‘I already lived 25 years in Sicily, and this planet is too big’ is my answer to everyone asking why I left Sicily.
Yet, the majority of Sicilians I meet abroad aren’t longing for adventures or feeding wanderlust. They live elsewhere because of work, to make money, to get ‘a better life’ while secretly or not so secretly weep to come back. This draws a thick line between them and me. Since my fourteen I longed for every single thing which wasn’t familiar. I was 15 when I literally run away from home and parents. It wasn’t a great attempt, it lasted not even a full day, but it was a great start I guess. Back to the nest, from books to postcards to far penpals to foreign languages and music, men, parents unapproved substances – whatever could bring me far from where my feet and mind were constrained to, it was a high pick.
I made a choice when I moved out of it for the very first time, and I make it every time I wonder where to go next. The following is a list of my own personal reasons on why I left but also what doesn’t make me want to come back yet.
#1 I take responsibility for my life
There is little or no meritocracy in Italy. In Sicily, I doubt people even know what does the word mean – besides politicians on campaigns and other sorts of charlatans.
I remember in High school during an English conversation exchange with Swiss students, we asked:
‘Do you need a recommendation to get a job in Switzerland?’
I wish I could draw a picture of those puzzled, sunburnt young faces. Their mutism made us beg better translation to our equally muted teachers before the adults in the room sank in a general astonishment: recommendation doesn’t exist in a meritocratic society dictionary. The same way that the ‘earn up to what you can do, to your qualifications, past experience and your actual performance on the job’ in Sicily is a plot for a sci-fi fiction novel. [For the Swiss-minded: recommendation is getting a job through someone who has ‘a power’ without undergoing interviews, paper checks, skills and qualification. The person who provides the job can be a simple doorman looking for a cleaner – it doesn’t necessarily imply great power – and will get favours in return].
My parents were both teachers and affirmed that this system wouldn’t work in public school, but I am not sure if they were saying this to reassure themselves or because they really never witnessed any dirty thing of this sort. The public sector to me looks worse than the private.
#2 I am a free individual
I have the constant feeling to be stupid when I go home, the way you are made dependent on a system of things you can’t even dare thinking to change, you turn into the perfect slave. Even though I have significant doubts about the freedom we are granted while living integrated into a fixed community, I still think and believe that I am capable of doing of my life whatever I want, in the same measure I am not damaging any other person’s freedom, mental/physical health or private space. When I am in Sicily, and there is a conversation about something wrong (say: the road hasn’t been repaired for 25 years), you will have a preset of comments:
‘this is life.’
‘there’s nothing really much we can do but pray God’
‘we have to bare it and live with it’.
When I hear such comments from my 92 years old grandmother is all good. What worries me is when these realism-literature-books-like quotes come from the mouth of young, capable, smart people. How can you be so conscious of renouncing to the right of creating the life you want – just because this victimisation and passive attitude you’ve been accustomed to?
#3 I can mind my fucking business
Everything you need to do in Sicily is a “community” thing, in the worst meaning of the word. I think I am still able to book a GP or renew a TV license without involving someone else.
I don’t like when too many people know about my private stuff without me putting a consent on it, but even worse – in Sicily people demand things and turn offended if they aren’t involved in your private gynaecological visit to book. You want to keep your shit for yourself? Good luck, keep reading.
#4 I am not a diva, and I don’t need a stage
It doesn’t matter if you live in the capital. I did live in Palermo, and the small neighbourhoods were worse than my 4.000 souls hometown. Whatever you do, people will observe you, comment you, look at you, talk to you, be mad at you, be in love with you. And if you’re silent, they come and intrude your space every single minute of your day. Everyone minds everyone else fucking business as if the whole day there is no other activity to focus on. Far from being a behaviour typical just of Sicily, I do prefer the hypocrisy of fake Anglo Saxon neighbours who at least have the decency to speak at your back or don’t keep staring at you and say they don’t like the flashy colour of your underwear hanging to dry – as if were their own.
#5 I wanna keep living inside my head
One of my favourite hobbies is people watching, I like being on the backstage, taking notes of how this life goes by. Out in the world, I am like a sponge. I take what I need, and then hide in my den for a couple of years (probably), to give birth to something I am dying to say out loud. I noticed that being in an environment where I am not in my own native language, let me take just what I need. I can filter conversations because I need to give attention to things, facts, advertisements, overheard phone calls on. When I am back in Sicily is like I have to undress of who I am today to enter a world made of my family, noisy chatters all day and night, my toxic ex-boyfriends and a set of people whom – honestly – I can’t care that much today. It’s a violent familiarity, it comes to take me even when it’s unwanted. I know how and who to cherish when the time is right – I don’t need to say it out loud.
#6 I want to enjoy my life
Yes, enjoy it. Where people live just to work isn’t my place, and they aren’t my people either.
I work to live and to do a whole lot of awesome things in between.
Before someone has to drag my corpse in a stinky cemetery, hell, I wanna have fun.