Italy is a wonderful teacher, probably the best teacher around if you’re in the business of learning how to appreciate life. The secret? That’s simple, it's simplicity! Simplicity can translate into enjoying the small, seemingly insignificant aspects of life. Eating, strolling along a quiet street, cooking up a storm, talking and more talking–the parts of life that often are taken for granted suddenly become some of life's greatest gifts.
Life in America is very fast-paced. We are always on to the next thing, the next goal, the next promotion, as though we are running straight into the arms of our ultimate demise. Almost all of our time and energy goes into our careers, whether in building or in planning.
Our careers can often take the front seat to the "secondary" parts of life such as family, social life, spirituality, or alone time with yourself. Our careers seem to define us. Whenever you meet someone new you are almost always asked, "What do you do?" in order to give the questioner an understanding of who you are. An Italian will almost never ask you this. These masters of communication can talk for hours on end without ever bringing work into the conversation. They view socialization as one of life's many simple pleasures.
I spoke with a Frenchwoman about my mother's long work hours and little vacation time. The woman's response has stuck with me. She simply stated, "It sounds as though you live to work." That is just it, isn't it? Our lives revolve so much around our majors, the amount of digits we make, getting recruited for the next job or internship, moving up in the company, that we lose sight of everything else our fleeting lives have to offer. Do you think that on my deathbed, I will be reminiscing on all of the money I made? I hope not because that sounds like a dull and unfulfilling life. Do I take my future seriously? Absolutely. However, my career will be a part of me- I refuse to let it become me.
Italians work to live. They work to pay for the things they find important, whether that is good olive oil, a fresh meal at a local ristorante with friends and good conversation, a vacation spent cliff jumping, or a nightly gelato. Most Italians I have come across do not crave expensive luxuries; most do not even have air conditioning, dishwashers, or drying machines. These luxuries are better spent in other areas that they believe will bring them fulfillment.
They take their work very seriously. Even the woman responsible for sweeping the streets finds joy in her job and views it as a serious job. These people work hard for their money and they know which areas to spend it on, letting nothing go to waste. There is an Italian saying, "La dolce far niete”, or "The sweetness of doing nothing.” The Italians view doing nothing as an earned skill. Nothing can be whatever you desire it to be just as long as you are reveling in it. In Italy it can be taking a siesta between one and four pm, listening to beautiful music in the Piazza, drinking wine as the sun sets, or anything that bring you zero stress and complete peace. Doing nothing means slowing your life down enough to notice the little things and living in the moment, not in tomorrow, or the next week, or the years after graduation, but in the NOW.
You are not promised tomorrow and, while the future is important, thinking too much on it will only bring worry, which fosters stress and anxiety. Learn from the Italians and simplify your life; spend more time enjoying the beautiful life you are given. Your future career is important, but do not let it completely take hold of you and control every step you take or decision you make. Spend the time learning new things, finding new inspiration, nurturing your existing passions, and keeping an open mind to the world, because at the end of the day, that is what’s going to bring you a step closer to the happiness that many spend all of their lives chasing. Your life is beautiful, don’t miss a second of it.