I’m sitting here listening to the faint din of the travelling fairground that’s recently arrived in my town. It comes every year, in mid-September, and takes over the same park.
I grew up in the house exactly opposite the park so the sound of music banging, rides beeping and children screaming in excitement became a staple of my childhood. I used to make it my goal to visit that fair at least three times every September; I had to. It became a ritual. It was only here for a couple of weeks at a time so I couldn’t waste it. I’d visit with my family, or my friend’s families, and, when I got a little bit older, I’d visit with just my friends. Sometimes we wouldn’t even go on that many rides but we’d stand around the Waltzers thinking we were cooler than the Antarctic.
I sit here now, writing this as an adult, in a house the other side of that same town. I never thought I’d be hearing the sound of the fairground as an adult. I thought the memory would be relegated to the happy section of my childhood when the simplest things filled me with excitement, and when I thought that the people I surrounded myself with would be friends for life. I thought that, when I grew up, I’d remember the nights I’d used to lie in bed, unable to sleep, trying to figure out which ride certain noises were coming from, with fondness. The fair used to comfort me on nights when I’d be irrationally scared, and I thought the memory of it would comfort me as I got older.
I wish the noise of the fair only had the power to transport me back to happier times. And it does do that – I hear the shouts of the ride operators through the echoey microphones and it fills me with that warm glow. But the sound of the fairground is now tinged with sadness; it now has the power to transport me back to the last couple of years. The years I’ve spent as an unhappy, lost graduate, who’s been ripped from the independent student life that I loved, and placed back into a world I never wanted to return to. The sound of the fair now acts as a reminder of a better time before things went wrong. It’s a reminder that things used to be great and now they’re not.
You see, that’s the thing with nostalgia. It’s bittersweet. It lets you get a taste of what life was like before cruelly snatching it away from you and reminding you that things won’t ever be like that again. It’s hard to not let it get you down.
Nostalgia is painful yet we still force ourselves to remember so that we can have fleeting moment of bliss. Maybe thinking of times gone by does more harm than good but maybe we need to remember the old version of ourselves every once in a while. Maybe we need the pain which comes with nostalgia to force us to see past our rose-tinted glasses. Nothing is ever as nice as you remember it. Maybe that’s why it hurts to look back.
The fairground comes to my town every September – it has done since before I lived here, and I’m sure it will do long after I’ve moved on. It serves as a reminder that life goes on and moments of pure joy don’t last forever so they need to be cherished.
And maybe I should be glad that the fairground has made it into so many chapters of my life. When I’m feeling sadly nostalgic it’ll be there to remind me that not everything was as good as I think it was. Life is constantly changing, despite often looking like it’s staying the same. The world moves on and you have to move with it.
Right now there is a fourteen-year old sheltering from the rain under the cover of the Waltzers, laughing with her friends. She’s probably not thinking about life past this moment but one day she’ll remember this moment again. Maybe when she does she’ll be wishing she was still friends with the girl standing next to her, completely forgetting how happy she was when she let that toxic friend go. Maybe in her memory it won’t be raining and the sun was shining. Maybe she’ll wonder if the fair still comes to the town, or maybe she’ll still be here listening to it, looking back on the time when she was a fourteen-year old dancing around the Waltzers. She might cry because she wants to be that happy again, but then she’ll smile because at least she got to be that happy once.
If you enjoyed this post I’d be really grateful if you could leave a comment or share on social media!
Want to see more? You can follow me on social media: