Saudade – a feeling of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one was fond of and which is lost.
I have a collage of photos from high school theatre on my wall just in front of my desk. When I’m doing homework or sitting at my laptop I look up and see it there, and it’s like looking through a window into a past life. I know I had all of these experiences—the evidence is in front of me—but sometimes it’s hard to believe that at one point I was there, in the thick of it, undergoing changes I wasn’t aware of at the time. Occasionally I’ll go through old Facebook photos of productions or pull out a performance DVD and watch a few minutes, and I understand a part of what it feels like to be old.
Even though I know that not everything was fun and games in high school theatre, there’s a reason why they say that hindsight is rosy. When I look back on pictures, all I see is the heavily-made-up face of someone having the time of her life. There’s also the strange sensation of being frozen in time. It’s like having a horcrux, like a piece of soul that is stagnant, constant. There’s a word that my Creative Writing TA used to describe something similar to this sensation—some people taste words or hear colors. With this, I can look at an image and almost immediately be immersed in the scene. Sitting in group therapy in my first One Act? I can feel my palms sweating. Arms outstretched as a Lady-in-Waiting in our dubious production of the Wiz? I can smell the layers of makeup and feel the liquid glitter caked around my eyes. If I hear the end of the Parent’s Medley during a Grand Night for Singing, the song just before “It’s Me,” my heart actually starts pounding so fast I get lightheaded. This is a year and a half later.
This isn’t just with theatre, either. The feeling of saudades permeates experiences throughout life. I read somewhere that my generation is the most prone to nostalgia because we grew up too fast; the influx of technology aged us. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that, to an extent, everybody has some degree of heavy nostalgia in their lives. Everyone has the saudades that make your heart ache with longing for a feeling that is near impossible to recover. Travel. Friendships. Events. Even since last year, things have changed. Life doesn’t stop for anything. People change, circumstances change.
I think a healthy dose of nostalgia is a good thing. Thinking of things long past can bring back some of the happiness of that time. It brings back appreciation and thankfulness for the opportunities that you have been given. It allows you to see yourself in the past and examine who you were then—and who you are now. Yes, I argue that saudades are wonderful, as long as they are tempered with a similar appreciation for the present: seeing good times in the past can be a great motivator in striving for things in the future. As Dumbledore says, “It does not do to dwell in dreams and forget to live.”
So, what are some of those things that make your heart ache with fondness and with yearning? What are your saudades?