East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

In my previous life

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I was on my friend’s G. Facebook profile, a moment ago, and she was posting some old photos of her on some coral reef somewhere, surrounded by brightly colored fish, and diving alongside a shark, and other adventurous things like that, because she’s always been an adventurous woman, and she described these pictures as

memories from another life

And that gave me a strange shiver.
We’ve been knowing each other for something like forty years, and we’ve been in and out of each other’s life, maybe not always there but somehow never gone… what was I doing while my adventurous friend was diving in some hot tropical ocean, I wondered?
Where was I?
What have I to show of my previous lives?
Are they any different from the current one?
Where are my adventures?

As luck would have it, at the same time I chanced on a post on Alastair Humphrey’s blog, and the title hit me like a freight train… How does it make you feel that your life peaked a decade ago?
Quite an inspirational read, and highly recommended.
And it got me thinking some more…

I will not make a list of my – dubious – achievements here.
That would be really sad.
But in taking stock of these soon-to-be 54 years of life, I feel a strange mix of pride and regret – as most people do, I guess.
Pride for all the times I decided to go my own way, ignoring common sense and better judgement and what would be best for you, my boy; and regret for all the compromises I made, usually with excellent common sense reasons backing them.

And adventure?
Was it an adventure to drive through a pea-souper, along an unknown hillside road, all twists and turns, trying to find my way to the top of the hill where Urbino sits, the first time I went there to teach a course?
Indeed, was it an adventure my decision to teach others what I had taught myself in order to salvage my university career?
Has it been an adventure, trying to pay my bills by writing, and succeed, if in a lousy, uncertain, adventurous (aha!) way?

See? I am making a list of achievements, after all, and none of these is on the same level of swimming with sharks or whales in tropical waters (or any other kind of water, for that matter).
But I also recalled something I used to say, back almost forty years ago, that even taking a ride on the bus to school one morning could be come an adventure, if you have the right attitude.
And really, swimming with sharks is nothing compared to crossing the raging waters of academia, or the small, apparently still marsh of Italian genre publishing.
And do not get me started about the national gaming industry.

So, what about my previous lives?
Do they stand on their legs, or do they sink into a swamp of dull and sadness?

I have to admit much depends on the mood of the day. But the past is just that, and the future’s yet to write.
There will be more lives, and more adventures.
Or something.
I’ll have something to meditate upon during the weekend.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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