Last night, I found myself in that room at my old high school once again. That same creaky place full of lights, set pieces, costumes, and more than anything, memories.
Having been graduated for two years now, I naturally feel like the Uncle Rico of the theatre when I go back to see performances at Davis High. (Back in ’82, I could throw a monologue a quarter-mile.)
However, when I am there, sitting in the audience, I always feel something like an aching, transitional sort of belonging. Nostalgia.
Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a place that holds happy and personal meaning. The word is formed by the compound of two roots. Nostos – the Homeric word for homecoming, and algos, meaning pain, ache.
For me, the nostalgia that comes isn’t so much a longing for the past as it is a blaring, beating remembering of the past and all the good it was. It isn’t painful, but it’s an awareness so sharp that it does almost ache.
Scientifically, nostalgia is said to sharply bring into sight an image or moment. In my old theater room, I see many.
And last night, sitting there in the room I love, watching people I love perform, and even watching a play that I shared years ago, I felt inspired. My lips roved involuntarily along with lines I once said, and tears fell as my heart was deeply touched, my mind opened by these students’ art and bravery in sharing. I loved the differences in each performance, the choices made and the interpretations presented. I found myself fondly reflecting on the tears spent on that stage, the laughter that filled that room, and the time, the people, and the places I have experienced since that helped me to transition from this place that was home.
More than anything, I felt alive. I remembered art I had created and passion I had felt – convictions that had felt so real and things that had passed – and it re-ignited something in me. I walked out wanting to fill notebook after notebook with my thoughts, with about five possible paintings pressing against my chest, all wanting to be put on canvas.
Do you know what I mean? Do you have anywhere you go, or anyone to whom you go, that just inspires you and makes you want to create your art? That just reminds you how really alive you are and how really real this experience is?
I am so grateful for the nostalgia tonight. For the remembering. For the beauty I remember by going back, and for the ways it inspires me to go forward.