What makes you happy?
Do more of what makes you happy! This phrase by Carmel McConnel, a British author and campaigner with a focus on education, child poverty and wellbeing, first strikes me as a cliché. But then, to many, it is not a cliché but a way of life. As it is a quotation on a fridge magnet, I glance at it many times a day. My friend Susana gave it to me.
After her rather tough life in Madrid -her husband had gotten into drugs and Susana lost everything she had been working for, including her beautiful home-, she chose to leave Spain and to live in Greece. She decided to start from scratch, bearing in mind to do more of what made her happy. As she is both dynamic and eager to work, Susana immediately found an employment in sailing holidays tourism. Nowadays her job keeps her busy from May till October, the remaining months Susana is travelling around the globe with her English partner she met on tinder. In her previous life she was only dreaming of travelling the world, now she chooses each year a different destination, be it India, Srilanka or Australia.
What does it take to create your life the way you want it to be?
Don’t dwell on your past, Susana says. Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them. As she tends to repeat her mistakes, she laughs, she is inclined to tattoo this sentence on her skin.
On the ferryboat from Italy to Greece I shared a cabin with this interesting woman. We were exhausted strangers in the night and did not exchange many words till the next morning. By then, both with our heads on our pillows, we started to talk. Eleni told me she just was pensioned and that she had been a literary teacher at the university of Milan. And now, she literally burst into laughter, she was finally free to do what she wanted to do. So, against the odds, she was divorcing her Greek husband, to whom she had given 40 years of her life. She had pampered him, raised the children, done the household and been busy working at the university. Now, Eleni claimed, after a life of obligations, she wanted to do more of what made her happy, and not only be in charge of other people’s needs. It helped that her grown up children were morally supporting her. Eleni had such an aura of lightness and joy around her as she told me what she was going to do next. She would read all the books she never had had the time to read and spend time with her friends all over Greece and in Italy. To start with, she was on her way to visit a priest in Patras, a friend she had grown up with, and with whom she would have big laughs and discuss life, philosophy and literature from sunset till dawn.
And then there is Sonja, who, after a successful operation of a brain tumour, quits her well paid job in Luxembourg to finally go and live with the man she loves. In Vienna. She quotes Jacques Brel:
“Je vous souhaite des rêves à non plus finir, et l’envie folle d’en réaliser quelques-uns”.
After years of flying back and forth between Luxembourg and Austria, they both decided that there is no time to lose to be with the one that you love. Well, after pondering these brave women’s decisions, the quotation on the fridge magnet doesn’t strike me as a mere cliché anymore!