that feeling. can we feel it again?

January 31, 2013 |  Category:   life rambling remembering


My friend Lisa wrote a post recently about moving from the city she’s lived in for over 20 years and recalling how she felt that first night she moved there. Euphoric was the word she used. It totally brought me back because I know that feeling. It’s exactly how I felt when I moved out of my parent’s house and into Manhattan when I was 18. I’ve written about those years before, but have I written about that specific night? (am I starting to repeat myself now?) The night when I stayed up till dawn philosophizing about art and life with some junior-year art students from my school at someone’s apartment, which was really a painting studio with a mattress. There are memories in your life that are vivid, not just because you can remember the details of what the floor looked like (paint splatters and cigarette ashes), but because you can conjure up exactly what you were feeling. Euphoric is a great word to describe that memory, but I don’t think I had ever thought to associate it with that morning, walking home from my night with friends. I just remember the sun beaming down Lafayette Street as it rose from that horizon at the end of the street early that morning. It was a Saturday or Sunday morning, I can’t remember which, but the streets were empty as the city hadn’t woken up yet. And I remember feeling euphoric as I walked home into those blinding sun rays, thinking of how my life was just beginning and how I was free, finally, after a tumultuous summer after high school.


I experienced this same feeling a second time the day I left NY to move to Washington the day after New Year’s in 1992. As some of you know, it was both an escape from my old life and an adventure, landing in a place where I had never been before and where I knew no one. Life was starting over, once again.
I’m not sure I have experienced that exact feeling since. There have been other life changing events of course, like moving back to New York, the birth of the kids, the start of the business, but nothing that felt so big and free like those two very specific days. It’s hard to describe, but maybe you know the feeling too? I’m thinking about all of this now because I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever feel this way again and I wonder if it’s something that’s specifically associated with youth. I know that we can experience these emotions at any age – that mixture of excitement, anticipation and fear (the giddy kind of fear), but I think the difference now is that we don’t have the naivete of youth. Back then, we moved through things unjaded. When we looked into the future, we didn’t really see anything yet and that’s what made it exciting. That’s the feeling. I know we can’t predict our future, but as adults we spend a portion of our lives trying to guide and secure it so that we can visualize a future. At some point as we get older, do we fear the unknown rather than have our minds get blown by embracing it?
Maybe some people do get this feeling later in life, perhaps through a career change, retirement, or a new relationship. Maybe some people feel it again vicariously through their kids who do get to open their eyes to new things in the truest sense. Maybe some people never experience it at all. I’m glad to have experienced it twice. I just wonder if it can ever happen again…and what would make it happen?
ps. I’ve been in a contemplative mood lately and might dump some of it here. You can just call it old lady ramble.

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  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag January 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    totally down with old lady ramble :) ~ I dig it!

  • Rachael January 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    What you’ve just written, I’ve thought about many times. My first weekend of art college is still so fresh and vivid. I can remember it all. You’re right about feeling free, to feel you can become anyone you want. At the end of my time at art school I made the spontaneous decision to quit my job, flat, everything and fly from the uk around the world to see a guy I’d only dated for 2 weeks and hadn’t seen in many months (with only one email between us in all that time). I called him from my transfer in SF and told him I would see him in Hawaii soon- so brave for a 21 year old! Many years and many travels later we are now married with a beautiful daughter. Could I do that now? Absolutely not! Time makes you more fearful I think, I couldn’t be so casual about potential heartbreak. My daughter being born is probably the single most intense moment of my life but so different to these feelings…so much responsibility mixed in with all that happiness. Keep up the old lady rambles, its good to see these thoughts voiced.

  • Katie January 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Truthfully, I think we trade that feeling for stability, love, community, security.

  • Belle January 31, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I often ponder the exact same question. I think it’s the sense of wonder- it was so strong when I was 18; every new experience brought with it an overwhelming sense of wonder- which seems to pronounce itself less and less as I experience life more and more. Sometimes I miss the intensity of my first few years in Manhattan, but i try to always pay attention to how much I truly love this city, and that seems to keep the wonder and awe alive.

    I recently celebrated 10 years in New York City (I wrote about it here: ), and have been in a very similar mindset lately as you write about here.

    Thanks for this beautiful post!

  • Jen January 31, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    The one time I’ve had that feeling was on my first trip abroad. I was in my late 20s, and came from a background where I never thought I’d have a chance to take the kind of trip I was taking. I had high expectations of a life-changing journey, and suffice it to say the first few weeks weren’t living up to my fantasies. Until one particular city, and one particular moment when everything changed. I still remember that moment – euphoria is a great way to describe it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as free as I did then. I even wrote a note to my future self in my travel journal urging her to hang onto that memory, those feelings, especially in times of anxiety, stagnation, and doubt. I am currently in one of those times; 2012 was a brutal year for me, and I am struggling with feelings of hopelessness. I read that note that I wrote to myself more than a decade ago, and I try so hard to conjure those feelings. I try to take to heart the message that disruption and struggle can push you down paths you otherwise would not have explored, paths that turn out to be wonderful. But it’s harder now, and I do think that age has something to do with it. When you’re young, you can take risks, safe in the knowledge that you have time to make up for mistakes and set-backs. I no longer feel like I have the luxury of time to make up for any more mistakes, and so I am less likely to take risks…which ironically leaves me in this state of dissatisfied inertia. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually.

  • Jeanne January 31, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Oh my. You brought back memories of being young, carefree and having the whole world in front of you. I remember those distinct euphoric feelings well. I found this article about “U-shaped Happiness” quite interesting. It addresses whether we will be as happy as we were when we were young. I think you might find it thought-provoking too so I’m including the link.

  • victoria January 31, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I had coffee with a dear girlfriend this morning and she told me they’re thinking of moving an hour away, to the beach. To a new area, very much removed from where we live now, to a different life. She’s a few years younger than me, with two younger children (school age and pre), married and living a family life. We talked more about it and she asked me when we stopped living life by making decisions to make ourselves happy. She asked herself and in turn me, when they’d given up the idea of always wanting to live by the beach. It wasn’t a case of being unhappy, but just wondering when it was that they lost the spontaneity of taking a chance and living it, making it exciting and making it work.

    It may not be exactly the same thing, I know, but I understand what you mean, I know the feeling and I haven’t felt it for a good, gosh, since I was in my early 30’s and we were living in London, married, no children, doing as we pleased …… The feeling is amazing and it does stay vivid even after so much time passes.

  • Darra February 1, 2013 at 12:31 am

    was just thinking about this today as I hung out with my 7 month old daughter. remember the first time being independent and the way that felt. I don’t think we can ever match that feeling of firsts but can always look to the new adventures. I’ll say it again, you are so great at articulating what I cannot say. fantastic post.

  • jen February 1, 2013 at 12:56 am

    you will fee that euphoria again. i’ve seen it. i think it happens when your kids leave for college 😉 i’m not joking. with my older cousins with their kids in college, i’ve seen a levity in them, a brightness as their options open up. we’re in the deep trenches of parenting. It’s hard to feel euphoria with these many layers.

  • Jen February 1, 2013 at 3:23 am

    I have been following your blog for awhile now and have to say that I enjoyed the poignancy of this post. I wonder too if I will ever feel that rush of excitement again- that feeling that anything is possible and you just feel so alive! But, as @Katie posted, maybe that sensation is, in fact, something we trade for love and security. It would be nice to have it again, though. And trust me, you are not alone. :)

  • Jacqui February 1, 2013 at 3:43 am

    I suspect it is a youth thing; the enthusiasm, unjaded eye, willingness to take risks…it all results in that euphoria that calculation cannot replicate.

    At the age of 22 I moved to paris, france to be with a boy I had spent ten days with. Nothing will ever come close to the thrill and the fear of that momentous trip from australia halfway across the world to be with someone I barely knew, yet i just KNEW! The relationship ultimately ended after two years but I know that when I am an old lady I will be sustained and still delighted that I had the guts to grab that adventure.

  • me February 1, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I traded in that awesomeness to save up for a house. I’ve always wanted my own house. That’s what I traded it in for.

  • Desiree February 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I know exactly the feeling you are describing here. Maybe we feel it stronger when we are young but as you say you can certainly feel it again later on in life. Actually this is where I am right now in a way and I feel very fortunate that I get to have another adventure and feel this way again. I moved from Stockholm, Sweden and left my old life there to move to Basel in Switzerland. I don’t know a single person here (yet) and I don’t even speak the language but this is what adventure is all about. I have this mix right now of exitement, anticipation and fear. I never regret the adventure we got when we moved from Sweden to Alabama in the Deep South 2006 and I am so happy we got the chance and opportunity to have another adventure in our lives. As you say fear the unknown rather than have our minds get blown by embracing it is something that comes with age. I therefore encouraged my husband to apply for this job in Switzerland before we would get to that point when fear takes over. I just turned 40 and I am kind of proud over myself that I dared to spread my wings again and fly out into the unknown. I have just been in Switzerland for two weeks so everything is still brand new and very exiting. Have a wonderful weekend and I just love your blog and the way you write.

  • Anne-Marie February 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Yes I remember that feeling, it’s of so much excitement, and I think when you feel it every pore of your body and mind is so open to newness and excitement and being thrilled.
    I also felt it when I had left home in my early 20s, and was living in a different country – and the the sun was also shining fantastically – maybe that’s part of it too!
    It’s great to hear from other posters that you can feel it again when you’re older – looking forward to that! I don’t feel that thrilling feeling now in my older and more settled life, but one thing is for sure, I am so much happier in my older and more settled life than I was in my early 20s. The possiblity of being able to combine both is a great prospect.
    Thanks for writing up on this – I had forgotten those feelings, and wondered did other people feel them too – now I know they did/do.

  • Caitlin February 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I really enjoy this post and the feeling you’re describing, but don’t know if I can completely relate. The summer after my freshman year in college, I went on my first trip to Europe. The first couple of weeks were spent with college friends in the UK, and they were pretty incredible. However, once I split off from them and went to Paris by myself, I distinctly remember arriving at my hostel, dropping my bags, calling my mom and crying my eyes out for about half an hour. It was one of the loneliest moments of my life, and it really took me by surprise. The same thing happened two years later when I arrived in southern France for a semester abroad. My whole first night was spent in tears, wondering if I’d made a huge mistake! It got better after that, and when I moved to New York City a year and a half ago, I didn’t shed a single tear :). Still working towards that feeling of euphoria, though – I hope I get there eventually!

  • Jenna February 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I love these personal stories that you’ve all posted here. Thank you so much for sharing them! (makes me want to travel though!)

  • Karin February 1, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Thank you for the Economist link, Jeanne! It put a smile on my face and I plan to share it around. Jenna, I know the feeling that you’re describing—kind of a bubble of joy in the throat at the thought of your life’s potential—but as someone IN my twenties, damn, I could go for some stability right now :)

  • nicole February 1, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    i dunno. i’m a mom, business owner and generally tired person. but this fall i stepped onto a plane bound for an italian culinary adventure that was beyond anything i do normally. my intrepid husband stayed home with the kids and off i went. as the plane descended over rome, i got that euphoric feeling. like the whole world was becoming bigger and brighter.

  • Anna February 2, 2013 at 12:27 am

    I wonder if it’s something that can come back as you get older (if not in quite the same way), as that Economist article (the ‘U-bend of life’) alludes to. I’m in my mid-30s, two kids and another on the way, struggling to the pay the mortgage, keep up, etc, so I’m probably close to the centre of the U. But I look at many of my parents’ generation who are going ‘off the grid’ – leaving corporate life for a self-sufficient one, or have had a change of career, or to the many who have taken off to live on the other side of the world, once their children left home and paid off their mortgage etc. A few years ago my 60-year-old father moved to to a very remote Pacific island, where he lives a subsistence lifestyle, among people who had never met a Westerner before he came. Is he euphoric? Definitely.

  • Anna February 2, 2013 at 12:38 am

    @ Victoria, maybe you touched on the reasons why we lose it… because there is so much more at risk now. Taking chances risks the wellbeing of our children, our financial wellbeing and security, maybe even the friendships we’ve build up over many years. If we moved somewhere completely different now (and we have thought about it), I could never completely surrender to the joy and freedom of it, because I’d constantly be wondering “am I being selfish? have I made the right move for my family?” Maybe it is just getting older, and more risk adverse, but I hope that when there is less to lose, I could get that feeling back. I hope so! I want to believe that I can feel the way I did when I left home and moved cities at 18, or when I moved overseas at 25.

  • Robin February 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I have been thinking about the very same thing recently. We are preparing to move back to my home city and I am wondering how long the ‘newness’ will stick around before the everyday sinks in and my beloved city stops being new (or worse, inspiring).

  • gracie February 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I’m in the middle of an art project for college and I was sitting here musing on remembering emotion, if it’s possible to feel it again as you recall it and the nature of emotion in general and I got a bit fuddled so I decided to take a break and read your blog and am surprised to read this entry. Feels kind of cosmic. Huh.

  • Jocy February 3, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    I think it can happen again in life, no matter what age. This post was beautiful. The first time I felt that feeling I was 21 years old and taking my first trip abroad – to backpack in Europe- for five weeks. Euphoric is a good way to describe how I felt. The sights, the smells of the Mediterranean ocean, the waves crashing before me. These memories are technicolor, even though they were over a decade ago.

    I felt that rush of euphoria later, as I moved to Cambodia to finally pursue my dream of working in international human rights law. It was crazy scary for me because again I was doing it alone, but the world felt open, bright and full of magic.

    I felt it again when I began my relationship with my future fiance, though it wasn’t the weightlessness of past feelings; it felt grounded and weighty. And the world unfolded again. I wondered what I really knew and how a person could challenge so many things I thought were true.

    With a potential move out of Asia in the next month, I’ve been thinking how it will feel, to build a life again on American soil. I wonder too if I could term this excitement euphoria?

  • blandine February 4, 2013 at 11:16 am

    That’s funny, I find that I am much more careless as I grow older (I’ll be turning 34 soon). I didn’t like the uncertainties of college years, and I am much more confident now than I used to. Music is playing both the challenging and the nice part of my life, as well as travelling alone from time to time.

  • JuJu February 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this Jenna. I in the midst of dealing with, in my mind, one of my final moves. After college graduation I packed up and moved out west sans job or friends..or a couch. I think back on what a scary / exciting / adventurous time that was for me and how real and raw all my emotions were back then and despite setbacks was an amazing life experience. I moved back home recently because of job and family and the feeling of adventure and excitement isnt here? I dont know if its because I miss the “unknown” or what but I think back on when I was 21 and wonder if I will ever get that feeling back…..sounds dreary (its not!) but thanks for verbalizing your thoughts on a very similiar situation. I love you blog!!