Nostalgia (näˈstaljə) n.: The sentimental state of mind in which wistfully great memories of the past slap you in the face with reminiscence and a heavy longing for their return. Sometimes, it punches you in the stomach too. Believe me, this “one-two combo” is no joke; it’s been hitting me a lot lately. And the more you get hit in the same place, the more it hurts.
Last week, I sat in class rescheduling my final exams for an earlier date. I pulled up my calendar and counted down the days until I left Budapest. That’s when the motherfucker hit me. I was already feeling nostalgic just thinking about returning to the States, but counting down the days did something different. All of a sudden, I realized that my departure was imminent and tangible; there was virtually no chance of me staying in this country (or continent for that matter). And even if I somehow found a way to do so, would it still be the same without the people who helped me construct such a profound framework of memories?
I pictured an hourglass, slowly dribbling grains of sand into the already-brimming bottom bulb. Time was running out, and reality was ready to grab me by the throat and throw me back into corporate America. Nostalgia, you really, really suck sometimes.
But over the past week, I spent some time thinking about how I could beat this feeling, how I could counter Señor Nostalgia and his mighty “jab and cross.” Because, you know, I’m still human and would appreciate the 1-minute break. I re-read my blogs, re-looked at my Budapest pictures, and even re-perused all my emails saved in my “study abroad” folder… And the transition from my first arrival in Budapest to this very day was unreal. The amount of fun, friendships, and personal development in character and worldly knowledge was something I could never exchange for anything else in the world. I started to understand how important this entire experience was for me, and I felt better. A lot better.
You’re right. You’ll never be able to completely relive the memories you have made for yourself and those around you. But what’s important is not that the memories have past, but that they were created in the first place. Nostalgia is a funny thing; you hate it because you want such great times in the past to be recreated, but you love it because the past created something in you. Whether it was your personality, comfort zone, wistful memoirs, appreciation for the world, or stomach, something grew. You are now able to say that you know more about the world around you; that you met amazing people spanning across several continents and countries; that no matter what country, what language, or what culture you come from, we can relate to each other. There is something more intrinsic than just communication when it comes to building strong relationships; a giant web of your personality, actions, and honest effort is what makes or breaks true friendships. This is how I realized the incredible value of my time in Budapest, and how it took the entire experience to gain this much from it.
To be completely honest, I’m still not completely un-nostalgic. I still yearn to go back in time and see Wax Tailor with my friends, travel to Barcelona and rage at Abroadfest, and even go to Szimpla again and have a couple beers with my friends. But I think I beat Señor Nostalgia in the best possible way- to learn as much as possible. Besides, I can’t physically punch a feeling anyway.
I am truly blessed for this experience, and I will treasure each and every moment I have left in this country.