If only the dots were numbered

Carlotta Cerri

The other day a friend of mine wrote these words,

Some crisis come unexpectedly, without being asked. They don't knock. They storm in. Sometimes I look back and wonder, Why?We stress so much in this life. And for what? Every day it's a fight between us—small dots—and the world above us that is and will always be bigger than us. Too big of a fight. Yet, every day, against every logic and statistics, we step into the ring.And maybe we wonder where we're going. What we're doing. And why.

I think these words belong to each and every one of us at some point in our lives. Because at the end of the day, we’re all the same, with the same struggles, the same fears, the same doubts, the same fights and even the same weaknesses.

When I graduated from university, I thought I was going to translate literature. I wanted to become the next Fernanda Pivano. After one and a half years of tiptoeing into what I discovered being the niche of literal translation, I finally got my first real project.

For six months, I translated Passport to Enclavia: travels in search of European identity by Vitali Vitaliev. I enjoyed every single word of it while creating my Italian version of that gorgeous travelog. It was never gonna be a best-seller—probably not even a seller—but I loved it.

I wanted it so much that I signed a contract agreeing to be paid the whole amount after I delivered the translation—how naive! The book did get published, probably even sold a few copies in Italy, but I never saw my money. Maybe, in retrospect, I should have kept at it and eventually I would have had my place into that elite world of literary translation, but for me that was the tipping point.

I needed a change

A few months before, I had started teaching English classes to a friend’s daughter. It was new, challenging, motivating and I loved it. So I decided to give it my best shot.

I had my lovely husband make a one-page website for me, I bought some Google ads, and before I knew it, I was teaching languages full-time.

It was perfect. I spent all my time talking about what I’ve always loved the most—languages—and my days were filled with people, which reminded me of just how much I needed human interaction in my job (something that translators don’t usually get). Translation was on my mind every step of the way, until it wasn’t anymore.

Nowadays, I teach English to Spaniards, and Italian to who’s crazy enough to want to learn my native language. I teach adults in the morning in my gorgeous classroom, and kids in the afternoon on their bedroom carpets surrounded by their toys. I love it.

Over the years, I met beautiful people, including a family that’s become my very own Spanish family. I spent a lot of time with kids, who taught me just how important it is to find the little Peter Pan hidden in everyone of us. I learnt so much about languages, people, business and relationships. It’s been a very rewarding journey and I feel extremely lucky.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Where is this going?’

Am I going to teach one-on-one classes all my life? And what happens when I have kids—will I still want to spend my afternoons with other people’s kids? But most importantly, do I want to teach languages for the rest of my life?

Most days, I think the answer is yes—why not? And then there are days or even weeks when I’m not so sure, when I have to force myself to open the door to my first student in the morning or I’m secretly counting the minutes to the end of the class.

Steve Jobs said in what it’s always been my favourite motivational speech:

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

I’ve always been fascinated by these words. However, I doubt I’ll ever love my job so much as to want to spend my last day—or even half of it—doing it. I know people who would spend a few minutes of their last day and my husband is one of them. But I also know that those people are never fulfilled, they’re always striving for better skills, better results, better designs, better selves. And they love and live for it.

So I might not feel fulfilled, but then again, who does?

Maybe I don’t need to love my job so much as to want to spend my last day doing it. Maybe it’s enough to choose it day in and day out, knowing that there will be ups and downs, victories and defeats, but that, at the end of the day, looking back, we’ll have done the best we could in what we chose.

Because after all, life can only be understood backwards. Or as Steve jobs said,

You can never connect the dots looking forward; You can only connect them looking backwards.

If only the dots were numbered…

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