I left my place of birth, Naples in 1999.
Naples can be a cosmic joke, where the sacred and the profane, the beauty and the ugly, the kindness and the crime thrive side-by-side. A city of great contradictions, often incomprehensible place, simultaneously seductive, thrilling and bewildering. Naples has a reputation for trash and chaos which ahimé, is not entirely undeserved. The contrast between the magnificence of the city’s setting and the poverty of its rowdy underclass is an assault on the senses. It is a cultural shock for many.
It feels almost as it was a life ago, when I left to go and study in London as an exchange student for 6 months, ending up there for 8 years with a Wellcome Trust’s studentship for a PhD at Imperial College.
Easy to get carried away with memories when you are spending time at home in a ‘still’ mode…so called in a current terminology “lockdown” (btw, don’t agree with the definition, which implies an obligation whereas it is personal choice and individual responsibility).
Looking back, I can picture myself in the lab, struggling with those horrible animals’ experiments. The learning then was that the purpose often justifies the mean…
I started building my character of young and quite naif lady leaving home without a word of English; it was purposely planned: I arranged the agreement between my university in Naples and the one in London (that had accepted to welcome for the first time a foreign student), through determination and negotiation. I can say that my personal journey symbolically starts here, when I felt the urge to ‘fly’; aka to go and discover what outside Naples, what outside Italy, what outside my tiny bubble.
I am a teenager grown up in London, that flourished into a mature woman the hard way. I remember those years with pride and a big smile; a rainbow that coloured my youth, enabling me to choose which path to take and which one to let go, who I wanted to become and who I did not. I was lucky enough to find lifetime friendships, my first true love, acquaintances from anywhere in the world, a professor that became a second dad I am still in contact with; I was crazy enough to learn acrobatic dancing on old fashion (vintage) quads, I was brave enough to buy a house when my dream was to focus on love and family, I was good enough to get my PhD in Infectious Diseases from Imperial College…and I was big enough to leave everything behind me and move on after 8 years of that London life.
In 2006, I moved to Brussels where I stayed 3 years with much less remarkable and crazy memories; and yet, I collected few experiences before leaving again. It was my first job in the corporate world at Procter&Gamble.
Next stop, it is Switzerland where I stayed the longest, working for big Pharma (Novartis, GSK). Achievements, professional development, ups and down resulting in an amazing learning curve.
A corporate life by the sound of it…and the complete opposite in reality.
Extra curricula ‘stories’ have contributed to make who I am today. My career decisions were driven by a need to combine personal fulfilment and career, personal and professional growth. I was a director in the pharmaceutical industry, and this has never been enough for me.
I have engaged in several humanitarian projects, using any vacation to volunteering in different parts of Africa. I took a 6 months sabbatical from Novartis, and traveled throughout Benin in a 4×4 managing a network of orphanages involved in a project of adoption at distance. This experience was a breakthrough in my journey.
Every part of the journey contributed in its own mysterious way to bring some clarity; to teach me something new; to show me a different prospective to mine. And so, I came to know things I didn’t know before; or more correctly said, I became aware of things I was ignoring before.
Now I have it a lot clearer the life I want for myself and I need to work for. There are variables, unknowns and indisputable items; just to name few:
- I need my life to be meaningful, where meaning to me is to make a difference through a personal contribution;
- I want to wake up almost every morning looking forward to my day, knowing my actions will have an impact;
- I desire a way of life in line to my values; being against plastic for example, leads to plastic free choices;
- I demand kindness, love, empathy, compassion around me, thus people that don’t live up to a similar “code” will not be in my circle;
- I celebrate a truthful me in both my professional and personal environment; this means I am not prepared to put up a mask switching from one “role-play” to another ; I will be who I am and not what others want me to be; there is one Gabriella that is the same at work and outside work;
- I strive one day to read proudly the book I am writing; one with the extraordinary power to make me smile, cry, groan, exult, giggle, scream and more, reminding me I have lived fully.
42 years of fullness, with more to come.
As result of the above, I picked passion and vision against stability and money; and as much as I totally realise the audacity and craziness in this, I have not regretted it…
Three years ago, I left the corporate world for good…to marry an environmental cause linked to a vulnerable community in an island of the Indian Ocean. I didn’t have it planned…I took the ride, following my internal calling.
I founded an NGO in Switzerland, and mastered a complete set of new skills, such as social media, sales, call for applications, and many others linked to women entrepreneurship. I became an entrepreneur from being a director in a corporate, what a jump!!!!
There are stories behind those life changing events in my previous posts, if you are curious.
Then, the Covid came. I found myself blocked in Italy during the lockdown while I was visiting my family and so decided to turn a challenge into an opportunity in a time of crisis. I have joined the Red Cross and offered my expertise during the pandemic outbreak. And still doing that during this second wave…
I never spent so much time in Italy since 1999. In February, it will be a year I am in Naples, which is the beginning of the epidemic here.
In the mood of looking back at my life. It’s a unique time to pause and reflect at global scale in a collective synergy with the rest of the world.
I am observing Naples in 2020, after having been 21 years away. We associate time with life’s improvements thanks to advanced technologies, new scientific discoveries, ability to manage challenges. We like to think we are a civilised and advanced humanity.
Civilization describes a complex way of life characterised by urban areas, shared methods of communication, administrative infrastructure, and innovative solutions; and yet, time is bringing about decline and regression across every aspects of life and geography, the way I see it.
Time is inversely proportional to our own growth…going against the same logic of evolution and individual/collective development!
It breaks my heart showing those scenes during my morning exercise:
This is how the pandemic is making us worse…if at all mean possible.
Over the past few centuries the isolation has dwindled, slowly at first, then with increasing rapidity. We became connected to each other in ways previously unimaginable despite being on opposite sides of the world.
This is not only because we can fly to the far side of the world in less than 24 hours, nor we can communicate instantly through social media. It is, most significantly, because almost everything we do, from clearing forests to driving a car, affects the climate of the entire planet and is bringing changes that cause, in parts of the world far from us, crops to fail, sea levels to rise, hurricanes to form with greater frequency, and epidemic to spread beyond their previous ranges (the butterfly effect).
At first it was thought that plastic pollution was a faraway problem floating out in the middle of the ocean, whereas it is now well known that plastic is everywhere, including in the water we drink and the air we breathe. Hasn’t this been the biggest learning from this virus? It is clearly showing us that we can’t continue to act as we like. Our view of being separate from our surrounding is the most destructive thing in the world, the one that has created all the problems we have.
The truth is we are all connected to each other, biologically; to the earth, chemically; to the rest of the universe atomically.
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together.
The cosmos is also within us, we’re made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself, across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned…
Kindness should rule human relationships; respect should be our attitude to the earth; solidarity should be our default operating mode.
In between the lines, through memories, experiences, random thoughts, one message if any, I’d like to deliver: let’s not miss any opportunity we are given to be a better version of ourselves.
At a time when our sense of stability and routine has been boycotted, when our apparent reality has been dismantled, its a good moment to set new rules, practise a new routine, look through new eyes and create a different paradigm altogether; one that brings back to each of us the humanity we have lost, growing into the ‘illusion’ of being the most civilised and developed race.