“Years of love have been forgot
in the hatred of a minute”
Edgar Allan Poe
A few days ago, I visited Düsseldorf, one of the places I once called home.
I am not from Düsseldorf, in fact my actual home town is not even close. But the whole question of home is a confusing subject for me anyways. I don’t really have a clear handle on it, I don’t know where home really is for me. I feel at home everywhere and nowhere at the same time, both lost and rooted wherever I go. Those of you who moved many times in their lives will probably be able to relate. I moved 13 times in my life, 10 times I remember clearly.
If you change your home every two years, you end up not really knowing where you belong. Maybe that’s simply how it goes. One of the places that is central in my history is Dortmund, where I lived for one of the longest stretches. Unfortunately.
Many Dortmund locals love their city to bits, but I never really warmed to the place. I never experienced a sense of belonging there the way I would later in Cologne and now in Berlin. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe the city and I were just not made for one another. Not a good match, simple as that.
Still, whenever I visit North Rhine-Westphalia, I am overcome by a vague sense of melancholy. The federal staten somehow acts as a bracket for disparate strands of home that I carry in me, including Dortmund and Cologne.
This feeling, this nostalgia tinged with melancholy, it is not necessarily a positive emotion. It brings memories to the forefront of my consciousness that weigh heavily on my heart. In Dortmund, especially there, I had amazing times, but also lived through terrible periods. With hindsight, the beautiful memories normally outweigh the negative ones, but when I think of Dortmund I first remember the darker times. To the day, ‘coming home’ to this city makes me feel queasy in my stomach. For many years, my solution was to stay away. Now I am questioning this approach.
Is that really the best way to handle my emotions? Should I not face the demons of the past instead? Years have passed, after all, and I am no longer the insecure teenager I used to be. I decided to confront my past.
photos: Theresa Kaindl
Once in Düsseldorf, I contacted some people that once were very important to me. People that I parted with in anger, back in the day. I was hoping to meet some of them, to bury the hatchet, to dig up some positive, shared memories instead, which had been buried for too long. After staring at the blank screen for what seemed an eternity I started to write: ‘I am in Düsseldorf. Fancy a spontaneous cup of coffee?’
The first message after years of silence. I am sure you can imagine that I was quite nervous.
And what followed was… disappointment.
There was no meeting. Instead, as so often, reality reared its ugly head. Some of the people I contacted no longer lived in North Rhine Westphalia, others were too busy with their jobs. Some of my old friends have very structured lives, that they can’t break out of at short notice, much less for a friend they had not seen in ten years. Sometimes reality is so banal. I should not have been surprised to realize that everyone had moved on, life had taken it’s course. And still, it had a real impact on me.
Will I ever see one of my old friends again? I don’t know.
I am back at asking myself though: should I let go of my past, and close that chapter? Or should I try to revisit these memories in real life?
What happens to the magic encapsulated in a memory if it clashes with the harsh reality?
I wonder. And I think it may just be worth finding out.