I recently learned that the opposite of deja vu is jamais vu, meaning “never seen.”
Deja vu is the feeling that you’re experiencing something familiar, even though it’s most definitely your first time in the situation. It’s walking into a room you’ve never been to, maybe in a city you’ve never even visited, and feeling oddly at home.
Jamais vu is more of a lost feeling, the feeling that you don’t recognize something you know to be familiar to you. I like to think of it as walking through the halls of your high school, years after graduating, and everything feeling foreign to you even though you were there nearly every day for four years.
Well, that was my favorite way to describe jamais vu until Sunday night.
A huge storm system recently rolled over Seward, bringing with it the usual high winds and heavy rains. I was waiting for it all day Sunday. I canceled plans with the knowledge that the storm would be starting “any minute now,” and the intense desire to not be caught in it.
By the time I snuggled into bed Sunday night, the rain had been falling steadily, so I opened my window and listened as I drifted to sleep.
Then, at 3 a.m. I awoke with a flash! This loud, frightening sound filled my apartment and startled me awake. I convinced myself that there had been an explosion somewhere far off in my own personal dreamland that had shook me awake. But then, I was blinded by light and heard the loud rumble again.
Did a transformer explode? Were we under attack? What in the world was happening outside my window? I peeked outside and saw nothing but black. I waited, and tried to think of a word to describe the noise: deafening, crashing, roaring, thundering.
That thunderous noise outside my window? It was just lightning and thunder.
Now, I grew up with summer storms. High winds, loud thunder and bolts of lightning would dance together outside my window. The large oak trees framing my childhood bedroom would dance with them, sending me to sleep on the couch in case any of their boughs decided to fall into bed with me.
I would sit on the beach, staring at lightning streaking above the Atlantic Ocean and counting “1, 2, 4, 5, 6 …” to see just how far away it was. Anything less than three, and we would sprint off the beach for cover.
But, last Sunday night, I had no idea what was going on. When faced with something so very familiar, I was at a loss. After so many years in Alaska, I had forgotten what thunder sounded like. Once I realized, though, I opened my window a little more. From the shelter of my bed, I peaked my head out, enjoying the stormy downpour and the flood of memories it brought with it.