Realms of Memory – A Paradox

I took a high dose of painkillers.

No worries. I am not trying to kill myself. Doctor’s prescription. But they make the mind a little fuzzy. Apologies.

The past few days have been infused with memories, triggered by walking around the town that I call my home even though I wasn’t born there and don’t live there anymore.  A walk around town leads past the building where my first student dorm was, the library where I spent hours and hours writing papers and studying for exams, the bars where I danced the night away, the park where I had memorable conversations with people I love.

These memories are, of course, not located in this town. They are in my mind.

Is it only because I´m a sucker for sentiment that I attach so much value to these places? Pierre Nora, a French historian (1931) directed a famous series on “Les lieux de mémoire” (sites of memory). He writes:

[Between memory and history. Les lieux de mémoires. Full text can be found here ]

Nora applied this to societies (France, in this case). But can it also be applied to the personal?
I like to “relive” the past by going to places that invoke certain memories, my own personal lieux de mémoire. I plan to do this again in March or April this year, by moving back to Malaysia where I had an awesome time last year.

However, when I think about it, my most vivid memories (yes, vivid, not necessarily the best or worst), the ones that are etched deeply into your soul, were created in new environments. In new environments, whether physical or imagined, at times when I was thrown completely off-balance.
This is where the paradox comes into sight.

If the most vivid memories are created in new places, why do I return to old ones over and over again?

More specific: why do I return to the same place in Malaysia? The six months I spent there last year were amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I’m pretty sure they can’t be topped by this years’ experience (although I take this as a challenge). Of course it’s partly because of love for the place itself. I mean, look at this, who doesn’t want to live there? But there are hundreds of beautiful tropical beaches where you can live and work, especially in my industry. Of course it is also because of the people. I met tons of wonderful people last year and a lot of them will return to the same place as well. But then again, there’s wonderful people to meet all over the world and part of the fun is meeting new people, isn’t it?

So if location and people are ruled out as determining factors in the decision to return to the island, there’s one left. One I hate to admit. Because I do not want to let this factor to rule my life. But in fact, it does (sometimes). It is fear.

Yep. You read that right. Fear. This self-proclaimed adventurer, rebel (*ahem*) and whatnot is scared shitless that it is not gonna work out. This new life I mean. My life for the next few years where I live in the most beautiful places you can imagine and work my ass of, diving.

So yes, I give in to this fear by going to a place where I already know it’s going to work out, because I did it last year. Does that make me weak? No. Every major change starts with baby steps, by gathering momentum. That doesn’t make it anything less than a revolution.

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