Art by Peau Porotesano
A year ago, I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy, which is most certainly the origin of liberal arts and arguably the origin of Western culture. From the David to the Duomo, Florence is built on history and so are her people. Traditions are a huge part of their livelihoods.
That’s why Florentines still have a siesta in the middle of the day to make lunch and spend time with their families. It’s why they still serve pasta and meat separately at dinner time. It’s also why they have such wisdom and richness in their hearts, an integral part of the Italian identity.
While learning of Italian origins, I began contrasting them to the American identity. Their lifestyle is less stressful than ours. The college students aren’t as obsessed with what they are going to do in the future, nor are they as worried about climbing the ladder to success.
In the article from Jan. 8, 2011, “Workaholism in America: A European’s Perspective” by Tijana Milosevic for Huffington Post, she wrote that American students experience “the treadmill feel,” which is followed by “an almost compulsive desire for continuous promotions, financial gains, followed by a rise in social status and an increasing social anxiety.”
Milosevic is from Serbia, which has a relaxed culture toward students finding their careers. It shocked her when she found American students obsessed with their careers. She also reported, “Americans still work nine full weeks (350 hours) longer than West Europeans.” She didn’t understand how we’re left at 19 to find our own way when families in her country of Serbia help their children as long as they need.
This article points out an issue that’s relevant to us. We’re left to find our own way, but we’re left without direction–and in our culture, no direction means no future. But that’s not true.
Just because we don’t know where we’ll be this summer or next year, or if we’ll have a job ready right when we graduate does not mean we should worry. The stresses of the day are enough. Careers take years to build, and while we’re at school, we’re building careers by building our knowledge.
I went out almost every day in Florence to get coffee and pastries or a panino. Sometimes I would just walk and take in the past wherever I looked. I talked to Italians, had dinner in their homes and really learned their livelihood.
Italian identity is built on the idea of family and treating anyone they meet as such. They’re easy to talk to, and they treat you like they’ve known you their whole lives.
Italians are different from Americans in that they aren’t workaholics; they work to live, not to climb the ladder of opportunity. They don’t seek to fill their bank accounts or to be wealthy. They’re content with a slower life.
I learned that obsessing over success or money will not give my life meaning. My time in I learned from Florence that happiness will be found in the family and friendships I build and in learning the history of others.
We Americans shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Pepperdine is well–equipped to help us in our struggles as students and young adults. We have advisors who will actively help us, our teachers who care about us and counselors for everything else.
I believe a slower life is what we American students need. We’re young but not invincible, and our careers will come when they come. We will still get to do what we want. Take a walk somewhere, grab coffee with someone. Theres so much more to our lives than our futures, and meaning should be found in the relationships we have rather than in work.
When you get old you won’t have work in your life, nor will you particularly remember it, but rather you will remember the relationships you had. You will remember the people you loved, the people you cherished.
Follow Zach on Twitter: @zachryrowsh