A few weeks ago as I walked home from class, the same old loose stones in the sidewalk wobbled under my feet like they do everyday. These rocky tiles catch me off guard when I’m running late and threaten to trip me when I’m being careless. I remember thinking bitterly when I arrived that I’d never get used to this city’s unkempt walkways and that I’d be tripping over them everyday for the next 5 months. Yet there I was scurrying home after my last class of the week, excited about everything the weekend had in store for me. Without thinking about it, I danced across each stone, knowing exactly which ones would tilt under my weight, and made sure my toes bounced off each uneven paver. The subtle joy I felt as the stones moved had a quality of predictable whimsy, similar to the repetitive stomach-dropping feeling I got as a child on the swings. This was the first moment that I thought, “oh my god. I’m going to miss these broken sidewalks so much.”
I immediately felt ridiculous that uneven sidewalks were the first thing I realized I would miss in Edinburgh when I go home. It seems much more appropriate for this preemptive nostalgia to pop into my head when I’m sitting in a pub laughing with my friends, or walking through Princes Street Garden when the daffodils are first in bloom. Of course since the sidewalk nostalgia incident, I haven’t been able to keep these feelings at bay. I think about it every time a stone tilts under my step, every time I see the sunlight bouncing off the rooftops of old town, and every time my friends make me laugh.
Once I considered why this happened — why a stupid sidewalk was what unleashed the mid-semester-abroad-crisis — I wasn’t so surprised that it was the first moment I’d let myself feel how much I’m going to miss this place. Until that point, every time I did just about anything, I had a feeling in my gut that I ignored. I stamped out each moment of pre nostalgia before my mind could translate that feeling into full blown thoughts; I do not want to spend every minute left in Scotland dwelling on the heaviness buried in the joy of being here.
Maybe the thought finally erupted when I was walking home from class because my guard was down and I wasn’t prepared to deny myself any feelings of nostalgia. Maybe it happened because the small, stupid things that I never expected to care about are going to be the things I miss the most. Maybe it’s because I’ve been preparing myself since before I got here to miss the big things like the people I love and the country that’s become my home. Whatever it the reason, that day I opened the floodgates of pre-nostalgia. I’m constantly bombarded by the gut-crushing knowledge that I’m going to leave, at times when it makes sense and at other times when it totally baffles me. I’m still making an effort to live in the moment and enjoy every second I have here, since I know I’ll regret it if I spend the next two months anticipating goodbyes. But as someone who has always possessed an incredible ability to harbor nostalgia, going back to normal life in the states is going to be the hardest transition of my life, because I know that I’m right every time I think that I’m going to miss this place so much.