You can’t experience your past again, or go back in time (unless you have a Delorian, which would be really cool). Life is full of change, and the city where I grew up wasn’t the same when I returned years later.
I was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Every winter I skated on the canal, and every summer I joined thousands of people on Parliament Hill for Canada Day. When I was 19 years old I moved away. Not because I didn’t like my hometown – because I decided it was time to see something else.
Somehow I had expected Ottawa to stop in its tracks, preserved for all time for my enjoyment and nostalgia. When I returned 10 years later with my husband, I was surprised to find that things were…different.
I wanted to give him the downtown Canada Day experience I had loved when I lived there: the sweaty crowds, the random buskers, the elated face-painted toddlers, and the energy at the outdoor concerts were the memories I wanted to recreate.
Although I could try to recreate my past, it would never be the same as I remembered. And not because my town changed (even though it did), because I had changed.
My husband and I headed downtown for Canada Day, where the sweaty crowds made us claustrophobic, the random buskers didn’t captivate us, and the face-painted toddlers nearly tripped us. The outdoor concerts were tough to enjoy from the back of the jam-packed crowd. The things I remembered being great turned out to be not-that-great.
I was disappointed at first, and then realized what I needed was to make new memories instead of chasing my old ones.
My new memories included relaxing with a coffee and people-watching in the Byward Market in the morning, taking in free museums, and drinking beers on a patio in the evening. Instead of standing on the sidewalk at the main outdoor concert, I went to a concert in a smaller park, and stretched out on the grass. I left downtown before the evening fireworks started to avoid cramming myself onto a bus like a sardine.
Canada Day in Ottawa was the same but different. I enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t the way I remembered enjoying it.
There’s no way to get the past back, and there’s no way to get the past “me” back either. And I wouldn’t want to, it’s more fun discovering new things than trying to relive memories I used to know.