When I arrived to Thessaloniki, Greece for a conference, I was grumpy, worried by my own personal shortcomings and difficulties, plagued by thoughts about the future of the world, projecting worst case scenarios wherever I looked. For sometime now, I have been recovering from vicarious trauma symptoms, and I occasionally experience setbacks, especially at this time of the year which is full of dreadful anniversaries. I was allowing anxiety and pessimism to take over, oblivious to a phase of my life when I should be exceedingly happy about the work I’m doing and the way it fits with my political and civic engagement. It’s a blessing to be allowed to study the deepest themes of our time, working everyday with storytelling and mentoring young talented people. But I was just disconnected and blind.
So I got to Thessaloniki, dropped my luggage at the hotel, and walked straight to the waterfront, like a sleepwalker. A stormy dark blue, marble-like sea was looming like a giant between the seafront buildings, agitated by the wind. I crossed the street and there was no railing. The whole white city just arched around the sea like an embrace. A gush of wind, and the first spray of salt water showered me, igniting a spark of joy I had long forgotten.
Two days was all it took to lift me from my loops of miserable thoughts. Hanging out with very creative people, who beat the blues every day in a city that lost so much to the financial crisis, was a humbling lesson in itself. I have gained so much in these last three years, so much learning, so much hard-won experience, so many opportunities. But I have also lost a lot of faith and much of my roots, and I have been increasingly missing nature. Meeting the boundless sea was so powerful I almost felt physically lifted out of my fears and navel-gazing. Suddenly, I felt happy as a kid, carefree. I needed nothing, wanted nothing but the sea.