Life, memories

That five year old girl

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sketch-girlA year is only three hundred and sixty five days. Three hundred and sixty five times you hopefully open your eyes in the morning, you reach for your iphone or ipad and with your eyelids still sticking to each other you try to catch up with your online universe, and finally you pull yourself out of bed. Three hundred and sixty five times you open the curtains and look at the sky to decide what to wear. You make yourself a coffee, take a shower and you are ready to go. And such, a year revolves and you find yourself in the same stores looking for new year gifts. The same songs, the same stupid decorations, the same artificial happy people.

With this perspective, a year is an insignificant notion.

When you are a child, a year seems to be like a stretched chewing gum that never ends. Asked about your age you say: “I am five years and eight months, soon I will be six!”. And that appears to promise an older and wiser you, closer to your goal of becoming independent in not more than twelve years and four long months.

As a young teenager I was impatient to turn eighteen. I kept telling my mother that I couldn’t wait to hit majority. She kept asking me what was it that I wanted to do that I could not do then? I had no answer. In retrospect, I know that what I was yearning for was not to have more freedom, it was a quest to gain maturity, hoping to be less restless, less lost. I was looking for answers to my existential questions. Yes, I had many questions about the reasons of life, I dragged them with me many years after my eighteenth birthday, some are still chewing my mind.

My childhood was somehow banal and somehow special. I was the third child with a large difference with the two others. My parents always told me that I was a “happy accident”. That was probably their way of telling me that they loved me. I was not just an accident, but a “happy” one. I lived my childhood in the shadow of others, not to make too much mess, as there was already a lot going on. In the background of our family life, I developed a calm but strong will. I was an independent child. I remember that I had found a hand held tape recorder that I would use to record my voice while reading my lessons and then play it back to practice my spelling. I would correct my own homework and note myself. I would even sign for my parents! Talk about parental participation in education.

I love my childhood. Ironically I have a lot of very good memories. “Ironically”, because while I was dressing up my Barbies and developing my first crushes on boys, I grew up witnessing a revolution and a war. Nowadays, it is hard for me to imagine where my mother was finding the courage to put me in the school bus in the morning, knowing that at some point we would have air strikes and who knew what could happen. Interestingly, in these circumstances people do not dramatize much, life goes on. War makes only part of your life, it does not define it. My dad kept his optimism and unfading smile until the end of the war and my mom never showed how scared she was. I was five when my dad took me on his shoulders to watch the happy revolutionaries chanting victory and giving away candies, and I was fourteen when the war ended. I do not wish any child to live in a war and an unrested country, but those years educated me in a way no book could do. They shaped my vision of the world, and that of life. When in an excruciatingly difficult day, I find myself watching a comedy and laugh genuinely, I know that that child in me is still alive. I have flash backs of us eating ice cream amidst the bombs hitting our city. The absurd was our daily routine. That is how one survives.

And why do I remember all these now? I don’t know. Another year is coming to its end. With it, my year in the US is achieved and soon I will go back to France and live the new old chapter of my life. A year ago, I was the most miserable creature on earth that didn’t want to move again. The thought of making a new home, meeting new people, starting a new job was overwhelming. I just wanted to “settle down” and stay in France. But a little voice in my head kept telling me that if I don’t take the opportunity to live a new experience, I would regret it. That little voice was right. At the end of these 365 days, I am very happy that I once more crossed the Atlantic. This year was very difficult on personal level, but I developed strategies to survive. I can say this was probably one of the most important years of my life. One year, as short as it is, is worth being lived fully. Exactly like that ice cream that we used to savor while the air raid siren was broadcasted from the radio. I also know that “settling down” is a sad depressing notion, at least for me. I love being in the move, living and discovering new things and hence discovering myself, and not stagnate in known conformities.

Having said all these, I keep bitching about how I am tired of moving again, negotiating with movers, landlords, new job, etc. The difference is that no one is taking me seriously anymore. My friends listen to me, smile and tell me: “You’ll be fine, think about the bright side, you’ll drink good wine”.