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Old dreams and new hopes

Image by Annie Williams

By Irena Ioannou

Last week, an old friend happened to be in town, and an out-of-the-blue phone call resulted in musings on the meaning of life over hot chocolate. It had been twenty years since we last saw each other, and yet there he was, with his wife, on their way to a wedding in a nearby city, looking the same, apart from a few white hairs and worsening eyesight, judging by the distance at which he was texting. We picked up the conversation from where we had left it two decades ago, as if nothing had changed. 

Yet, it is undeniable that so much has changed over the past two decades. Too many wars are happening too close, the supermarket prices are soaring, and it is practically impossible to rent an apartment at a reasonable price anywhere in the western world. At the same time, refugees are arriving by the hundreds in the hope of a better life, only to realize that life is hard everywhere. (There are, of course, different shades of hardness).

Our friend was a breath of fresh air, talking in an animated way about his job, his children, the wedding as an opportunity to travel. He seemed as if he had just been employed in his dream job, eager about what the future could bring him, the word ‘insecurity’ did not creep into our conversation even once. 

It had been too long since I last talked to someone utterly happy about his present and future, I realized after our meeting. Too long since I talked with people about their children’s future without their forehead furrowing in concern. I felt genuinely happy for my friend. He was still living his dream.

Living your dream is perhaps an attitude, not applicable to all people. Whether you are one of those taking the well-beaten track, and walking right in the middle of it, or one of those who take the road less traveled every single time, I guess the real question is how enthusiastic you are about what you do. If the flame is still burning, and if you are content. If you can control the things you can, and don’t worry over the things you cannot. 

If you are a parent, the dilemmas are constant. We are perplexed, because the more we protect our children the less capable we seem to make them to adapt to an ever-changing world. On top of that, the online world is ever present, offering too many possibilities, and people of all ages are lured into shutting the real world out. And the more the children grow, the more insecurity creeps in. What do you advise your children to study today? What profession can keep them safe from unemployment and give them a better life? Why do we fear that our children will have a worse life than we had?

A career in the airforce is the solution, our friend who visited had declared with confidence. Our children won’t get rich but they will always have food on the table and a roof over their heads. Plus money to lead a comfortable life, he had said. I was once again impressed by the enthusiasm in his voice. Maybe this is what brings real happiness: believing that there is a solution to every problem which does not include sidestepping your comfort zone. It saves you from pondering on all the other possibilities existing out there, and makes you focus on one attainable target every time.

We live in ‘the age of migration’. In a book with the same title, the researchers, Castles et al suggest that it is not the utterly destitute people who typically migrate. It is middle-class people, the ones who are educated enough to know that there is a better world out there—and that they have the qualifications to do something better—who choose to leave their comfort zone behind. They are the people considering their options and concluding that life is too short to not make an effort for something else. To not try to change their condition.

Perhaps what has kept our civilization afloat for thousands of years was enthusiasm and hope. Hope for the possibilities for a better future. Hope that there is a corner on this planet where we can be appreciated for who we are, and where we can have a meaningful sustainable life away from wars and insecurity. Hope that we have the time and the means to fulfill our dreams. Hope that the ugliness can be defeated, and we will meet and be surrounded by passionate people. Hope in life. 

Hope can be what unites us all.

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.


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