Seven years ago, I was living in Northamptonshire and working as a Psychology lecturer, both of which I was very happy with. Then Ian landed his dream job, which happened to be in Cambridgeshire. I had to agree that it was worth moving for, and so we moved.
We didn't take to the East, and every trip back to the Midlands gave us pangs of homesickness. We didn't regret moving - it was the right decision at the time - but we never felt that we belonged in the East. It was only after we'd moved to Wales that we could visit the village where we used to live without wishing that we lived there still.
It was the same with work. Having left academia, when I had the chance to go to an academic conference with my new job it felt like going home. I was once again surrounded by people who'd been educated the same way as me which meant, to a very large extent, we had the same ways of thinking.
Over the past few months I've found myself missing that kind of interaction. I know lots of lovely, interesting people, but I can't just assume a certain body of knowledge or a certain way of thinking. With some trepidation, I booked a place at my favourite conference, the annual meeting of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology, which was in southern Spain this year.
The conference was last week and my goodness, it was hard work! This was largely the challenge of travelling - and just getting by - in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. I also suffered terribly from the heat, which was entirely predictable, though I had expected the lecture theatres to be air conditioned, which they weren't.
So much for the practicalities, what about the conference Itself? It was excellent. It took me while to get back into it and at one point on the first day I put up my hand to ask a question only to find that my brain had ceased working, which was a little embarrassing. I'd also forgotten quite how difficult some Philosophy talks can be, especially when the speaker has a strong foreign accent and is simply reading out a written dissertation.
By the second day I was back into the swing of it. I could keep up with the talks, make intelligent contributions, and met interesting people, some of whom I went out for dinner with and had a lovely evening. Unfortunately I felt ill on the third day, whether from drinking tap water, eating salad, or just the heat, I don't know, but I recovered by the afternoon and attended talks on belief and rationality, the self, and self consciousness. This included a talk by one of the people I'd had dinner with that seemed to me an example of the best that philosophy can offer science - a,
What exactly do you mean by that?
The final day passed in similar fashion, with talks on what we mean when we say how big something is, on metaphor, and a very entertaining session on sport psychology. I thoroughly enjoyed it, in spite of the heat, but I didn't get that sense of homecoming that I'd had before. Whilst I can participate in an academic conference and enjoy it very much, I no longer feel part of that world any more.
Really, this is the best possible outcome. I had a good time but it didn't make me want to go back to my old life. I'm not sure whether I'll go to another conference. It was a huge effort and the cost wasn't insignificant, either. It took ten weeks of my little part time job to pay for this. Worth it to learn that I don't want to go back to my old life, but I'm not sure whether it would be worth going again. Maybe I'll change my mind in a year or two. As with the village I used to live in, I can go back for a visit and feel happy to come home again.