Italians who find themselves living in northern countries really experience the lack of free time.
There is a thing in those cold countries: the pressure, the anxiety to be an interesting person. Your “free” time is everything but free! All activities are already scheduled for any single moment of time you have after school or after work. This is because an interesting and healthy person must have a talent and lots of hobbies. For an Italian who goes out with his German friends, for instance, it is kind of embarrassing to “admit” and “reveal” that he/she LITERALLY DID NOTHING all weekend!
Germans will say that they climbed some rocks in southern Bavaria, and they attended some Capoeira course, after jogging in the park and preparing for the “how to make sushi” classes.
When I heard everything my Polish friend has been doing from the time she was in the baby crib until now, I literally went into a state of “shock”. I was never brave enough to ask her:’Why are you studying to become a yoga instructor, even if you already work full time as a plastic surgeon and you have no intention to quit your job to become a yoga teacher? Why are you taking kite surfing classes during your one week vacation at the sea, even if you live in Austria? Why as a child did you take piano lessons, ballet, painting, skating and everything?
My question is: what do you want to become? What did your parents have in mind for you?
More importantly, when are you free? Why people do not appreciate il dolce far niente – the sweetness of DOING NOTHING!
My friends in the north don’t know that I spend every vacation in my little house at the see in Sicily, just doing NOTHING! I wake up and see the crystal blue water & the movement of the waves from my veranda, I go swim before breakfast and I relax at the beach for…mmmm….I don’t even know, maybe until I get hungry and go off to prepare some food. After lunch I go back to the beach, meet my friends and we stay all afternoon doing nothing! We just talk, swim, sunbathe, maybe
have a drink and ‘chillax’! This is the dolce far niente: nothing is the theme of our schedule!
Your free time is free because no activities are planned in advance! It’s the art of following your heart, your gut feeling, whatever your body wishes and craves for in that very moment- then go and ‘just do it!’
If they asked me: “shall we meet and have a drink next weekend?”, I answer perplexed “I am free now, come over” (who knows, what I want to do & where I will be next week?!
In the northern countries, meeting friends becomes a job: You have an appointment on your calendar, you cannot resign because your friend already reserved his time for you, you have to come on time (the meeting time was made clear from the beginning, be organized!); even place and activity are scheduled already (be prepared)! For me that takes that fun out of it! What is supposed to be free time becomes a bunch of check lists..
For me, Dolce far niente means freedom! I am a free person, I am not a slave to my hobbies and I don’t have to win any competition on who is the most interesting person who has tried any kind in this world.
I am a happy person, because even if I never learned to play an instrument or to ice skate, I know how to sit at the beach and just listen to the waves for hours and days and weeks. I do have a talent, like all those kids from the north: my talent is to observe the sea and feel how my skin is becoming sandy and my mind is becoming blue, the fusion of my body, my soul, sky, hearth and water.
What I would like to say to my friends of the north is that having learned any possible kind of activity does not make you necessarily smarter/more interesting/healthier. It is not what and how much you do but how you do it and how you talk about it! People find you interesting because you tell your stories in a passionate way, not because the story is interesting itself!
So, relax, take it easy, be passionate and enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing!