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  • Writer's pictureBecci

When we leave a place.

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

"We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place,

we stay there, even though we go away.

And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there."

- Pascal Mercier, Nighttrain to Lisbon


I've heard and read these words for the first time in summer six years ago. They have touched me and stayed with me over the years, making their way into my diaries on multiple occasions. They are connected with an important stepping stone in my life; saying goodbye to the place where I collected the happiest, craziest, best and most challenging memories.

Last week, I visited this magical place, simultaneously wandering the paths around the buildings like I never left and being harshly reminded that my time there is long over. It is a weird feeling to think that a physical place can have such a strong influence on your memories, that - contrary to what you often hear - it is not just the people you have shared some time of your life with, but also the places you went.

Visiting such a long time after I left inevitably meant that most of the people I knew were long gone, and a completely new dynamic was tangible all over the place. Yet somehow at the same time, everywhere I looked felt so familiar.

All of a sudden, I saw myself walking down the road those six and more years ago, with no particular goal in mind, maybe getting an icre cream in the little store in the next village. I saw myself reading a book on the big steps next to the central basketball field, being a little too introverted to sit in a big group yet not wanting to miss out completely. I saw all the places I kissed someone for the first time, hugged someone after missing them all summer, died from laughter until I fell over, or cried because it felt like the world was ending and I was hurting so damn much. I saw the hall where I stood up in front of 200 people every week, where I sang my heart out with my friends to our favorites songs and hid in the back row writing or reading because listening to the same announcements for the second, third and forth time was tedious. I saw the little house where I went to bed every night, the little path I had to shovel free from snow on many mornings, the balcony I spent many summer nights and even more summer days on. I saw the classrooms where I sat day in day out, bent over books, fighting, laughing, loving, learning with my peers. I saw myself running over the central square with a bucket full of water destined to reach my roomate's head. I saw myself waiting for the bus to take me back for the holidays, and I saw myself sitting in that same bus after the holidays were over, eager to see everyone again. And then there was also that view; that incredible, heartbreaking, stunning view, that I cursed and prayed to so many days back then because I wanted to be someplace else or I wanted to be nowhere else but there.

I can say without hesitation that I have yet to find another place in my life that triggers the same emotional range for me. Weirldy enough, I sometimes miss the little girl I used to be back then when I immerse into those surroundings. That is not to say that I am not proud of where I went and how I grew after, I love being myself today! But when I see this mountain range, I would give so much to time travel back into the past and experience it all over. There is this girl that lived in the mountains, that one version of me that grew and blossomed there at a specific time and place. That girl exists in the particular context of those surroundings alone, and I only ever catch a little glimpse of her when I go back to visit.



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