The Diary of an academic nomad: saudades

Today I came across a Portuguese word that prompted me to write this post.

The word is saudades. I understand that  this is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. The Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo says it is: “a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.”

On a science (mostly) blog this may be an odd topic to write about but I feel more than many topics this is true for nomads, even academic ones. Or perhaps even more so for us who are meant to be only rational and scientific with little sentiment. Each time we move after having made a place home we embrace or succumb to this pleasure-pain. What keeps us moving is often prosaic (making ends meet, career advancement) and at times deeper (the restless need to explore something new).

Today I miss London so much it is almost a  physical ache – I can barely look anywhere or at anything without it reminding me of London. Why can we not live in two places at once? Why this pain of having to choose?

What will happen if ever I could go on space travel- how much would I miss all the places on Earth? Would I be able to live for saudades?

To make this separation more bearable or to make Sydney more my home I am trying to start a local section of OSA with some colleagues drawn from various institutions across Sydney. It is of no particular surprise to me that most of us have come to Sydney from other parts of the world. Although our explicitly stated objectives and intentions in forming the section are professional and scientific, I think somewhere the truth of it includes trying to recreate that which we are nostalgic for- a piece of our history even.

It is lovely that Science is the form by which we try and find those connections with our own lives.

Have you felt this way ever?

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