I don’t miss Vancouver. I don’t feel nostalgic for the city – not even in the least. It is beautiful, this is true, but that beauty is all natural. Many would argue that this is a better kind of beauty, and I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment, but there is something to be said for man-made beauty. And I mean that in the sense of the buildings, streets, parks, promenades, and facades of Prague. It’s hard to beat. Vancouver has high reaching condos and stucco houses. A lot of green, but there’s a lot of green in any city in the summertime.
I live in Prague. I like it here. I will miss Prague when I move somewhere else. I don’t miss Vancouver. I miss some of the people, but I don’t miss the city. The other day I caught myself missing Finland. It took me a few minutes to figure out why I would ever miss Finland. I concluded that I only feel like I miss Finland because I no longer live in Finland. I am viewing my time there through a rose-coloured filter of nostalgia and it’s clouding my perspective and retroactively changing my memories of the place. I suppose we all do that with everything: Houses, cities, relationships, and experiences. And I caught myself doing that with Helsinki.
Helsinki was dark and Helsinki was cold. Helsinki wouldn’t give me a job and Helsinki was covered in snow. Helsinki was expensive and my flat in Helsinki was too small. By the time I left Helsinki I was eager to leave Helsinki. But now that I have left Helsinki, now that I have settled into a life here and landed on my feet, I find myself looking back on my time and re-writing my opinions after the fact. Which is a dangerous thing to do.
I find myself longing for my old flat; that 5th floor closet on Vaasankatu where we both lived. All 22 square metres of that place. Where the kitchen was the living room was the bedroom. Where we could look out our window at the identical buildings across the street and see directly into any one of thirty windows, while simultaneously having those thirty windows stare directly back into our home. Where, in the winter, sunlight wouldn’t reach street level for days at a time. Where you had to kneel to get something out of the fridge.
I found myself missing our stupid little bathroom. It had the weirdest shower I have ever seen and will likely ever see. It was some design from the 1950s, and it is so odd that I have often hit a brick wall trying to describe it the others. The shower is not large, all of 2 feet long and a foot wide. But the bottom portion of the shower is essentially a seat. So one can sit and shower – which is just fucking stupid – stand awkwardly on the bottom portion, chest pressed uncomfortably against the wall, or stand on the seat portion and actually tower above the stream of the water. It’s so hard to describe how unpleasant and bizarre this thing actually was. It took a good month to access a rhythm that allowed you to use it quasi-comfortably. A million poet monkeys on a million poetmonkey typewriters could never fully capture the insanity of an unrenovated 1950s Finnish bathroom.
Yet lately, for some reason, I find myself romanticizing that stupid flat and it’s stupid shower. Why? Why do we people do this? I enjoy so much more the place I live now. Where my girlfriend can make a cup of coffee and eat a sandwich without waking me up because the kitchen is no longer next to the bed. Where I can stay up to drink whisky and watch hockey without keeping her up. Where I can walk from my front door to the tram stop without freezing my nards off. Where I can go outside without a parka and long johns…
Why do I pine for a place that had burnt me out by the time I left? Maybe it’s because I never got to experience the summertime in Helsinki. Maybe I was too uncomfortable without work, and without sunlight. Its absence really does mess you up. The cold I can handle over time. You simply get accustomed to it. Minus 10 becomes a nice day, no lie. It makes me smile how that was truth. Crazy, outrageous truth. Sunshine is nice. Darkness is depressing. Finland is an odd extreme of both.
I never let my thoughts drift into these areas before I got my job here. Perhaps there’s something to that. I did here in 2 weeks what I couldn’t do there in five months. I don’t like the idea of failing, and part of me feels like I failed there. I want a second crack at success in Finland. Maybe I think a part of me just wants an opportunity to try it again. For no reason other than to show myself that I can.
But I don’t actually want to do that. I’m playing tricks with myself because I’m no longer waking up there and now I’m rewriting how I felt about the place. It’s wild the way this happens. How your brain just plays mental gymnastics with your memories and perceptions on a whim. Perhaps in a few years it’ll start doing the same thing to my memories of Vancouver.
I have a lousy brain – I think I need a new one.