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CHANGING PERSPECTIVE FOR A BETTER WORLD
Image by Nikola Ancevski
By Irena Ioannou
When was the last time we had the time of our lives?
A month ago I did something I had never tried before. I booked four tickets to Paris on a Wednesday and three days later I found myself outside the airport abandoning the car at a no-parking area. Next to me my husband and two older children were laughing at us not having a clue of what to do once we landed in France.
The children had many reasons to be happy. They were traveling abroad for the first time, and this during a school week. My husband and I had even more reasons to cheer. We had managed to coordinate our leave from work last-minute, found cheap plane tickets, and we were finally getting away. Changing our perspective. Seeing something new.
Paris was as expected and more. It was heavenly. Above all though it was a reminder of what life had been before pregnancies and raising children and stressing about things that could not be changed. Way before deadly viruses, face masks, and night curfews. It was a week with only one thing in mind: how to have the time of our lives.
Upon returning from our holidays we discovered we were not the only ones that had chosen Paris. Or Milan. Or any European country with a direct flight from Crete. Whenever we discussed our experience we established that most of our friends, relatives, acquaintances, had either just returned from abroad or were just about to leave. On their first trip ever.
In discussing this new reality on an island with people accustomed to welcoming tourists rather than being travelers themselves, everyone concluded that, a) duties and commitments are never-ending, b) life is short, and c) if Covid hadn’t happened we would probably never have realized it. Sad but true.
Bad news keeps making the headlines lately but something in the air has changed. The people seem more determined to stop the misery.
The Great Resignation
A first indication of change has been the great resignation. Many companies have seen their employees reluctant to get back to work after the pandemic. The tourism sector in Greece infamous for its seasonal work, long hours and low pay has been suffering heavily. Hotels are reopening but the employees are questioning everything: the bad working conditions, the insecurity, their life decisions. Somehow a sector which brings billions in revenue to its stakeholders fails to provide living wages to its workers. And yet, until recently this was considered normal.
US studies on the ‘great resignation’ attribute this phenomenon to “epiphanies” about “family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, [and] life and death” and talk about “a complete reset” of life. When our computer jams we try to reset it. The same has arguably happened with people. Whether it concerns low-paid or high-paid jobs, employees are no longer inclined to see their life pass by them while they agonize about finishing one more project or serving one more drink. Life does not begin and end at work.
I have read so many articles about how not only is there time for everything one wants and has to do, but if you fail, it is totally your fault. It is suggested that it is in your power for instance to: a) start a family with a loving partner, b) become an excellent, caring, patient parent, b) gain a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree, and find the job of your dreams, d) get the promotion you deserve by working hard, e) be happy amidst all these, and still have time for yourself. You just need to organize things better. Be a step ahead of the rest. Yeah, right.
Every single thing from the list above needs time, which we, well, do not have. I admire the people who can juggle everything and still keep a smile on their face. I cannot. I cannot both cook the perfect home-made dinner after work, and have the patience to listen to how my daughter had a bad day in kindergarten, and soothe her. If I manage to actually pay attention to her, I will not have the time to take a bath. Or rush my other daughter to the ballet. Never mind time to practice mindfulness. Adulthood teaches you that time is finite.
What this troubling period has taught us perhaps is that in rushing all day, we forget to have a good time. And we do not have a good time when we are badly paid and struggling to make ends meet, or when we are working long hours just to earn more, manage more and succeed in more. We do not have a good time when we just go with the flow, and our only concern is to manage it just one more day.
What I see in the people resigning and traveling is a manifestation of change. I see hope that there is something else out there. And the belief that we can control our own lives. I see an opportunity to finally make this world a better place.
Irena Ioannou writes from Crete, Greece and her work has recently appeared in Crannóg and Betty Fedora. She is currently working on her first novel. She is a mother of five.