“Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun,” Charlotte said to Bob, as they lay in bed together during a rather touching scene in Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. I know what you’re thinking, ‘another blog post on Lost in Translation,’ and the truth is that yes it is just that. Ever since I watched it a few weeks ago I have felt compelled to watch it again. It’s almost as if my subconscious was scouring to find meaning to something that was bothering me and this scene in particular resonated. As I have said before I find such similarity between myself and Charlotte, as someone who also felt lost, had tried everything and who was still at a loss in forging an identity. One that was completely separate from anyone else in her life at the time be it romantic or not.
As I watched the scene unfold it occurred to me that I had already probably committed a sin in doing exactly what Charlotte said not to do.
In attempting to forge an identity post depression in 2013 I decided to return to college and carry on my studies. Due to the fact I felt I had lost out on much of college experience in my second and third year I guess you could call it my way to retaking my past, and returning to a past self that was unfortunately lost in a sense. I think I have mentioned before that there is a certain mental block in my age right now, having drawn myself back from feeling 35 I now feel like the 19 year old me, albeit with a few more scrapes and emotional brawls under my belt now but yeah, I feel full of energy and whole lot of enthusiasm that I had not felt since then.
I was reminded of a moment in my first year of college since my first recent viewing of the movie. Sitting in the college library high above the world where looking out the window I could see the tops of trees and it was so green despite the harsh winter that year. It was so cold, icy too. I was reading, warm, looking out the window and listening to music. I was very happy in a relationship, I was 18, I had hopes and dreams but was just so happy to live in that moment, I was never happier. It was almost suffocating so much so that I had to pause reading, and just listen to Stacey Solomon in my ears loftily make her way through a rendition of Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ which I had pulled from a YouTube clip, to look out the window and take stock.
It is in these moments that we become almost intoxicated with contentment. There are unfortunately few moments like that afterwards. But there are still those feelings sometimes – my life isn’t completely void of those moments.
I have had an aching feeling deep inside within these past two weeks. Like I had made a mistake in returning to college or even if that mistake was just that I went back to UCC. There was something about the way in which I was struck by Charlotte’s words to never return here that struck a chord. They haunted me. I felt like I had made a mistake. That maybe I didn’t belong here after all.
But is it so wrong, to try to return to the places that made you happy, even tho everything has changed? Most would probably say yes and I am forced to agree. However I feel like although I expected my return to college being a happy thing, which it has, I have underestimated how different an experience it would be. In these two weeks I have had to reconcile myself with the fact that I am certainly not 19 anymore, and I have scrapes, and scratches, and experience under my belt…I am 23. In the time it took me to realise this, I had gone through every plausible reason of why it was good to go back to college until finally I realised that it can’t possibly be the same. While attempting to regain a part of my life that was lost I finally realised what those haunting words were trying to tell me.
It was not in searching for your past that you find meaning, and forge identity. But in realising the impact that these past moments have had on you. You can return to your past and live it in a completely different way. The way in which I try to approach the past now is completely different and although college for me will be a different experience to how I wanted it to be, that does not mean it will be less fruitful.
In a sense you could say that i may have finally un-cuffed the shackle of the past, and the notion that I was going to be reliving a not so distant youth that didn’t even exist. I was going to now be forging a new identity for myself in a way that I want to do it free from the past and taking with it everything I had learnt since then. In throwing away expectations of the future, and distancing ourselves from our past experiences we can forge identity as we move through experience.
It took two weeks to realise, that experience is not something that is tangible, a thing, out there in the world. Experience is the thing that we move through as we continue to find ourselves and continue to find ourselves we do because we will never stop changing. Nor will your futures path, the present, and certainly not the past.
Unfortunately we are stuck with our past, and in returning to it we can forge identity by working on it again. Expectation, and impending melancholy, are our biggest shackles when it comes to returning to places where we were happy. The place itself too, has changed. It is renewed with a new sense of meaning for a whole new set of people. Even you. Even me.
The truth is, that even if you return to where you were happy, you can never truly return there, because it will never be the same. Like me, attempting to return to a life in a place where I was happy as 19 year old Olan was always going to be impossible – because that place is now but a memory, the moment passed, years have gone by, and that place does not exist anymore. So the fact is that although I can never “come here again,” I have returned to forge new meaning, from similar bricks and mortar out of which a sense of happiness came.
“Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun.” By virtue of a changing playing field and the impossibility of return, maybe Charlotte was right after all.