The summer season on Ithaca (as I suppose on any Greek island), is a bit surreal. This peaceful little island with its narrow roads and small villages is suddenly buzzing with tourists – on the beaches, in the restaurants, on the roads, on yachts in the harbours. At the beginning of the season, all the islanders are still well rested and ready for the onslaught of tourists. On an island where the main source of income is tourism, they know that they only have three months to make their money. But, by the end of August, you can sense that the locals cannot wait for the tourists to just go!
During August, when I’m trying to navigate these narrow roads, with tourists in their rental cars (they seem to forget about road rules when they step off the ferry) on the one side and goats crossing the road on the other – my patience is tested daily, and I, like the locals, cannot wait for it to end. But, we all keep on going, and we are friendly and we serve the tourists – because we know that it stops as suddenly as it started. Its as if someone flicks a switch. The climate changes, the restaurants are empty, the ferries leaving Ithaca are packed, the beaches are private again… and its just you and the goats on the road.
For me, the end of the season has signalled the end of my plan. My sabatical was only planned until the end of this summer. I thought that I would have an idea of what next for my life (or at least my career) by now. At the beginning of the season I flippantly brushed of questions about “What next?” with the answer, “I’ll stay here on the island until I have a plan.”, thinking that I’d know what to do by the end of the summer.
I still don’t have a grand plan for my life – and this lack of a plan created quite a lot of anxiety and emosional turmoil. It took me a while to realise that not having a plan was not such a bad thing. I had been going and going – non stop – since I left my job. I had exchanged the stress of a permanent job with the stress of constant uncertainty, moving about, travelling and no financial security. Maybe its time to take a breather, and just pause.
I think Ithaca is where I’ll pause for a while.
So, next is winter (or as much of it as I can handle) on this tiny little island – where they literally pack away the tables and chairs and any sign of summer. I have not idea what to expect. Maybe I’ll learn to speak some Greek, find a few projects at home, read, write, walk, keep dry, keep sane… Who knows what the winter will bring, but one thing I know – it won’t really be planned because I have no idea what to plan for.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a… life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” (revised slightly, from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)