Una stanza tutta per sé

The London diary & other adventures

The beginning

Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm – Four

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This story begins years ago, when I was far too young to remember.

This story begins when I started to have the first connections with the world around me, when I learnt how to behave, how to speak, how to walk.
When I began to understand how to be me.
If there’s ever been a way to figure out how to be one’s self.

When I moved to London I thought I knew exactly who I was.
I had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but I least I was absolutely sure of who I was as an individual… but a couple of years later I realised that in truth I had no clue.

At least, I didn’t know how to be myself without being self detrimental.

I come from a family where love and affection have always been unexpressed.
I can count on one hand the times my mum and my dad disclosed their love to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always had all that I needed and they have always been very concerned of my material needs.
But when it came to feelings, well… that’s a completely different story.

Having two parents who avoid emotions is not easy, or at least I’ve realised at a later stage in my life that it doesn’t make things easier when it comes to learn how to build a balanced existence.
My dad had always been far too absorbed in his job to spend some time with me, and my childhood memories seldom includes him. He’s always been very proud of his business, proud of the fact that despite his humble origins he managed to become extremely successful.
My mum loved him so much that she supported him throughout an entire life of sacrifices to give us daughters anything that we need.

I know my parents loved me and love me deeply.
I just wish they were able to say it out loud, to hug me and to praise me when I deserve to be praised as well as to tell me off when necessary.

I’ve always lived in the constant state of mind that I was never enough, that I always needed to do more to gain the approval of my parents.
I clearly remember the first episode, when I distinctly knew that my life-long battle to prove my value had just started.
I must have been 13, and I used to do mandatory after-school activities. There were several creative activities proposed by the school, such as music, arts, volleyball, soccer and so on My passion at that time was theatre. I had been involved in all the productions for 3 years in a row, rehearsing 2 shows every year and somehow obtaining the main parts every single time. I loved it, it was my pride and joy.

During my last year at middle school the teachers picked a musical and the mise-en-scene of the show incorporated all the after-school activities. Some students worked on the set design, some others on the music… it was a big project and we were all extremely proud of it. I remember that for the occasion the teachers also decided to schedule two shows and not just one as per usual: for the first time all the parents were allowed to come to the school and see the show.

I played the part of one of the protagonists and I was so excited! I talked constantly about the show, I was rehearsing every day at home and I also recorded a couple of tracks with one of my music teachers. I literally couldn’t wait for my parents to see the final result and to admit that I had done something great.
On the day of the show I was so nervous, my only desire was to please them, as if my mum and my dad were the only two people in the entire theatre.
I was acting for them, singing for them, giving all I had for them!

And when the curtain got shut I felt it, for an indiscernible moment I felt complete, I felt fulfilled. I knew that they were just outside the stage door waiting for me to praise me, so I picked all my things and I went to find them.
I remember my mother’s expression, forcing a smile while talking to the other mums; she’d never been a sociable person, if she could she would have spent her entire life reading her books sitting on her armchair.

I remember walking towards her full of joy, hugging her awkwardly and then waiting for a comment, any comment. Any kind of comment would have been great. And I waited, and waited, and waited. Waited for the minutes to pass by while all the other mums were praising me and she stood there still, in silence.

I just couldn’t understand what was wrong. I walked all the way to the car racking my brain… what was the problem? I just couldn’t figure it out.
And then I asked. “Mum, what did you think about the show? Did you like it?”

“Yeah, you’ve all been good… however, Federica, you shouldn’t be speaking with other people when you’re on the stage, it doesn’t look good, you know?”

I felt my little heart falling slowly on the floor and breaking into 2000 pieces. I knew exactly what she was talking about, a scene involving a great number of students in which we were advised by our teacher to talk to each other to create a murmuring sound.
I was supposed to do it, and still she couldn’t get it.

I remember that we got home and I just went straight to bed without saying a word.
I fell asleep trying to recall that sense of fulfilment that I had felt just a few hours before.
But it was gone.
And I remember so many similar episodes during the following years when I became a dance teacher and the stage was my second home.
All my efforts were never enough, and the more I tried to please them the more I felt I was failing with my life.

But I kept on fighting every day, for years, waiting for her praise.

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One comment on “The beginning

  1. Cristina
    4 April 2016

    Your parents are the exact copy of mine… The only difference between you and me is that you’ve found your place in the world, far away from them, and you’ve made one of the best choice you could have done in your entire life. Trust me.
    I’m going through the same situation as you’ve mentioned above, I’m never enough, and even though I’m doing my best to “please” them, nothing good ever comes out of their mouth. They’re always looking for “perfection” and yet nothing is good enough and could have been done better.
    I don’t know how to break the chains and escape from here. Family sometimes is all we have and we don’t have many choices.

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