A couple weeks ago I came back to Mexico City after spending four months in the States. It’s strange and unsettling how easy it is to forget the details of what it’s like to be somewhere.
The details are what make you fall in love with and feel at home in a city, but once you leave they are also what fade away the fastest. The overall feeling of what it’s like to be in a certain city lingers and turns into nostalgia––sometimes making your chest cramp up or your gut stir when you think about it for too long––but the little things that make your day-to-day life in a place unique and wonderful dissolve into abstraction.
Here are some of the details I had forgotten:
The thick smell of sulfur that hits you when driving back from the airport
The beautiful doors of the houses in San Miguel Chapultepec
How it feels to wake up next to my boyfriend
How good fresh tortillas are
The dreary, wet afternoons during rainy season
What mole tastes like
How cheap it is to buy fresh vegetables at the markets
Tavi Gevinson, one of my heroes and probably my biggest girl crush, talks about the possibility of forgetting the deep feelings you have for things—songs, pictures, colors, each other––in a play she is currently performing in (I swiped this quote from a recent New York Magazine article on Tavi; I haven’t seen the play).
JESSICA: … Everything you think will be different, and the way you act, and all your most passionately held beliefs are all gonna be completely different, and it’s really depressing.
WARREN: How do you figure?
JESSICA: Because it just basically invalidates whoever you are right now. You know what I mean? It just makes your whole self at any given point in your life seem so completely dismissible. So it’s like, what is the point? […]
It’s like when you find an old letter you wrote that you don’t remember writing. And it’s got all these thoughts and opinions in it that you don’t remember having, and it’s written to somebody you don’t even remember having ever written a letter to.
WARREN: I’ve never found a letter like that.
JESSICA: Well I have. Like, a lot of them. And it just makes you realize that there’s just these huge swaths of time in your life that didn’t register at all, and that you might just as well have been dead during them for all the difference they make to you now.
I think she’s talking about memory and growing up, but I’ve continued to have this experience of memory and identity throughout my 20s, whenever I make big life changes and all of a sudden I realize that my current life is so vastly different from what I was doing a few years ago. I guess these big shifts in who you are, what you believe, where you live and how you go about your day happen less as you get older, but if you have a penchant for reinvention and travel then they might always be a part of your experience of living.
That’s what’s so fun and comforting about writing, photography, blogging, social media––anything that lets you document your life. You can always look back and remember who you were a week, a month, a year or five years ago, even if everything is different.