Different aches

Fernweh
n. (German)
lit. “farsickness”; an ache or longing for the distance; a synonym for Wanderlust

Heimweh
n. (German)
homesickness

“Apparently there’s only a choice between Fernweh and Heimweh; but there is always an ache.” –Unknown

The other day I was in a Turkish restaurant, staring at a photograph of Galata Bridge, Istanbul, and thinking about how I missed the city. I missed the feeling of insignificance in the face of something so much immensely huge, historic, and old. I wanted the feelings of lostness and infinite possibility and anonymity that come with losing yourself in a big place. I missed surrendering control.

Of course, when I left Turkey in December, I was completely sick of those feelings. I practically hated feeling lost and out of control. I wanted to be an autonomous, discrete individual with total comprehension of and mastery over my environment. Right now, living in D.C. working as a teacher, I have achieved a high degree of predictability and control. But at dinner that night, the old ache of wanderlust was creeping back in, and I explained this to my dinner partner.

“The grass is always greener on the other side,” was the answer.

“No, it’s not that. That belittles the feelings,” I said, “The reality is not that simple. It’s not a simple matter of perception and expectancy. The reality is that the grass is green on both sides, but you can’t be on both sides at the same time. You can only choose one, but then you miss the other. It’s wanderlust or homesickness.”

Thinking about it later, I realized it’s not quite that. It’s not as though the grass is the exact same green on both sides. It’s that they are both different and wonderful greens, and both are luscious and nourishing and, in excess, nauseating, but no matter what you can’t enjoy both at once.

Sometimes life presents us with alternatives that are equally good in their own ways, but you can’t have both. How do you choose between two equally good alternatives? How do you strike a balance?

German vocabulary and quote via Melancholy Notes.

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2 thoughts on “Different aches

  1. elkampong July 14, 2011 / 2:33 pm

    Eloquent and thought-provoking as usual. 🙂

    Like

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