Wanderlust. Cabin fever. Ennui. Just plain ole boredom. There are many words to describe the feeling of wanting to be somewhere other than where you are. That feeling you get when you look around your room, house or apartment and think to yourself “Jeez, I gotta get outta here. Now.”
But, there is a German word that perfectly encapsulates the feeling of wanting to be somewhere other than the place you call home. That word is fernweh. Like many other German words (schadenfreude, zeitgist, weltanschauung) fernweh captures an almost indescribable feeling in one word. It literally means “farsickness” or “an ache for the distance”, and I can’t think of a time in my life when I haven’t suffered from it.
But the last couple of years, and the last few months in particular have brought on an almost unbearable feeling of fernweh.
I was born and raised in Middle Tennessee and lived here until I left to attend graduate school. Five years later, after spending time in North Carolina and St. Louis, I moved back to teach at my undergraduate alma mater in Murfreesboro. What I thought might be a three year experience; and an opportunity to save some money, see my family again and prepare for the next stage of life, turned into an eight year journey. During this time, I got married, navigated a multitude of family issues, made baby steps in my career as an actor, and taught Theatre Appreciation to thousands of weary college students who weren’t always exactly grateful for or interested in my efforts.
My friends and family are sick and tired of hearing me complain about how much I want to leave the area I call home. My husband and I are constantly embarrassed by people saying things like “When do you guys plan on leaving?” The truth is, I don’t know. If I had the resources and the opportunity, I would’ve been gone. But the fact is, it takes a great deal of money to move everything you own to a new place and start all over again. Especially since all of the places I love just happen to be the most expensive places in the world. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles—all are places I have been fortunate enough to spend a considerable amount of time in, and in each city, I have loved discovering the culture, the diversity, and the myriad of opportunities that just aren’t as plentiful in the Middle Tennessee area. There is always a sadness in me when I have to return to Murfreesboro after having spent a few weeks or an entire summer in a large, vibrant city. As wonderful as the Middle Tennessee area is (and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place for a lot of reasons), there has always been a part of me that has longed to live somewhere else, and not just for a brief period of time. My soul aches for a place in the distance, another place to call home—and this time, for good.