My research has long focused on nostalgia. When I consider nostalgia in my personal life, however, this photo sums it up. I lived in this building behind the “Lausanne” sign, behind the train tracks, with a sweeping view down to Lac Léman and over to Evian, France, for almost a year. I loved walking through the train station every day, always imagining I could hop on any one of those trains and disappear somewhere into Europe, effortlessly. I stared at the lake for hours every day while writing the beginning of my dissertation, and I dreamed of what was at the end, just beyond what I could see. My nostalgia for that year, which was important to me for many reasons, is bound up in this view.
I returned to Lausanne last week after a six year absence, and my entire life has changed since then. I have a happy marriage, a beautiful daughter, a home, confidence in my career. I no longer need to hold on to nostalgic images of the past. I was somewhat afraid to confront this place again – afraid that I would see Switzerland for what it is and not for what it meant to me ten years ago or even five years ago. I know my idea of Lausanne is ridiculously romantic, yet somehow my nostalgia was not shaken.
Last Sunday was packed with coffees, teas, and meals with old colleagues and friends, each facing the lake. The weather was hopefully sunny in the morning, melancholic with drizzle at lunch, and joyfully light over tea. I’m projecting my encounters onto the lake and mountains, like I always do, but somehow my emotion was also always dictated by the light cast over Lausanne.
I realize now very clearly what I do and do not like about the unchanging nature of both the Swiss people and culture, but I’m grateful for that unchanging view and the sense of longing that it always culls inside of me. Were I to live there again and confront reality, my perspective may change, but for now I’m glad my nostalgia still has a home.