Monday, March 13, 2017

Glaswegian Reflections

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect" - Anais Nin




While I was in the UK last summer, I had the opportunity to visit Glasgow, and can you believe that I didn't take a single big camera picture while there? I am agog at my own blunder. It certainly traveled with me, but I must have been too consumed by the thoughts I will now share to have pulled the contraption from my bag. The image above was taken right before we left in July of 2012 and shows the back (or the front) of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and some graffiti in the skate park. All things remained as depicted by this image, but the graffiti was different.

I had the highest of high expectations for this quick little visit to the place that shaped so much of my early-adult development. In the moment, I wrote about four lines in my journal about the experience but shall write more than that here in reflection.

Returning after a four year absence was surreal. Everything had changed. The bus routes. The subway. The restaurants. How is that even possible? While still riding high upon our arrival, my sister asked what it was about Glasgow that drew me to it and I think my response was something like this:

Glasgow is the ugly step-sister to the prettier, more well known Edinburgh. But Glasgow has grit. And determination. The people are friendly, unless there's a Rangers/Celtics match. And the city has heart. It digs in its heals and won't give in without a fight, and I find that admirable in a city and in a people.

My response is still true. Glasgow is all that (and a bag of chips) and MORE. It is a fantastic city and well worth visiting (and living in given the opportunity). But for me, Glasgow now lives enshrouded in memory. I had built the city and my experience in it up to unattainable and unrealistic heights. I did a lot of stretching, both in the belly and in the brain while living and studying in that glorious city. I realized how desperately I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom in that city. I connected with people and built a community and made some of the best friendships I've ever had (barring SBC and now Titletown). But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows - it never is - and coming back after having been away for so long showed me just how rampant my imagination had run not only with the city, but also with me.

I had this image of me in Glasgow that was not accurate. Just as the city had changed so had I. Sure, the memories I made while there are true. And the feelings were felt and the sites seen. But I had built up this otherworldly interpretation of myself in that particular location that upon seeing Glasgow again in the flesh reminded me how impressionable the human mind came be. I fancied myself smarter, healthier, and stronger while living in Glasgow. Again this is in retrospect. I had conceived this idea of my experiences there that though true were only one version of the truth. For example, I gave birth to our second child in Scotland, naturally. Drug free. Not completely by my own choice. It ended up being a terrifically wonderful and character building endeavor. Less than a year later, I gave birth to our third child with lots of drugs and it was not a wonderful character building experience. In fact it was pretty dreary altogether and I suffered for weeks after because of it. (SIDEBAR: all the comments I make on this blog are personal to me. I do not advocate natural childbirth or one with drugs, I've done both and have my own opinions about how I (as in ME) do in each scenario and in MY instances using drugs is not as wonderful as not: SIDEBAR OVER.) Because I managed to miraculously deliver baby #2 without drugs and felt wonderful and because my birthing experience with baby #3 was not-as-wonderful I felt like I (as in ME) was more wonderful in Glasgow and that therefore Glasgow was the only wonderful city in the whole wide world. It's a stretch but the mind does that sometimes. I let the one experience (or several experiences for there are a few others) define my whole experience. 

But what I have now realized or am coming to realize through reflecting and rereading old journals is that I am what I am and I am that wherever I may be and that there are some wonderful moments intermixed with the not so wonderful moments and that allowing one experience (or few experiences) define an place or phase in one's life does not do the place or the life justice. 

That's not to say that I don't progress or change or that Glasgow doesn't have the right to change, although changing ALL the bus numbers and routes was seriously inconvenient. Because as hoomans we certainly have the right to change, especially if we're wrong, we need to grow and progress and experience. It's how we learn and live and love. But as I've grown up I've become more and more concerned with what is true, and the version in my head of Glasgow is not the truest version of the city nor is it the truest version of myself. So much has changed - in the city and in me. I am older. I have many more children. I have a slightly different view of the world than the wide-eyed-bushy-tailed-newlywed-expectant-mother of the Glasgow Rosie. But I still love her and love remembering her and bringing her out every once in a while to reminisce with my children about the adventures we had traipsing around Scotland and other parts of Europe.  She and the city are beautiful memories that have helped form the woman I am and the woman I will be.