The way a place smells can really take me back.
I look back sometimes and honestly can’t remember what it feels like to be a teenager. Or to be so heartbroken in my mid-twenties.
Today I walked into the gym that I spent years in. It’s had two different owners since I’ve been there and many promises of renovation that have clearly fallen flat. But man, that smell was still exactly the same.
I instantly could picture my friend Elizabeth at my side. How we’d start in the locker room and change into our gym clothes. (Because back then, people didn’t wear gym clothes 24/7). We usually had a book with us (Body for Life, or something by Jillian Michaels) for the workout we would do that day. We’d laugh/curse the world through the entire thing.
And then we would push ourselves so hard to the extent that we’d nearly throw up. (And then, after that, usually waste all of the hard work by going to eat an In ‘n’ Out.)
In my day-to-day, I don’t often recall how it felt to be that past me, like…to be in her bones. But just the smell of the lobby gave me access to instantly inhabiting her again.
How insecure she was.
How much she hated her body. How thin enough was never actually thin enough.
The joy of getting stronger and seeing progress. (Because in so many other parts of her life, she only went backwards.)
How she would run on the treadmill trying to squeeze the heartbreak out of her, doing anything not to think of him. (It often didn’t matter who the “him” actually was. They were interchangeable, then.)
If I could go back in time 12 years, I’d tell her that she was doing just fine. That all those reps would eventually equate to an interest in health that would shape what she’d do for her career. That she would, in fact, actually learn how to communicate and that she’d get married, and have a child, and all of it would be hers. Everything she wanted. I’d pat her little neurotic head and urge her to just relax. (And maybe to eat less In ‘n’ Out.)
What would you tell your self from the past? What places/smells/sounds take you back?
I was just at my friend’s mother’s house for a barbecue and swimming and smore-making over a fire, and it just filled me with memories of when I was younger, going there for board game nights and backyard fires after closing shifts at an old job. Back then, I was piecing together part-time work and pursuing a Master’s degree. If I could speak to that old self, I would comfort her as well— tell her to relax and enjoy it because all of that mattered and she was on her way towards a career and financial independence. I would welcome and expect the same words of comfort from future me to present me as I worry about whether or not I’ll ever get married or have a family when it feels like I’m nowhere close to having any of that. I try to trust that everything will work out for the best, but I think it’s simply in our nature to worry some. Someday, however, I may have a child or two crawling all over me and this time will feel far away too.
You for sure will have that someday, and yes, even then you will long for this younger you who had the luxury to worry about that. 🙂 And at the same time you will feel so grateful for that little squirrelly person who is driving you crazy. 🙂
I love the smell of barbecue + chlorine. Smells like summer and time moving slowly and possibility and togetherness.