My ithaca. notice to mariners

I spent the first 19 years of my life between two small towns in Sicily: Caltagirone and Taormina.

At the end of high school I moved to Catania and there I have seen starkly the beauty, the unused potential of my island and the prevarication of the mafia system on the laws and on the living.

I quickly understood that I made the wrong choice about the university, but in the same time I was attending a social occupied center (centro sociale occupato) in a ill-famed neighborhood where we were helping the immigrants and the children, we were doing unofficial information and I felt useful.

In the same year there were elections for the president of the Sicily region. There was a great mobilization to support the candidacy of Rita Borsellino (the sister of Judge Paolo Borsellino killed by mafia in 1992) against the incumbent president repeatedly accused of collusion with the Mafia.

I spent all my time on the election campaign. There was great hope of historical change, but there were also very hard moments: brawls and violent clashes that have marked me.

But Rita Borsellino didn’t win: the usual mafia system of exchanging favors once again had prevailed.

I felt defeated, disillusioned, I hated the university, I felt that the politics only had me waste time and that there was no place for us. I thought that the political activism alone couldn’t change the situation, but perhaps the art and the culture as universal and more “sweet” languages​​ might be the right way to awaken consciousness, prompting doubts, transmit messages. So I decided to go away.

I moved to Venice to study Economics and arts management with the intention to return to work in Sicily as soon as possible.

My parents paid for college, but I had to help them: I worked in a restaurant and I did unpaid internships in many cultural organizations in Veneto and Lombardy.

In the second year for an exam I had done a study on collaborative cultural production and the Prof. Monica Calcagno asked me to do the thesis on that issue. So at 21 I started to do research with her.

In this first period of research I began to think that participation in cultural production can be a real lever for change, because in this way culture and creativity are not lived in a passive way, but as the production of meaning and as a commons. I saw a possible way to re appropriation of physical and mental spaces.

Now it is obvious, but for me at the time it wasn’t.

After my bachelor’s degree, I was continuing to collaborate with prof. Calcagno and to work in a restaurant, and I started the specialistic degree and a project in Venice: a bottom-up theatrical production realized with the participation and shares of micro-financing of 100 people. To set the stage we regained the construction materials of the Art Biennal, which are usually thrown away, and used them to refurbish also the space (occupied) where we were working, which is still functioning.

As project manager I realized how difficult it is to manage the participation of so many people. But for me it was a sterile participation: I was searching a real openness to collaboration and instead we had a lot of intellectuals that showed their science in the open rehearsals. For me it wasn’t enough and so, after the final show, I left the lab that it still continues.

I tried to put in practice my research and I had to face problems that theoretically I hadn’t could anticipate.

So I realized that for me the research is inseparable from the fieldwork: only in this way I can have a deep vision and I can share in a useful way my research.

In the same period it had started the trend to use the words “participation, local development, open innovation” such as the labels of a great number of projects. I needed new input for my research.

I was lucky because in the same period for the first time I heard of The Hub.

When something intrigues me I can’t resist going to see with my eyes, so I went to visit the Italian Hubs (only Milan and Rovereto at that time) for more information.

Then with Prof. Calcagno and a friend I worked to establish Hub Venice, but the feasibility study wasn’t positive. However, I have remained within the network and through the Hub Milan I met the universe of social innovation and the wikicratic world with Alberto.

This meetings were a turning point for my life and my research!

I understood that with “improvement, do something for, make a change” I meant social innovation and that the cultural and creative projects can be part of this universe, together with the collaborative processes that can born from the bottom i.e. from the society, but also from the public policies.

Some experiences of collaborative public policies made ​​me regain confidence because in them I saw an opportunity to find that space in politics that I thought ,when I lived in Catania, was completely denied.

So the research has assumed another sense!

In the same time The Hub Network put me in touch with the team that was working to Hub Sicily.

The research and the degree thesis could continue at distance and so I moved to Catania.

In Catania I found a job in a Foundation interested in contemporary art that works also for the popular neighborhood where is located and I started an informal collaboration with Hub Sicily and so I met the Sicilian social innovators useful for my research and my thesis. In the same time a lot of little cultural organizations asked me to collaborate with them. They couldn’t pay me, but I didn’t care and I did consulting for them. They had good ideas, but they didn’t know translate them in a solid structure.

I put all my energy in these works.

But 3 months later I understood that if I live too long in Sicily I choke, but I can’t stay away too long.

I felt guilty, but I returned to Venice and for some months I went back and forth between Venice and Catania pursuing the collaborations in both cities and founding occasional works like waitress or dog sitter.

But some months later I had to stop because I had some health problems.

This forced stop was the best opportunity I could have because I’ve realized that doing back and forth is not a betrayal of my homeland, but it is a good thing because it allows me to be always full of enthusiasm for new discoveries and the possibility of bringing from one side to another contacts and best practices.

I’ve understood that I must always be with open eyes and ears ready to listen because if I listen to people and I give them trust, they give their best and I can learn so much from them too.

I’ve understood that over time my interest in Sicily has become an interest for the suburbs, of cities or regions or the world, where there is discomfort, but hidden potential and so social innovation can be the answer, culture and creativity part of that answer.

And I’ve realized that be 25 years old and be energetic doesn’t mean be all-powerful and so I mustn’t run too, walking quickly and be multitasking yes, but not go too fast or I lose too many interesting things on the street.

Now I’m re-starting with the research and the thesis in Venice and with counseling in Sicily staying in Hub network, but I’m in a more slow modality and I’m not less productive.

Some days ago I read a poem called Ithaca written by K. Kavafis. It says:

[…] Keep Ithaca always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now. […]

And I felt happy because I’m 25 and I am totally in the middle of this journey.

I hope Edgeryders let me make one more international detour on this trip.

I am very curious to learning about your stories. And I’m here without waiting anxiously for my transition to the future because I believe that inspiration, sharing and initiative always lead to something important.

Who is “us”?

Alessia, this is super-interesting, thanks! It seems that the guiding star in your journey has been the desire to help redeem Sicily from “the prevarication of the mafia system”. It is a quintessentially social and political goal: it seems you don’t particularly want anything for yourself, you are striving for a society that is better, at some level.

In my experience it is quite rare for people to embark on this sort of quest alone. After all, it no fun changing the world on your own! Indeed, you seem to have identified a group of people that you share this journey with, as when you write “I felt that the politics only had me waste time and that there was no place for us”.

So my question who is this “us” you speak about?

about “us” and the guiding star

Thanks, Alberto! This mission is better than a psycoanalytic session!

I think that the ransom of Sicily from the mafia system requires a very hard work which,as we know, should go across the Sicilian boundaries. I want work for this, but more in particular I want to work to make more alive, healthy and inspiring the place where I grew up,  where I periodically live and where my children will live or spend time. This is what I want for myself, but this is also good for the others.

I think that to achieve this aim it is necessary to start from the people, get out them from the anonymity and from the situation’s acceptation as if it is immutable. It is necessary to activate their identity and their creativity through the partecipation that means give in their hands new expression’s tools.

I certainly can’t and don’t want do everything alone, in fact in my story there are two “us”. The first “us” is that of the university group with whom I’ve shared the first period in Catania and the angry activism which, of course, does not generate the income with which to live. The second “us” is that of my current story: the Hub network’s of social innovators, especially of the Hub Sicily. Their impact is more deep than the political activism one and it is an impact that can result from each sector and activity, from the same sector and activity from whom derives your income.

I’m taking it with me…

Thank you Alessia for this pretty complex post. You’ve touched on many aspects of transition that we try to cover on Edgeryders… and I feel there’s a true process of reflection involved, which I know can’t be easy (This mission is better than a psycoanalytic session! :-).

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know what I’m definitely taking with me, aside from other things which need a 2nd reading. It’s this:

And I’ve realized that be 25 years old and be energetic doesn’t mean be all-powerful and so I mustn’t run too, walking quickly and be multitasking yes, but not go too fast or I lose too many interesting things on the street.

I’m almost 25 myself and that’s a major challenge for me, having patience to sit and enjoy life and balancing it with work experience and the need to achieve something great. Here is my own journey, a bit more neurotic :slight_smile: and too unidimensional IMO. Research plays a big part in my life too. Maybe you have some advice for me, apart from that wonderful piece above which I know very well but find it almost impossible to apply in my life?

the unknown, the balance and we, the acrobats

Yes, it’s a hard life that of people like us who know to have to get somewhere, but not exactly where!                     Thank you, Noemi! Your ryde is interesting and I’ve found myself in a lot of your neurotic thoughts :slight_smile:

With that part of my story I reffered to the exagerate concentration on the work and on the study that is determinated from the ambition, the desire to not lose time and from some circumstances like the necessity to do paid work to compensate the unpaid internship and then working with an inhuman rhytmn doing also exams. " I have to do it for my future" I said, but the present was an hell. Lucky, it was my body to say stop!

I think it is also necessary to our transition sleeping an acceptable number of hours, meeting the friends, taking a walk, doing nothing, falling in love, going shopping and so on. These things can be so inspired! :slight_smile:

Now I’m trying to reach the balance by making a more careful selection of collaborations and internships. In particular I consider the trade-off time requieres by employers / opportunity to learn what, time required / networking opportunities, time required / improvement of my professional profile, time requiered / payment (when provided).

I also think that doing what you really like can help the balance.

Now, have you found what do you like?                                                                                                                                   And why do you separate the possibility to be a “professional with all my engines on” and " what I call home"? Don’t you think possible to join the 2 options?

Dont’t know if I found what I like, but am doing smth I like now

Yes I found what I like, in that: I am working in an environment where I feel I learn a lot, working with people I admire a great deal, and doing something I like; I am  much more pleased than I used to be just being a student and struggling to do extra-curricular work and projects…

I postponed my PhD candidacy to do some more practical and paid work and I use this time to find a field of research I would pursue and be specialized in.  I managed to couple my work in the Edgeryders team - community management and editorial work with research on youth engagement. And I stay connected with the academic community in my hometown, which is great because it could solve the following dilemma: .

why do you separate the possibility to be a “professional with all my engines on” and " what I call home"? Don’t you think possible to join the 2 options?

It’s like this: the first option entails me studying and working abroad, whereas the second means staying home in Cluj and adapting to a slightly less interesting career. And my personal life and cultural roots are here, as much as I love to travel and try out other things. So I will try to have these 2 options meet : ) It’s like you say, it may involve going back and forth, and maybe find the hidden potential in Cluj just like in Catania.

the hidden potential

do you think what will happen if each of us could find the hidden potential of his city, reveal it and activate it ?

in this last year I met many people and found out many projects concerning these “re-activations, some of these I will tell soon on Edgeryders hoping that they can be inspiring!

I think there is a lot of hidden potential: expect from Bucharest, the capital, Cluj is a very nurturing environment: it’s multicultural, it’s a university town (almost 100 000 students out of half million population), full of cafes, museums and interesting tribes, it’s cultural in all aspects. Social innovation already is kicking in, and there’s alot of creativity…

But in the institutional environment, academy included - where I would have liked to grow and make it grow-, things seem much more difficult to change.  I would embark on anything that’s different, but I don’t feel the energy here and I’m not as creative and brilliant to start up.

You’re lucky you’ve found networks of people whom you can work side by side with. I think that helps a lot! I’m curious about these re-activations, keep me posted!

tha wait

I will surely! Thank you for your interest!

and, finally, I don’t think  you're not creative and brillinat enough to sturt up.

just the right idea, the right intuition haven’t yet arrived or are brewing within you or they will come meeting the right people. I still haven’t even started the project of my life, but I think that maybe at our age we still have time to raise from what we experience and see around us, with fewer anxiety.

If you hurry you will never get there…

… or so says a coaster I keep on my desk.  I make sure that I can see this important message whenever I’m working because, I, like you Alessia, have a tendency to charge ahead with things, always working quickly and efficiently, but sometimes forgetting the importance of pausing to take stock.

A serious health issue of my own several years ago gave me plenty of time - over a year, in fact - to take stock and realise that being productive isn’t about how quickly you achieve something, it’s about the quality of what you achieve.  I still have a tendency to spread myself a little thin sometimes but at least now I’m focused on projects that I think are worthy of my time - and that way I am much better able to make sure each project gets the time it needs and deserves.

All the best with your endeavours, Alessia, they sound great.  :slight_smile:

and what about you?

thank you, Beckery! as I write in a previous post, in this moment a more accurate choice of collaborations is my way to work better and feel good! However I think it’s normal to have some difficulties to valuate projects in the first working period: the experience opens the eyes!

And you? How do you choose the worthy projects of your time?

I hope to read as soon as possible more about your life!