I’ve had my fair fill of nostalgia over this past week, and I was amazed at the comfort it brings. That familiarity is a little difficult to articulate. I attended a school reunion in my home city of Adelaide last week; we had one 15 years ago, and for many of us it was the first time to see each other again since that last meet up. The odd thing is that nothing much seems to have changed and the conversations were not directed at status or achievements but more about the future, families, happiness and health. We talked about lasting memories we had of each other and teachers who loomed high in our recollections. In the days following, there were numerous messages and emails about how much everyone enjoyed the chance to reconnect and their desire to do it again sooner rather than later. Why? I suspect that we’re comforted by nostalgia and it’s a safe place for us all because other than some people being a bit smarter than others at the time, our last memory when we finished school together, is of us all being on a reasonably level playing field. No status issues, no class issues – just a bunch of middle-agers feeling like they were 17 again.
In the same week, I caught up for dinner with 4 friends that I have known since I was 5. We do this on a regular basis, and except for a few years between school and having kids, we really haven’t had a break from each other. That group has the same sort of comfort and nostalgia to it as the high school group. We know each other so well that there can be no pretence in our interactions – and if anyone tries, they will quickly be pulled back to earth. Why is that? I expect it’s because we never have to pretend – we are always our authentic selves in a world where we often have to fake it a little. It’s nice just to be who we are rather than what we’re expected to be.
I haven’t lived in Adelaide for 15 years, and it’s always great to visit and see what is changing and what stays the same. The consistent things are family, friends, the beach, the fabulous wine, the Christmas Pageant (this year 300,000 people watched – that’s around 25% of the population), talk about Peel Street and the ease of getting around. On the change side public transport has really improved, there are some great places to eat and drink (yes, Peel Street included), traffic is non-existent as much as everyone wants to tell you it’s horrendous, the airport runs smoothly and there seems to be an energy that some attribute to the change in government. The quarter-acre blocks have all but disappeared (at least close to the city and the nearby coast), and there seems to be a plethora of elderly housing options opening up. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean Adelaide is doomed to be the ageing capital of Australia but rather a place where everyone – old and young – can enjoy a great lifestyle.