That feeling where you can’t sit still, your insides are vibrating and you don’t know whether to run or take a shot of whisky to calm yourself down?
My first encounter with this word was while watching Heroes and decompressing after a long day: “When a change comes, some species feel the urge to migrate, they call it zugunruhe. ‘A pull of the soul to a far off place,’ following a scent in the wind, a star in the sky. The ancient message comes calling the kindred to take flight and gather together. Only then they can hope to survive the cruel season to come.”
Sounds a bit romanticized.
A German compound word–like Torschlusspanik (which means “gate-closing panic” and refers to the fear of diminishing opportunities with age)–Zugunruhe perfectly describes this wanderlust that can’t be shaken. Zug means migration; Unruhe is anxiety or restlessness. After spending days and nights sitting in front of a computer (once for almost 25 hours straight), I’m ready to get a move on!
With further googling, a study by Barbara Helm and Eberhard Gwinner from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany (2006) popped up. They tested the presence of Zugunruhe in stonechats (Saxicola torquata) and described it as “the urge of captive birds to migrate, [manifesting] itself in seasonally occurring restlessness.” This restlessness exhibits itself in increased nocturnal activity with photoperiodic responses that change seasonally.
Check, check and check.
This term has apparently caught on (awhile ago…)—capturing artist Rachel Berwick in her beautiful 2009-2010 display, Zugunruhe. Writer James Gorman also expresses this universal urge in his 2006 New York Time’s piece It’s Time to Discuss Migration, but I’ve Got to Be Moving On.
Finally! Something to describes this pent-up energy with the only current outlet: cartwheels down empty halls at 3AM during bathroom breaks or vending machine raids for chocolate. Or when procrastinating during a paper–frantic searches for flights to far, far away places.
Strange to think a year ago, I was getting ready to celebrate Christmas down in Lajuma, South Africa. Now I’m stuck in “Hell” most hours of the day (typically nighttime–I’ve turned nocturnal). Hell is the nickname we’ve bestowed upon the Roehampton Whiteland’s 24hr computer room.
Initially–due to being ridiculously hot with tapdancing elephants above and noisy undergraduates within–the name was brought on by a hilarious, delirium driven conversations that only occurs during the wee hours after long hours in front of a computer. With winter, Hell has now frozen over as–for some reason–there’s no way to regulate the temperatures in this room to a comfortable median. Oh well.
Now it’s all primates, primates, primates; reading, dreaming, talking, writing all on primates. It’s been great and insightful being surrounded by people with similar backgrounds but can I get out of London please???
Sometimes, I’m just bursting and frazzled with too much something–zugunruhe. Or even Toska— the Russian word that describes a sense of aching without any specific causes or a vague restlessness.
Despite the beautiful architecture, everything is just too darn expensive to fully enjoy sometimes. City life can be stifling and there’s been no chance of hiking or rock climbing. My home range has been reduced down to 2km² with passage through the “landscape of fear” between home and university.
This landscape of fear refers to the dodgy bit I traverse daily frequented by British youth with nothing better to do than bluff and harass people. Sometimes this escalates, as seen during a stabbing earlier last week when Roehampton security drove me home.
However, coming this spring, I plan on migrating back down to Africa. The plan is currently Nigeria, but who knows?
In the meantime, I’ll need to find an outlet to dispel or distract this feeling. Luckily, a friend from home will be visiting next week after Christmas!
Here’s to cheery holiday spirits to everyone!