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  • Writer's pictureS. Yoshi Maezumi

The Life of an Academic Nomad

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

"The root of suffering is attachment." -The Buddha

On this day August 14th 1983, I was born in Hollywood, California to Martha and Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi. I spent the first few years of my life living at the Zen Center of Los Angeles. Since those early years, I have become an Academic Nomad, living around the world in Italy, England, Jamaica and have just recently relocated to Amsterdam to begin a new Marie Curie Research Fellowship at the University of Amsterdam. I have dedicated my life to my career as a scientist with the aim of inspiring greater curiosity and appreciation of the natural world in my students.

Celebrating my first birthday with my brother and sister.

Despite my love and dedication to my life's work, the life of an Academic Nomad comes with a unique set of challenges. My birthday falls during the prime-time for field research, a few weeks before the start of fall term when most new academic jobs start. Most of us Academic Nomads are conducting fieldwork abroad or moving to start new academic positions this time of year. As a result, we are often in transition during this time. I celebrated my 21st birthday floating on a boat on the Nile River in Egypt, my 30th birthday sailing in San Diego Harbor and my last birthday having a fish dinner in the sunken Pirate City of Port Royal, Jamaica. On this birthday, I am moving on to the MS Jacoba, a beautiful ship built in 1907 moored in a harbor north of the River Ij, Amsterdam.

Despite my excitement for my new job and idyllic new home, moving internationally three times in one year can be tiring and quite lonely. I have been meditating on this the past few days and am reminded of one of the most fundamental teachings in Zen, ingrained into my bones before I can remember: the root of all suffering is attachment. This attachment encompasses both what we desire, and what we seek to avoid.

The reason things are so precious is that they are impermanent. By being in the present moment we are able to appreciate this impermanence and love and cherish it for this fundamental, transitory nature. I am lonely because I am thinking of the places I am not, the people I miss, the laughs we are not sharing, the waves I am not surfing. I feel lonely because I am attached to past memories rather than living in the present moment.

So, as I begin this new day, I am grateful to my Mom and Dad for instilling their wisdom as it is the greatest birthday gift of all. I am setting my intention to be present during this next transitional phase as I know that, this too is impermanent. For all of you other Academic Nomads buried in storage boxes trying to find your French Press and house keys so you can get to your new office on time, know you are not alone and, this too shall pass.

Until next time,

Live Long and Science On.

Can you spot the dinosaur? Storage unit packing 101.

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