICK TICK TICKING every day.

This is ridiculous, of course, to be nostalgic about something that is happening in front of my face right this second.

And, yet. There it is.

Mar 16, 2012

I guess I am your opposite. I don't think you could pay me enough cold, hard cash to be a teen again. Could I go back to your teen years, instead of mine? ;)

Mar 16, 2012

Sometimes I wish I could go back and watch my life as if it were a movie. I'm sure I would learn more about myself (and others) than I ever wanted to know.

Mar 16, 2012

I remember one of the first times I watched a digital clock with seconds rolling, counting, ceaselessly counting. I was about ten and my mother was with me. I said, "That's our lives, counting away." She gasped out loud. She was about my age now.

It really is about now. But that's the hardest thing. In tennis the thing you can't perfect is keeping your eye on the ball. You always have to remind yourself. Every play. Every day.

Mar 16, 2012

I think about this a lot, actually. The thing is, I would never want to go back to my high school years as they were. But, if I could go back with the knowledge and confidence I have now? Oh, the things I could've done, the person I could've been. THAT'S what breaks my heart.

Mar 16, 2012

Lately I've been pondering aging as well. Everyone suddenly seems so young. People who will always be babies in my heart - younger cousins, say - are suddenly just PEOPLE. Regular people. With jobs and problems and the ability to legally order drinks in a bar without anyone protesting at them that they're still in diapers, what are they doing in this bar?!

It's occurred to me lately as well that I now understand why elderly people get hooked on the same few stories, the same few memories. A highlight reel playing back in front of their eyes, just as it does for you when you walk those halls. I can't help but wonder what my highlight reel will be.

Mar 16, 2012

I second Deb's thoughts about Peggy Sue got Married. That scene when she's with her grandparents gets me every single time. It's incredibly touching.

Mar 16, 2012

Forgot to add:

I have a vivid memory of being 7 years old, and crying in the bathroom thinking about how one day I'd be seventeen. For me, for whatever reason, seventeen was the marker of adulthood. I think because that was the age at which I knew I'd graduate high school. The thought of suddenly being an adult and not being my parents' baby anymore and having to do Big Grown Up Things was too much to bear.

One Third Acre Woods
Mar 16, 2012

I have been trying to explain this to my 12 year old son. He is going into the 7th grade next year and I have been telling him that I am proud of the kid he is, and where he is going. In my head I think "Hell No, I Won't Go!" when I think about going back to that time.

If I could revisit a day it would be my wedding day. It was full of joy and a sense of adventure and like standing on the cusp of my future. It has been 15.5 years and I still think of it as the single most happy day of my life. And I still love him so.

Mar 16, 2012

If you write that book, I will read it...

If I could take a trip to the past, I would go anywhere, anytime and spend it with my mom. I miss her everyday and just want to hear her laugh at something I've said. Or better yet, I just want to go shopping with her and watch her try on pants too small and we both end up in a fit of laughter so hard that we both pee ourselves. How I wish we could do that!!

Mar 16, 2012

I've heard someone say this before (I'm going to paraphrase), and I think it applies well to your writing - that the best writing is that which you think you could have or would have written yourself or is full of things so *true* that they seemed obvious all along, but that weren't until you read them.

...that went long. But I think it says what I heard someone say once. Lord, I am not a writer.

My preferred time-travel wish is the à la carte version - to be able to choose scraps from various eras and cobble them together into a single day, like:

Breakfast with my current boyfriend, but in 2006, followed by:
a bike ride with my sister in 1984;

lunch in the university cafeteria, 1994;

a long afternoon with my best friend in 1990;

a short car ride with my ex boyfriend in 2000;

dinner and a bit of, um, romance, with my boyfriend in 1998;

a late night with my friends in Brazil in 1998;

and finally, huddling around the radiator and talking with my roommate in our giant, freezing apartment 1999.

And now I will take the afternoon off for a long cry.

Mar 16, 2012

Have you read Visit from the Goon Squad? That book captures time and place in way that makes hopelessly nostalgic while also wanting to skip forward a few years. I love the contrast between change on continuity in life.

Please write your book. Also, this post could easily work as part of the introduction to a book based on your age posts.

Thanks for a good read.

Mar 16, 2012

I just had to chime in.

1) I want to write a book about my family one day, because I feel like it's the only way I'll be able to explain myself, to explain the choices I've made and the person I've become. I say 'one day' because I am so not ready to revisit all that crap, because I'm not brave enough to make the phone calls I'll need to make, and because ... dude, I'd have to write a BOOK.

2) That last paragraph about going back in time and visiting for just one day took my breath away. Because it hit me then that I know exactly when to go back to: the day I realised that my father really didn't care about me, not one bit. I was barely 17, and I just want to give that girl I used to be a big hug, and tell her that everything will be okay, that she's so much stronger than she thinks, that she's loved.

The past is painful. I'm actually glad that I'm getting older, that I'll never be that helpless again.

Mar 17, 2012

I am always nostalgic in the spring. Something about daffodils and rain just makes me 8 again.

Mar 18, 2012

It's never a day or an age that I'd want to go back to. It's always people. The ones I'd give anything to spend one more day with.

Mar 18, 2012

if i could visit one day it would be when i was living in a tent in the canadian high arctic, doing archaeological work. the experience of no buildings, or trees as far as you can see is incredible. just mountains, sky, sea, and rock. the clarity you experience is profound. one day a school of narwhals came into the bay and made beautiful, haunting sounds that echoed all around us, reflecting off the mountains. there's no artificial sounds up there, and when i returned to 'civilization' after 2 months i became uncomfortably aware of all the sounds - cars, planes overhead, television, radios, etc. i would go back to that day with the narwhals, but only for a day. as another reader implied, i wouldn't want to go back to a time where i didn't get to hug and kiss my child senseless.

Mar 18, 2012

You should watch Being Erica on Netflix. It's a TV series where Erica gets to do exactly what you are longing for.

Mar 18, 2012

I think the thing we all miss most about the past is the fact that back then, we never thought about the past. Or the future, really. We just were. And it was all kinds of awesome.

Mar 19, 2012

I'm with you. I spend a lot of time in my there, too. More than I ought.

Julie K
Mar 19, 2012

I love your posts - and, dare I admit it, I am the age of your parents. It boggles my mind at how fast the years have flown by and that I am actually OLD - in years, anyway, not in my mind :-) Again, reverting to one of your recent posts, it reinforces that we need to really be in the moment, to recognize what makes us happy and to actually be happy and content as much as we possibly can. And to help others to feel happiness and contentment, also. And, yes, there are several special times in my life that I like to revisit in my mind - that make me feel warm and content inside.

Alison Presley
Mar 19, 2012

ME TOO! I've been visiting old friends and reconnecting with lost people.

There's something in the air or the water or the wisteria.

Mar 19, 2012

I've never been one for meditation, not with my noisy mind. The calm-down period at the end of yoga, when we're supposed to be centering? I'm thinking about dinner the next night. I took acupuncture every week for several months last year, often in the middle of a busy work afternoon, and at first really struggled with the mandatory stillness. I started doing a memory exercise to keep myself quiet, in which I would walk through the back door of the house my parents sold when they split (a dozen years ago). I see the stairs to my left, the counter to my right, the angled couch and the wood stove and the bean bag. The bowl of polished sea rocks next to the vase of orange and yellow silk dogwoods. I walk room to room, recognizing the furniture, the photographs, the decorations, the colors and textures. I never even made it through all the rooms in the acupuncture sessions but was crying most of the time when the therapist came back in.

I don't know if I'd ever wrapped my head around the thought that I couldn't go back again, as if the house burned, like it doesn't still exist with another family and different furniture. It's all there in the difference between house and home.

Mar 19, 2012

I'm totally relating right now, especially about the 90s music. When did the song of my youth start playing on the oldies station?? Not cool. Thanks for your thoughts, I really enjoy them.

Mar 19, 2012

I didn't much enjoy high school, but in my young adulthood I had a whirlwind romance that seemed like a movie (except for the part where he broke my heart via US Mail and didn't show up later on my doorstep, realizing that he never should have let me go). I still revisit those memories, mostly because I can't believe that was, even ever-so-briefly, my life. We met online via our blogs, before half the world had blogs, and fell in love on the phone. He flew me to Europe for our first meeting, and we had our first kiss down a deserted tunnel in the Tube in London. We held hands by the Mediterranean and made out in every phone booth (this was back when there were a lot of phone booths) we could sneak into. It was a week of pure magic. I would go back and relive just that week, then skip the broken-hearted part and get back to the very good life I live now.

Mar 19, 2012

I have a good 10 years on you and now I don't wish to visit myself in the past but my children! If you think that you're nostalgic now hold on to your hat. I just had to put out my youngest boy's spring clothes and pull out his 4T winter clothes which won't be worn again. Sigh. They are fantastic and wonderful little people but oh to visit their baby selves. To get to see each of them run in the favorite overalls that all 3 of them have worn. It is good to remember the past as long as it doesn't paralyze your present. :-)

Mar 19, 2012

I live in this state of mind, too: forever half-holding on to what's behind me while wholeheartedly grasping the present in light of the idea that when's it's gone I will miss it too, too much. I also find myself getting nostalgic over moments that seemed so very ordinary, and even less-than-fun, in their right time. Perhaps it's a favor to us, though, that these moments become better as we grow away from them so that we're left bouncing toward wonderfulness from wonderfulness, forgetting the monotony and mediocrity of life.

Mar 20, 2012

Just echoing Carlyn- find Being Erica, and watch it. The acting isn't fantastic, but it's still great. My experience talking with friends who've watched, is that the show just kind of finds you when you need it to.

I am the same age as you, and live in a lot of nostalgia. There's high school, and there's being 24. At 24, smack in the middle of my quarter-life crisis, my husband (then boyfriend) & I became unexpectedly pregnant with our son, and though life since then has been amazingly great- charmed, even- I still daydream back to that age right before everything changed forever. Sometimes I feel as though my life pivots around it. It makes it hard to wrap my head around the notion that I'm moving farther away from it, and how many years there are ahead still, as we are really still quite young.

I've been thinking of this post from Girls Gone Child, lately. The idea that "we all have an age inside of us". I've been trying to figure mine out.

sensibly sassy
Mar 24, 2012

Gosh, I've been thinking a lot about my teen years as of late. Jon and I are getting married in a couple of weeks and it is very much a moment of "This is a sign that you are a grown up" and then I think about what I thought things/I would be like by the time I got married and how I feel, in many ways, like the same teenager that daydreamed about being who I am now.

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