It’s September and so our thoughts naturally turn to getting back into the swing of work after the summer holidays, the beginning of the new school year, starting college or University and the approach of the changing season.
September has the momentum of moving us on, to a new year of study and friends, a new routine or a new location. Often new jobs start in September or decisions about relationships are taken, following a summer romance, maybe!
The sentiment of September can somehow conjure up the feeling of wearing new shoes, the smell of musty school corridors and the shiny new pencil case full of sharpened pencils and a new fountain pen. It can signal memories of halcyon days of summers gone by.
It can also trigger physical feelings that we find it hard to explain.…. the ‘butterflies in the tummy’ feeling. The sense that change is occurring and the feeling that time is moving on and we are playing catch up, wishing it would just stand still or be just like it was in the past?
In welsh, the word my nana used to describe the feeling that we get at times like this was hiraeth, which, when translated, means yearning, nostalgia or homesickness. There isn’t really an effective translation for the word though, because how do you sum up that feeling, which you get at times like these?
Psychologists refer to nostalgia as a warm and powerful emotion, linked to poignant memories of home, family or places. Homesickness too, is linked with feelings which bind us to our homeland; and yearning is that deep physical bittersweet longing for something that has passed.
These words have sensory associations and can be evoked by sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the past. We hear a tune, taste a dish or sniff a familiar smell and we are right back in that place in our head (and our heart), it’s instantaneous!
Nostalgia plays a part in the workplace as well as in our home-life. We can become nostalgic about past roles, past colleagues, or places of work which had significance for us.
We hanker for the good old days …but were they all that good?
According to research, we have restorative nostalgia, which is similar to yearning and homesickness, when we just want to go back to the place where we feel safe, secure and happy again. Or we have reflective nostalgia, where we are able to savour the past for a few special moments but accept that this is in the past and still be content.
We all have nostalgia, it is a human condition, because our memories, good or bad, define us and guide us through our lives. Our memories help us to realise that our life has significance and as time passes, we store more memories and emotional connections like a record of time. In our volatile and uncertain world, our memories can serve a purpose, to restore us to a familiar place and time.
And so, in September, we may find ourselves thinking back, it’s just natural; and we may have a feeling of ‘butterflies in our tummy’, like we did on our first day of school!
It’s just hiraeth.