Facebook has a new feature called ‘On This Day’. It’s a feature where Facebook belches up old memories and reminds you what you were doing on this day; 1 year ago, 2 years ago and so on. Well, I’m finding these relentless reminders depressing at the moment. There’s something about being forced to review your life in retrospect every day that leads you to believe that things were better ‘then’. Photos of smiling faces, wide eyes, and toothy smiles on a beach somewhere.
I think that somehow, this constant reminder of where you were on this day in your life, leads you to benchmark the current day with previous days and reflect on what you’ve learnt, or how you’ve progressed since then and use whatever other metrics you employ to ‘rate’ your life.
Wow, a year ago I was swimming off a white sand beach in Thailand, and today I’m stuck in the welfare office queue waiting to sort out a payment…
Well, this is perhaps an example of two extremes but you get my point. If you find yourself in a situation like the one above, you can’t help but question your life choices, even subconsciously.
The fact that Facebook sends me on an existential crisis every day, forcing me to ask if life was ‘better’ then or now, or maybe will be in the future is irrelevant. Instead, what I’m discovering is how much places and landscape dictate emotion and I’m struggling with overcoming negative mental associations I have with the landscape I now find myself trapped in.
Psychologists refer to this as ‘place attachment’. That is when particular physical environments create personal emotions within us due to the experiences and memories we have of a place. Place attachment can be powerful but, is often overlooked. When we think back on our life, we tend to think in eras. For example… ‘my early twenties’ etc. However, I don’t think we acknowledge the effect that place can have on how we feel emotionally.
Today’s ‘On This Day’ reminder was particularly bad. Facebook reminded me that on this day 2 years ago, I moved from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, back to Sydney. What got me was the last sentence of my post that read:
“If I EVER talk about moving to the Sunshine Coast again, someone restrain me!”.
Yet, 2 years on, here I am back on the Sunshine Coast. Sure, I’ve lived in Manila for over a year in between as well as Sydney for a while but now I find myself back on the ‘Sunny Coast’, a place I swore I’d never return to.
It should be lovely but, it’s a place where expansive, clear blue skies suffocate me and the pristine white-sand beaches invoke rolling waves of anxiety with their perfect coastlines. It’s a landscape where the lush, fresh mountains and forests seem to sway to a green melancholy tune and the seaside cafes and restaurants mock me as they sell their care-free lifestyle of tanned bodies brunching in the endless sun… I find it all disgusting.
I’ve come to associate this part of the world with negative experiences in my life and now it’s tainted. No longer do I appreciate the sweeping coastline, deep blue sea and laid-back lifestyle. Instead, I feel as if I’ve regressed.
Here I am… stuck in paradise again, a sunny purgatory where bright days grind by in an arrogant, laid-back slumber turning to weeks and months in the slow, laboured blink of an eye on a sun tanned, salt-water weathered face.
This is a place where I’ve lived twice previously and each time I’ve packed up the house and moved back down south, mainly due to lack of work, lifestyle, or other choices. However, this is also where the family house is which provides refuge for now while we plot the next move.
Again, life serves up uncertainty and change. Yet, this place makes me feel stagnant and predictable.
I sit in a small, dark corner of the house, glazed-eyed, scrolling, reading, searching… trying to plan the next move, the next era yet, I’m out of ideas. As if dampened by previous tears wept on this landscape, I sit numb, uninspired and uncreative… waiting for a miracle. As if stunned by the paradox of choice and exhausted by restlessness, I sit and do nothing. I haven’t even written anything substantial in the last 3 months. I feel as though the universe is trying to tell me what to do next, trying to give me a sign but we’re not speaking the same language and everything’s getting lost in cosmic translation. I occasionally get hints and the gist of something remarkable but that then slowly fades away into the background noise of life and everything becomes mundane and uninspired again.
Can a physical landscape actually impact your thinking, cognition and creativity?
I remember when I travelled Italy, I was so inspired by every landscape… I’ve never written so much in my life… There I’d sit on a tiny balcony overhanging the Adriatic sea and type away furiously. Perhaps, the opposite is also true. Maybe there are places and landscapes that suck the soul out of you. Places that vibrate on a certain frequency and work against you rather than with you?
Don’t get me wrong. The Sunshine Coast is beautiful and a perfectly good place for one to live. It’s just that, for whatever reasons, it never seems to agree with me, as if there’s something deep in the ground, something dark that wants me gone from here.
So, let’s just hope that this stay in sunny purgatory isn’t for long and that I can make it through this Devine Comedy and come out better for it. Perhaps in a year from now, I’ll smile when I get Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ and laugh as I look back at that time when days felt like years and I felt trapped on the Sunshine Coast.