"Primo non pensa, ultemo suspiro."
Not sure if I've spelled that right because I don't speak Italian, but basically translated it means "If you don't think now, you'll be sighing later." Or, in other words, if you don't think things through now, you will suffer later.
I want so badly to be able to communicate this idea to the next generation - only I don't know how. How do you take a body of knowledge, "wisdom" if you will, and package it up in some palatable form that a young adult or teenager will accept? Suddenly, I find myself feeling very old and at a loss to connect with my younger relatives. Was I ever that naive? That stubborn? That stupid? Okay, I freely admit to the stubbornness. I know I have always had a stubborn streak. But the stupid part? Not really - I did some stupid things, but I did them in a smart way. Does that make sense? I mean, I never went farther than I should have, never crossed a certain line into behaviour that would have put me at risk. I drank foolishly, but watched my back the whole time. There were times that I partied like there was no tomorrow, except, I always knew that there was a tomorrow! And that I had to go to work the next day, so I made sure I got just enough sleep to show up to work on time and even managed to be a hard-working productive employee.
I didn't know what I wanted to be when I "grew up," but I was ambitious enough to push my way to the top in the job I had at the time. It may not have been my life goal, but I was going to prove to myself and the world that I could do it, and do it well. And I took a fierce pride in my own ability to maintain my independence, to save as much as possible, even though it was a small amount, loving that satisfaction of a job well done, a paycheck well-earned, and a small but growing savings account.
Nothing was ever given to me, I had to work for it, and even though I envied some of my friends their sense of entitlement, I liked knowing that I could rely on myself to survive. I know that we all dream of some day winning the lottery, but truthfully, I can honestly say I don't know if I would ever have the sense of joy over a big lottery win as I could possibly have over my very first pay check. I remember looking at with such a sense of pride, knowing I had sweat buckets in a hot kitchen, scrubbed out pots and pans and deep fryers, peeled an immense amount of potatoes, and put up with the worst kind of sexual harassment that could only have happened to a 16 year old girl in the 80's, since no one in the work place would ever get away with that now. That was life in a hotel kitchen back then, male-oriented, fiercely competitive, and full of all the foul language that Gordon Ramsay now makes millions spewing on TV. No, nothing was given to me, but I earned every penny and along with the pennies, came an iron core of determination and strength of character that have stood with me all these years.
I wish I could translate that for my young relatives to understand. I wish I could instill in them a sense of determination and an appreciation for achieving a goal that you have worked hard to attain. But those are things you can not gift to another person, they have to experience for themselves by working at it. And in the mean time, I have to sit back and watch ... and pray ... and hope they don't make irrevocable mistakes, by acting without thinking now, so they will end up sighing with grief down the road.
If I had a scanner, I'd scan in a picture of my Nonna so you could see her, but instead I'll have to make do with this old photo I scanned a couple of years ago, taken when I was 17 and apprenticing to be a chef. I'm in the first row, third from the right. Don't we look silly in our tall white hats? :)