Amy, 30 - Miami, USA
The well-known Jewish poet, Hayyim Nachman Bialik (1873-1943), reminds us that “The greatest happiness is to do our duty, and our foremost duty is to reach the place we can.”
As a young female Rabbi I find that my calling, or as Bialik puts it—my duty, is to connect human beings to one another, to themselves, and to God through prayer. My place is to be the vessel through which this Holy potential can happen. As I stand on the bima (pulpit) in front of my congregation, I invite the congregant’s personal and collective prayers to be expressed as authentically as the individual is able. There is no judgment. No right or wrong way to pray. Simply through their sincere participation during T’fillah (prayer), I am able to find myself transformed and embodied with a feeling of complete happiness and exhilaration. I am a witness to the vulnerability of human beings in prayer and I don’t take that privilege lightly. We become partners in that sanctuary, as we, together, are able to speak to God. -
Andres, 37 - Bogotà, Colombia
When I was a child, life gave me two surprises which filled me with happiness at the time, and which have shaped the life I am living now.
I was 10 years old, and I have a few vague memories of the place I was in. I was with my classmates, but I wasn’t at school, it was somewhere else. There were lots of people, it was outdoors. I remember that my parents were there, and so were my friends’. Then somebody started handing out drawing materials and a few hours later, in a very loud voice, a gentleman announced over the microphone that I had won the competition, with a landscape drawing that I had done that afternoon. When I heard my name being read out in front of all those people, and I saw how my parents were smiling at me, I felt something that I can only describe as happiness.
One night, a few months after winning that prize, I was in my bedroom getting ready to go to sleep, when I heard my parents calling me from the living room with a very excited voice. There was something in their tone that drew my attention, as if they were about to reveal a secret they had been keeping for a long time. With my pyjamas half on, I rushed down to see them, and they kept on repeating my name ecstatically. When I finally got to the living room, I saw something gleaming beneath the lamp hanging from the ceiling: there, between my parents, was a silver bicycle, and it was all for me.
When I turned 17, I had no doubt at all about what I wanted to do. I studied graphic design but gradually, I went back to being that child who had won the drawing prize. Now I’m a painter, and I travel around on what used to be my father’s bicycle. After my father became ill, he had to give up the bike, which for him had symbolised freedom, I salvaged the bike, dusted it off, painted it and claimed it for myself.
I don’t know whether what happened to me when I was 10 was just a coincidence or whether it was one of those signs that sometimes appear durin
Beatriz, 27 - Sao Paulo, Brazil
- There are many times when I’m happy ... it’s really hard for me to choose just one moment! But now... now I try to find happiness in the little things in life, next to the people I love.
When I was a little girl I often visited my grandparents’ fazenda, in the countryside. They had an orchard and a very large vegetable garden. When we went back home to Sao Paolo, we always used to take some fruit, vegetables and herbs back with us.
Then I spent some time living in Italy, and I noticed that lots of people used to grow plants in their houses or apartments. It was part of their daily lives. Herbs, vegetables and flowers were a beautiful sight on the window sills of Italian homes. That was when I started to plant my first seeds.
I’ve just come back to Sao Paolo, and I’ve decided to keep that contact with Nature. Each day that passes, it seems to be disappearing a little bit more from our lives. So I decided to create a little vegetable garden in my apartment. I like touching the soil with my hands, sowing the seeds and seeing them grow. My whole family is involved now, and that makes it even more fun. I use my herbs, several types of salad leaf, tomatoes and spinach to satisfy my hunger and make me feel happy! -
Beatriz Eugenia, 48 - Bogotà, Colombia
I started studying music when I was very small. But it was only when I was at the Conservatory, aged 15, that I thought about playing the cello.
I was very happy with my first cello teacher – he was the one who sowed the seeds of my dream of being a professional cellist, and made me give up everything else, only to abandon me later. At least that’s what it felt like to me.
In actual fact, the political situation in Colombia had made him feel threatened, forcing him to go back to his native country. I looked for other teachers, but never found his equal: each had a different teaching technique. Years later, I went to Vienna. The professor at the Hochschule heard me play, and all he said was that my relationship with the cello had to change. We were like two separate beings, and I needed to embrace the instrument.
I spent a long time with him, learning to embrace my cello. One day, he told me it was time to take up the bow and touch the strings. At that moment, he exclaimed: “Wunderbar!”.
The vibration I could hear, combined with the sound of that word, made me think that from that time onwards, me and my cello would be together for ever.
A moment of happiness is a feeling of something incomparable, it is like tasting freedom. My experience was a metaphor – I had to learn to free myself from all I had learnt, and embrace life. Everything changed. I stopped studying the cello, and my instrument became my friend, and my maestro. It silently taught me, all the time. It made me hear what I would never have heard otherwise, it allowed me to meet wonderful people, it took me to places and spaces I would never have known. During the last year it taught me how to think of a city as a huge string instrument. I am not a cellist: I love the cello, and that love makes me happy.
Berenice, 19 - Las Vegnas, Nevada
- I was in North Carolina competing for the National Jr.Olympics. It was a very beautiful experience. Getting to meet a place I never dreamed of visiting. When I was fighting for the finals I had stopped my opponent twice, giving her two standing eight counts. I ended up getting the highest score out of the whole tournament thus winning the gold metal. After attaining the medal I felt like my passion for boxing was finally being acknowledged, so much so that I received recognition from the United States senator, John Ensign. This moment of happiness has to be one of my greatest accomplishments. -
Buckley Barratt, 32 - American Fork, Utah
- This is not your typical story of happiness, but I have lived on this earth for 32 years and so far nothing about my life has been “normal” or “ordinary”. So it comes as no surprise that happiness for me has been found down diverted roads and in places that I least expected.
I was married to the same woman for 10 years. It was a relationship filled with ups and downs, good times and bad, like all marriages I suppose. But I never felt fulfilled in the relationship, I never felt truly happy and I reached the point where I had to be honest with myself and what I wanted out of life. This decision was the most difficult decision I have ever made. It has brought much heartache and sorrow and has forced me to face some of the darkest and loneliest days of my life. But there is hope on the horizon and I can feel its warmth in the wind.
Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes from different directions and unusual sources. If there is one thing I have learned in life, one of the only things I am actually sure of, it is that the best things in life come only after intense struggle and pain. Trouble brings truth, adversity brings appreciation, and sorrow brings sunlight. So I will keep fighting and for now I will fight alone. I have the companionship and love of my dog. She is always there to lift my spirits and give me the strength to go on. Through it all I have learned how to appreciate the small and simple things that make life so beautiful. I have become much more aware of what is truly important in life. I have realized the strength I have as a human being and the power I have to choose my own path in life. For all of this I am grateful. I will survive, I will move on, and god dammit I will be HAPPY! -
Carolina, 36 - London, U.K.
- As a child, I was always outdoors, playing in fields, forests, parks, isolated roads, and generally finding adventure and stories under every rock or tree.
Since moving to London, my current job keeps me at a desk for 8 hours a day, so I find inspiration in exploring London on foot, with my camera.
I love walking around London. Especially the City and East London, as it contains so much history, so many stories, and so much life.
Some days I will be on my way to work, and I might decide to take a different route and discover an old forgotten sculpture or find the rusty, abandoned remains of a bicycle.
There is something so exciting about just taking that little alley, or that street you never had a chance to walk down before; the park that only allows adults to enter if accompanied by children; the mulled wine vendor at the flower market on a cold, white winter afternoon; the Turkish shop behind Islington’s Regent Canal that sells the best feta in London; the wraps at the food stalls in Brick Lane on a Sunday; the list goes on, and so do the experiences.
No matter where my feet take me, I always feel as though London will keep on surprising me.
It does not matter how good or bad my day has been. My happiness comes back the moment I step out onto these streets. And occasionally I get a good picture out of it too. -
Catalina. 32 - Cartagena, Colombia
- I live on a small island to the north of a city full of cement and rain, “cold” people, traffic jams, buses, blackbirds, pigeons, bars and parks. My city is called Bogotà and is in the middle of Colombia. I have lived here for 32 years and on my island for two.
My house is well-proportioned, just like the roads and parks on which it floats, but what I like most about it is that I can hear the cars speeding by on the nearby avenue, and the background noise makes me smile at night time, it makes me feel close to the sea.The sea is about 940 km away, and even though I don’t get many opportunities to go there, living in this city where your days are mapped out by office life and routine, I try to visit about twice a year. I could say that, on my little island in Bogotà I’m smiling, but when I am by the sea I’m happy.
I’ve been to some murky, mysterious seas, surrounded by mangroves, I’ve swum in clear waters full of fish, I’ve spent whole days by myself in complete silence looking at the sea, and I have even walked hand-in-hand down the beach with a few boyfriends.
I’ve seen cold-water seas in southern countries and warm waters like the ones that surround my country. I’ve sailed on catamarans and wooden rafts. Sitting on the beach I started writing, many years ago. Submerged in its waters I have understood what it really means to be free.
There isn’t one particular type of sea that I like more than the others. I can’t say that I prefer the dark green of the Pacific rather than the turquoise blue waters around the Central American islands on the Atlantic. I won't say that Paradise is in La Guajira, where the desert reaches the sea, nor that I wouldn’t go kayaking again, against the current in the middle of the storm, nor could I say that I wouldn’t live close to the ocean.
While I know that the sea is always with me, having a house from which I can see it every morning would really fill my heart wit
Claude Baechtold, 42 - Aigle, Switzerland
- I was born in Switzerland where I trained as a graphic designer. Like all self-respecting Swiss graphic designers, I wanted a nice orderly, organised world.
When I was 25 my parents died, and my country suddenly seemed terribly empty. So I left. I travelled for 15 years, to every corner of the globe, as a photographer then as a film maker, and the more chaotic my surroundings, the better I felt. I knew that I would find happiness through adventure, and there can be no adventure without chaos and unpredictability.
I think my favourite memory is Afghanistan, and its inextricable, incomprehensible, mind-bogglingly incoherent situations. But I also love China and Russia, which are also very strong in that department. Then my godmother fell ill, and was unable to continue living alone in her old house amid the sunny vineyards of the Rhône Valley. So I came back to Switzerland to look after her. She was a wonderful woman, extremely wise and lived to an incredible age. Her only fault was to surround herself with a very large number of objects, most of them useless. She died a few years later, at the ripe old age of 97, as impertinent as ever, undoubtedly satisfied with the mountain of objects she had amassed at the end of such a long life, and which she left to me.
Objects of all kinds, tens of thousands of them stuffed into her cellar, attic and above all in her barn. This barn is like an island where I can breathe in the middle of all that suffocating Swiss tidiness. Sometimes my friends can’t stand all the mess, and prefer to leave. As for me, I sit with my cheeky piles of stuff, defending my right to chaos and happiness. -
Danai, 20 - Sounio, Greece
I am standing here, on the edge of the cliff, at the temple of Poseidon, in Sounio. A temple built from devotion and gratitude to one of the twelve Olympic Gods; to the one responsible for the vast sea, Poseidon.
I am waiting to see the ship with the white sails carrying Theseus. I am waiting for the happiness that will make me smile. Even though King Aegeus, the father of Theseus, who awaited his son’s return following his fight with the Minotaur in Crete, deeply sad and desperate, after looking at the forgotten black sails of his son’s ship, fell and gave his name to the sea, I am still waiting to see the ship with the white sails…
This myth has left its mark on my mind from the first time I heard it when I was a kid.
I am fascinated to be in this beautiful place, where the temple dominates this headland. I wonder how people could have built this masterpiece in just four years, between 444 B.C. and 440 B.C. Thinking about it makes me shiver from excitement. For me the feeling is unique to be here with the people I love and to share this incredible sunset!
The sea takes on the colour of dreams and the columns of the temple the colour of gold as the sun sinks into the boundless blue. The breeze is lifting the memories from the ancient time and mixing them with the present, becoming one to give me the strength to continue my journey.
These are the moments that make me happy, make me dream, make me wait for a better future! -
Diana Di Nuzzo, 30 - New York City, USA
- The first day I turned 30 I entered the West Village Housing Works (one of those shops where New Yorkers go to leave things for charity, basically) where I found something I wanted to give myself to celebrate my first 8 months in NY, on the threshold of the much-feared ‘old age’. A girl had come to donate what would become my birthday present, a wooden push scooter with metal wheels, that only cost $28 and which for quite some time now has been the personification of my happiness in the traffic-clogged city streets. With music in my ears (always the Beatles), I went from the movida of West Village to the tranquil shores of Coney Island, the ultimate pleasure beach complete with funfair, hot dogs and a sea you can swim in, just 20 minutes from the concrete island. The fishermen on the harbour stopped to ask me where I’d found my little treasure, while the business people on Broadway asked me several times who had designed this push scooter: “sooo RAD”, as they say in NY. Maybe it’s because in this city, with two wheels under your feet, you feel like a winged goddess, maybe it’s because from Washington Square Park to the Chelsea galleries everything is just a great spectacle, but there’s no doubt that my ‘coming-of-age’ gift to myself made me look at things with new eyes.When you’re on the subway and the train comes out of the tunnel, you notice the murales on the road leading up to Coney, where there’s a huge painting by the Os Gemeos (famous street artists) along a wall next to the subway, that greets you as you come into the station. Transported by my passion for the visual imagery of this country, I ended up in Wonderland as if by magic, except that what followed me here was a push scooter rather than a white rabbit. In any case it took me to the centre of the world, like I dreamed of when I was a little girl.
New York is a fairy tale that never stops. -
Elen, 24 - Sao Paulo, Brazil
- When I open my eyes I see his – light blue and open wide – looking at me. All the best things in this house are his, but he is the best of all. And he’s mine, my brother, my friend and my alter ego.
Once I was in his room, lying on his bed, stretched out like a cat. All I could think about was having a good coffee! And there he was in the doorway, with a cup of deliciously-scented piping hot coffee.
-How did you know I wanted a coffee?
-Because I wanted one too!
So we share our coffee together, and our house, stories, and lives. Every day I am thankful for having found him, by chance, perhaps without even deserving it.
I don’t think anyone deserves to be this happy! -
Giampaolo, 42 - Arezzo, Italy
- I’ve always loved restoring old things. Giving a second chance to an end-of-life object is a bit like knowing how to find beauty where others don’t see it.
As a child, I used to wander around scrap yards with my father. We scoured the piles of discarded objects for old washing machine motors we could use in our Meccano models. But often, amid the mountains of metal, we’d notice another item discarded by its owner as scrap, but which for us was a treasure. It takes a trained eye and most of all imagination, to find a thing of beauty in a scrap yard. You have to know at first glance whether what you’ve spotted can be used for its intended purpose, or whether you can make it into something else that might be useful.
As an adult, I rediscovered this passion when I became interested in old fans from the 1930s and 50s – to me, they have a beautiful design.
I find them in flea markets and second-hand shops, left among the broken objects. It’s all about knowing how to find them amid the heaps of half-destroyed, rusty scrap. I used to love buying them for a few pennies and patiently restoring them or giving them back some kind of dignity. I’ve got a little collection of them now.
When I set up house, I carried on my hobby, using other items of furniture. Now I’ve got a little bit of everything: a stool made from pallets, shelves made from old drawers or fruit crates, pictures made out of jute seed sacks and so on.My father used to tell me that when he was young, he’d organise amateur cycling races with his friends. He nicknamed his bike "La Bestiale" (The Beast).
When I needed a bike, I looked around for a new one. Then I remembered my father’s old bike – he had left one in the depths of my grandmother’s cellar.
I found it. Rusty, and with some of the wheel spokes missing, a bit like a toothless old man. It had been painted yellow, but in some parts the colour had rubbed off the nickel plated tubes.
It took me the whol
Giuseppe Pino, 34 - Shanghai, China
- I love my job more than anything else. I spend most of my time in the kitchen. On average, it’s 12 hours a day, sometimes 16. Every day. I only have one day off per week, two if I’m really lucky. That’s been my life for more than 15 years.
You can’t be a chef unless you really love the job. It’s an occupation that gives you a great deal, but also demands a lot from you. I remember at the age of 15, when I decided on this career path and first started working in kitchens, my friends would be going out every night or off skiing at the weekends. I couldn’t do that, because I was working at the times when everybody else was going out and having fun. But I was happy that way. I was learning to do what I loved above all else.
I spent all my teenage years learning the secrets of cookery. I spent five years at a chefs’ school, and then two years at catering college. After that, I started travelling the world.
I’ve worked in many restaurants, some of which have Michelin stars. Then, one day while I was working in Milan I saw Giacomo Gallina, one of Italy’s best-known chefs, coming to sit down at a table.
After dinner he called me over and said he wanted to talk to me the next day. We met in a bar, got talking, and shortly afterwards he offered me a job in the restaurant that Dolce&Gabbana were about to open. It was the best job offer I’d ever had and I didn’t hesitate to accept. A few weeks later, I was one of the 30-strong team working in Giacomo Gallina’s kitchen. A few days before the restaurant opened, the chef summoned all his staff together, for the introductions. When it was my turn he introduced me by saying “This is Giuseppe and from now on he will be your Sous Chef!”
It was an unexpected surprise … he hadn’t said anything about that before! It was one of the happiest days of my life. With no advance warning, I found myself in charge of a kitchen working with 30 of the best chefs in Milan. That d
Gloria Lee, 21 - Praha, Czech Republic
- The first camera I ever owned was a yellow Kodak disposable, that I received at the age of five. I remember laughing when I saw how easy it all was - the drawings I’d slaved over with pencils and crayons could easily be outdone with a simple click of a button! A few years and several cameras later, I have come to understand that photography is anything but simple.
My happiest revelation was in a cold darkroom, glowing eerily with red light: the first time I’d printed with black and white film. Snap Snap Snap the enlarger clicked, and I was left staring at a blank piece of paper. I held it up, knowing the sheet between my fingers was far from empty - it was an imprint of the world encoded with invisible light. Holding my breath, I gingerly dipped the blank sheet of photo paper into the developer solution.
Every step of the photographic process boils down to this moment.
The clock ticks. The solution ripples. I wait.
Black whips begin to devour the edges of the square, swerving this way and that, tracing a delicate outline. Soon, grains of grey begin to fill in the framework, and the image is complete. I stand in awe of what I have just witnessed. Textbooks say this is chemistry, but to me it is so much more - it’s magic.
As someone who grew up during the transition from analog to digital, I see how people are slowly becoming more and more desensitized to the abstraction and value of an image. I hope one day my photos will help the world rediscover this magic -
Grace, 30 - Toronto, Canada
- When I was a little girl, what made me happy was getting presents from my mum. After she finished work at the office, she would always stop by the shops and bring me a little gift. Sometimes it was only a bag of candy, sometimes it was a children’s scientific story book. Each time it was a surprise. Her handbag was like a magician’s sack. When I was 12, my mum changed her job and became a project manager, in charge of importing high technology and cutting-edge machines for the company. She had a lot of opportunities to travel to other countries, so I received gifts from all over the world. I still keep the souvenirs she brought me: a Russian doll, a Japanese doll, an Eiffel tower key chain, a Dutch model windmill, an Italian leather jacket… When I grew up, to travel the world was a dream of mine. Happiness is exploring a new country, meeting new people, bringing home a gift for my mum.
My name is Grace. I was born in Beijing, China. I had a very happy family. I was spoiled by my parents, but they weren’t like some other Chinese parents who crush their children’s dreams. I was brought up in a relaxed atmosphere. Ever since I was little, my parents encouraged me to explore the world. I made an electric model with my dad and brother. We travelled to small villages and rural areas in the south of China. My father taught me how to pick berries and find mulberry leaves to feed my silkworms. My parents taught me to appreciate the beauty of Nature. By the time I graduated, I had travelled around almost half of China with my family. But I knew it was not enough. I still wanted to visit other countries. I really wanted to see the places my mum had been to, and experience the cultural differences. I believe the passion for travel is in my blood. After working for several years, I’d saved up enough money to go to England to study, and to explore the rest of Great Britain. While I was there I met fellow students from different countrie
Jason e Ali Wallace, 29 e 38 – Austin, Texas. USA“What would you do? What would you choose to do if your twin boys were born premature at 24 weeks and weighing in at the equivalent of a large cup of coffee and coffee mug? What would you do if they both were on the verge of dying in the hospital, where they stayed for the first 4 months of their little lives? What would you do if it turned out one of them had brain damage at birth and both ending up having some neurological problems? What would you do if the doctors told you one of them might not be able to talk to you or look you in the eyes…ever. And what would you do if the following years brought the adoption of an older child with a traumatic past from the Congo, financial challenges, disappointments in career, artistic endeavors and relationships, and the tragic death of a close family member?Another life. A different world. Certainly unplanned. There are many catchphrases that could describe our last 6 years, and not all of them would be encouraging or happy. And yet, we have decided to choose Happiness. But not at first, and not without a lot of help.“What?! Twins?!” I thought, as my wife’s words reverberating through my brain. Ali, on the end of the phone line and just out of the doctor’s office, had just dropped the bombshell. “Yep” she replied, “the doctor says there is a good chance we’re having twins. We have to come back tomorrow for an ultrasound”. “But there are no twins in either of our families…and…and we didn’t use any fertility drugs.” I exclaimed.“I know” she responded, her calm tone underscoring our different responses. “But the doctor made a good point. In every family with twins, it has to start somewhere.”And so we began the journey into the unknown.We thought we were preparing perfectly well. We read all the right pregnancy and parenting books. Ali ate all the right foods, and abstained from all the wrong ones. We were on the right track. Until one d
Jennifer Delare, 37 - Washington D.C. USA
“I’ve spent my life moving from place to place and the one thing I’ve never stopped doing is writing. There are many things that make me happy, but there is nothing else that makes me feel as though I am precisely where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am meant to do. In each of the eighteen cities in the seven countries where I’ve lived, I’ve always had one or two special cafés where I knew I could sit for as long as I liked without anyone getting cross about it. On some days, it is only as long as a lunch break. On other days, it’s an entire afternoon. My fountain pen is always in my bag. It might sound superstitious, but I do think I write better with it than with anything else – the words, like the ink, just flow more smoothly. I always have my journal, where I can jot down ideas. However, if I think I might work on a story, I bring a notebook as well. It has to have graph paper and a soft cover and I never write more than one short story in each. I have a collection of these at home. In some, I’ve only filled a few pages, because that’s all it took. In others, I’ve used the whole notebook and had to finish up with words crammed into the margins of already full pages. I know it makes sense to plot stories out ahead of time. Still, I feel I’m at my best when I don't. Writing a story is something like walking, at night, down a path lined with darkened street lamps. Sometimes I don’t even know there’s a story there, waiting to be explored, until my thoughts stumble across it. Then, out of the corner of my mind’s eye, I see the first lamp flicker on, lighting just a few steps of the way – the beginning. The beauty lies in the fact that it is not until I've gone forward for a bit that the next portion of the path gets illuminated. Usually I can see the last part, glimmering far ahead, but there are so many curves and gullies along the way that I have no clear idea how I'm going to get
The Jillionaire, 36 - New York City, USA
I am a DJ - I have always been excited by music. As a child, I remember staying up late at night, listening to mix shows and recording songs off the radio onto cassette. I began DJing in my late teens, and my parents were convinced that I had some kind of drug addiction - we would keep all the gear and records at a friend's house, and they had no idea what I was doing with my money!
I love to entertain - I guess I get it from my mother. During the holidays in Trinidad we would have parties at our house and I would invite all my friends. She would cook and everyone would come over to 'lime' - our word for hang out and have a good time - sometimes over a hundred people would show up! To this day my friends still ask me, "Chris, when is the next party at your house?"Hopefully when I get off tour I can have a big 'lime' at my house, just like old times.
I ran a bar in Trinidad for a few years, and despite the long hours and hard work, they were some of the greatest days of my life -walking in and seeing the place teeming with people, all smiling and having a good time, putting all their cares and concerns aside for a few hours in the day.
DJing has taken me to the furthest corners of the globe, and now I get to entertain thousands of new friends, every night, in different cities. From Paris to Montreal, from Stockholm to San Francisco, it is such a gratifying feeling to share in other people’s happiness, to know that you touched their lives and were able to make them smile, feel good, and have a great time - it's indescribable. It's the thing that encourages you to give 100% every night, whether it's a big festival or tiny club, first night of a tour or the very last show.
Every night after the gig, whichever local promoter will come to me and ask, "so how was the show? Did you have fun?", and I'll say to them, "as long as they're happy, I'm happy." -
Katja, 27 - Cologne, Germany
When I was 18 I got the idea of opening a bar all of my own. I was going to call it Café Rotkehlchen. With this goal in mind, I gradually started to take the first steps towards achieving it. First, I attended a hotel management school, and then gained hands-on experience by working in a number of hotels and bars. I travelled the world and held a number of management positions in the food industry, at the Betahaus in Cologne. In July 2012, while taking a walk through Ehrenfeld, I happened upon the perfect property, the answer to my dreams. The place, timing and position were all perfect. I rushed to see my parents, took the old furniture from my grandfather’s pub, got the kitchen together and then employed a carpenter who transformed my plans into a wonderful reality. On 1 January 2013 the deserted building became Café Rotkehlchen, and after 10 years of hard work my dream of having my own bar came true. The business opened on 5 February, and thanks to the help of a great team, things are starting to move in the right direction.
But, through all these exciting events, one unique, remarkable moment has always stayed with me. It was 10 February 2013 and it was my first day off. After a long time I had finally managed to get enough sleep and had gone for a jog. During the afternoon I set off towards my bar, to have a cup of coffee. I went in, sat down at a table and asked the waitress, Carla, for a coffee. I was almost the only person in the bar, but I looked around and for the first time I realised what I had managed to achieve. Because of all the stress and upheaval, the process of completion and realisation had completely passed me by. Now there I was, sitting with a cup of excellent coffee in my very own bar. A chill ran down my spine while a sense of great happiness invaded my whole body. I had managed to fulfil my greatest dream of creating Café Rotkehlchen, a bar all of my own. In the end, all the hard work and strength of
Lisa Bang, 25 - Seoul, Korea
- Right now, I’m teaching biology labs to undergrads and working on my Master’s in Bioinformatics. Usually, I arrive at university at around 10 am and leave around 10 pm. I’m usually there on Saturdays as well. Why did I choose this? Last year I was working in a private English school in Turkey, and the hours were better. But I hated my life and I never really felt that I accomplished anything. The kids were there to be babysat – because their parents wanted to get rid of them for a few hours. The managers wanted to make money. It seemed endlessly meaningless to me…
I wasn’t helping myself, I wasn’t helping others, nothing in the world would be different because of the fact that I existed.
In the end, I decided to get right down to my roots. I travelled to Korea and I serendipitously got the opportunity to teach and learn science at the same time, at this university.
To the average guy, science is pretty boring and dry. But if you scratch the surface, it’s one of the most beautiful subjects. Essentially, it’s a person trying to understand what they see in nature. I mean, at some point in time, some caveman dude is trying to understand why the giraffe likes leaves, why the horizon is curved, when the fish come out.
And beyond that, people really want to understand what’s going on! They’ve come up with so many tools for analysis – the microscope, the spectrophotometer, even a massive hadron collider! I mean, we actually had 10,000 scientists come up with a thing that smashes together protons in a 3-story-high detector, after they’ve travelled through a 27-kilometer circular tunnel, and the world’s largest computing grid to analyse the results!
This is why I love science. It’s an academic discipline where ultimately facts prevail, not emotions. It has a concrete effect on our well-being. And in my life, I feel that I have a purpose again… and this is my happiness.”
Liu, 25 - Shanghai, China
- I must say this year has been really difficult for me. My grandfather died in March, and then my father had an accident and died after two days in hospital. I work in Shanghai, and most of my friends have already left the city. Some of them were exchange students, and were only working there for a year. I was suddenly surrounded by loneliness, but I don’t know why.
One day I went to pick up a friend from the airport. I saw Hugo – he was asking how much it would cost to go to school by taxi. They were going to charge him 500 rmb. When I heard that, I was shocked. I walked up to him and said “Listen, that’s completely unreasonable! I know how to get there by metro, follow me. The taxi driver might have been annoyed with me for stealing a customer, but I think I did the right thing. Hugo trusted me and came with us. In the end everything went well and we exchanged our Skype addresses. A few days later, I got his new phone number and now we are good friends. He is French, a student from Paris, my dream city. I’ve never been abroad. This summer I went to Hong Kong, but that’s in China. So my plan is to go to Europe next year to find out something about life. Perhaps French will be the next language I learn, although I already speak it a little bit.
JS (Jean-Sebastian) is Hugo’s closest friend at Fudan University. The first time Hugo took me to his school, I met JS, who’s from Belgium. He has a Chinese aunt, so was fascinated by Chinese culture. He has a good temper and is really easy-going. He’s my “chief French teacher”, and Hugo is his deputy. We do a language exchange every week. My friends and I already organized language exchanges, and we asked them to join us.
It’s not always easy for all three of us to meet at the same time, but we are always in contact. On Tuesdays, I share Chinese music with Hugo online, or sometimes he’ll write an essay in Chinese, and I’ll help him to correct it. These guys are my new
Maaike, 29 - Amsterdam, Netherland
- The sun on my skin, the wind through my hair and the intense, salty smell of the sea in my nostrils. Riding my bike to the coast, a good half an hour trip from my home through the typical Dutch dunes, the knowledge that I will spend the next few hours laying on the beach, sipping my rosé wine, eating a homemade salad and watching all the other sun worshippers, is my ultimate happiness.
Often in summer, when I come home from work, I jump straight on my bike with a box of delicious food. Half an hour later, as soon as I see the water and feel the sand between my toes, I’m completely relaxed. When I cycle home late in the evening, I totally forget that I’ve been at work that day.
The beach is a great place to relax, even in the winter. The cycling trip might be cold, but at the beach there’s a lovely café with a fireplace and hot drinks to warm you up before you venture out along the coastline to clear your head from all the stress. The beach, my little holiday close to home, my happiness around the corner, I’m so happy it’s there to stay. -
Maria, 20 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hi, my name is Maria and I live in the city of Petrópolis in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Petrópolis is known for being the home of the Emperor Dom Pedro, it has lots of tourist attractions and is a really fascinating place. I love photography, art and animals!
I owe that to my family, mainly to my father who left me his camera, and now I am well-known for my photographs.
My father used to live and work in São Paulo, while me and my brother lived in Petrópolis with my mother, a few dogs and cats. At the weekend he would come to Petrópolis, to spend time with us. My parents were separated. I remember that they always used to sleep in separate rooms but in the morning they would wake up in the same one.
My father introduced me to music and rock ‘n’ roll, he showed me beaches, waterfalls and mountains. He taught me to be patient and always to be myself. Unfortunately, when I was just nine, he died after a serious fit caused by epilepsy, a disease he used to take daily medication for.
At that time my father was the breadwinner, while my mother did a little unpaid craft work. From that time on, our lifestyle had to change, and my mother went from one job to another. We had to move house and rent out our home, so we could secure a little more money. It was hard but luckily we had the help of the whole family.
As I grew up, I felt the need to get to know my father. I wanted to know what he used to like, what he used to do, how he felt, and everything else about him. So one day I came across his analog camera, a Nikon FM2 with a 50 mm lens - beautiful! I started taking photos when I was about 11, but then ended up forgetting about the camera. Two years later I discovered digital photographs and was fascinated, I wanted a digital camera to play around with. My grandmother was about to leave on a trip, and brought me one home. It was tiny with just a few megapixels, but it completely satisfied my curiosity! With great e
Marian, 26 - San Francisco
- My parents are writers, my brothers are writers, I am a writer. I’ve been a writer since I was able to spell. One of my first memories was carrying a worn-out journal with me wherever I went. I thought I was Harriet the Spy. I wrote down the descriptions of trees, the houses around me, stories from school and fights with my friends. Over time I’ve written short stories, recipes, news articles, blog posts, poems, songs... Every morning I write 750 words before I start my day. It grounds me. Writing makes me happy. Writing keeps me happy. It’s my therapy, my outlet, it’s how I make sense of the world.
There’s nothing I love more than a brand new journal. Those empty pages are so filled with possibility. Well, almost nothing. As much as I love blank pages, I love finishing a journal and flipping through it and seeing thousands and thousands of my words. A computer doesn’t cut it. I need a concrete journal I can fill. Over the years I’ve finished dozens of notebooks. Notebooks I will never throw out. And one of my all-time favourite things is to travel the world, sit in coffee shops, and write about my surroundings. -
Martina Meozzi, 27 - Montechi, Arezzo, Italy.
- As a little girl I lived in a rather dilapidated house, it was a kind of annexe to an old building in the historic centre of a little village. It had been restored by my grandparents, who were the guardians of the old estate. The house was in the oldest part of the town, where many many years ago there used to be a castle”. This is not the introduction to a fairy tale, but sets the scene for the first 9 years of my life.
They were magical years, which I lived as if I were a princess, venturing into the castle gardens to salvage families of snails after a rainstorm, and to rescue baby tortoises who had escaped from the green enclosure amid the flower beds. I also discovered ancient stories and illustrations in the dusty, yellowed old books in the study of the chemist who lived there during the war.
That tiny square room, smelling strongly of mould and dust and stuffed full of books, opened onto one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen – the Old Chemist’s Laboratory. I don’t remember exactly when I entered the room for the first time, but that light full of dancing dust specks, that smell, both repellent and fascinating, those strange glass objects and the countless little bottles with handwritten labels, all different sizes, full of powders, liquids and brightly-coloured fragments ... it literally left its mark on my childhood.
I wasn’t allowed to touch anything but could only wander through that enchanted place. It has always had an electrifying effect on me, making me dream of wizards, witches, fairies and a thousand smoking potions. The little cork-topped ampoules and pictures of skulls, bearing the word “poison” were always my favourites!
I went back into the Laboratory 15 years later, and can’t describe my amazement, mixed with a renewed sense of wonder and happiness. It was just as I remembered it – the light, the smell, the objects, and my favourite little bottles! It’s strange, the f
Mayu, 23 - Tokyo, Japan
- I'm 23 years old. I live with my younger sister, father and mother. We are really good friends, and of course I love them. When I was young, I was interested in foreigners. I found them curious, with their white skin, black skin, blue eyes and blond hair. Especially because they speak different languages!
So my favourite class was English. I studied hard in school so that one day I’d be able to communicate with foreigners.
When I was 18, I went to England to study English. I spent a lot of time with my Spanish friends, who used to hug me when we said goodbye. At first I was surprised, because we don’t usually hug in Japan. But it made me feel warm, kind and happy. I liked their hugs. I started working for an Indian company two years ago. Through my job, I've learned about different cultures and approaches to work. I also started travelling the world on holiday.
I’ve visited Cebu Island, Spain, Morocco and the USA. I’ll never stop travelling, it always gives me the chance to meet great people. They always give me warm hugs and say “You can come back anytime”. Then I feel they’re already part of my family.
Now I usually give hugs even in Japan, because I believe it can give happiness. And I’ll keep travelling the world. -
Natalia and Roma, 30 - San Francisco, California
- For 10 years we lived a life that we thought was going to make us happy. We enjoyed well-paid jobs, nice cars, a large apartment, expensive vacations and shopping. But over time all those 'building blocks of happiness' made us feel trapped, anxious and unfulfilled. We realized that we were not being true to ourselves, were not doing what we loved and all the materialistic things we surrounded ourselves with could not make up for the emptiness in our lives.
Almost 2 years ago we quit our jobs, sold everything we owned and went off to explore the world in pursuit of our passion for travel and photography. Happiness is an ever changing state of being, not a destination. We find that the closer we get to doing what we love, the more we are inspired and energized, the more happy and fulfilled we feel. For us life has become about those intrinsic rewards that cannot be measured by money, luxuries and comfort.
Individual moments from our travels come together into memories that change us and feed our creativity. We are sleeping under the stars in Glacier national park, hiking the Great Wall of China, haggling with the street vendors in Istanbul, visiting the ancient city of Petra, arguing politics in a London pub, walking the ancient streets of Rome and enjoying amazing Italian espresso. We are exploring different cultures, meeting interesting people, growing as photographers and getting a whole new perspective on life. Giving up comfort and stability to follow our dreams was a big sacrifice but sacrificing our dreams for a safe life is even more costly in the end. -
Natalie, 23 - Cologne, Germany
- About a year ago I was at a turning point in my life. Let’s say my world was a bit upside down.
Not knowing what to do with my career in fashion, or where my destiny would take me, it was the right moment to do some soul searching. So I booked an Ayurvedic retreat in India.
On my first day, the yoga instructor looked at me and I could read his mind: “Well, she’s blond, probably British, and sure doesn’t know anything about yoga.”
I was quite surprised when he came up to me after class and asked me “Why don’t you become a yoga teacher? You have the guts and positive energy to teach.”
I replied: “Why not. I’m here for 3 weeks on the Ayurveda retreat. Let’s add some extra yoga time.”
But it was only when I went back to Europe that I really understood the meaning of my journey to India.
A spiritual teacher once said: "Close your eyes and ask yourself - who am I?"
Don’t answer the question, just sit in silence.
I knew right away that I had to be surrounded by trees and Nature, before asking myself this question.
So I went to the woods near my house and in that moment of silence I felt my heart beating, and was aware of the life coursing through my body with every breath.
After a while I opened my eyes...I looked around and I saw beauty everywhere.
A feeling of deep inner peace came over me as I started to understand the meaning of life.
Of course, from time to time I still get angry, upset or sad, but then I remind myself to go back to that moment of silence, that awareness, and start to live in the present. All my worries disappear and I rediscover true happiness -
Natalie, 23 - Tokyo, Japan
Being in Tokyo for a year as an exchange student has been very exciting, although very difficult. Compared to other people doing Japanese Studies and spending a year in Japan, I have always been rather critical. Cultural and behavioural differences don't have that much of an effect on me. Maybe the environment I grew up in was already so multicultural and diverse that the outside world doesn't always give me that rush of adrenaline that other travellers have so often.
I had many problems before coming to Japan. I’m still involved in a court case back in my home country, my life as a student is a bit up and down, and after spending the whole of August travelling by myself, my boyfriend decided to break up with me when I got home.
I’m perfectly aware of what will happen in the future: life will continue, I’ll meet new people, situations will occur that would have never occurred if I’d still been in a relationship, But still, all I wanted was to be back where I grew up. I wanted to be close to my Swiss friends, I wanted the familiar clubs, the bartenders I adored because they still knew me, and a real kitchen with an oven so I could channel my anger into something productive.
No way will I go back before this exchange year is over, so I just pull myself together.
I am by no means materialistic, but I've found the key to my personal happiness: my smartphone. It’s incredible how many ways – and apps – there are to connect people. In a way, it’s an absolute pain and I'd love to be back in the days when nobody needed these things, but they’ve saved me. No matter where I am, people can reach me, cheer me up (or at least try to), gripe about my ex-boyfriend, give me advice or just be there for me. Some people are geographically close, some further away, but this little handheld device makes me feel as if I was holding them in my palm, letting them whisper their words of love and friendship directly into my ear. I am sti
Norihisa, 42 - Tokyo, Japan
- I was born in Tokyo 42 years ago. Both my parents were pharmacists and so were my grandparents. I grew up surrounded by medicines, and I used to play in the pharmacy stores run by my family. As a teenager I also started working there. You could say that my destiny was decided as a child: when I grew up I too would become a pharmacist. It was a kind of tradition in my family. Selling medicines was what everyone had always done.
So in the end, at the age of 22, after finishing school I started working behind the medicines counter. I did it for about 15 years. Every day I would put on my white coat, stand behind the counter for eight hours, and sell medicines. But I didn’t like the job. I knew deep down that I hadn’t chosen it, it had happened to me. Actually, I’d always had a dream – I wanted to become a photographer but never had the courage to tell my family. Until a few years ago. One day, when I was 37, I walked into my parents’ pharmacy and told them that that would be my last day at work. I had decided, from that day onwards, to invest all my energy into changing my life and trying to follow my dream. My parents didn’t take it well at first. But now they can see that I really have changed and that I’m doing what I want, they are proud of me and of the fact that I took my life into my own hands.It was one of the most important decisions of my life, and has had the best results. I did it. Now I really am a photographer! I’m very pleased with what I do, I love photography. I love creating pictures that people can see at exhibitions, in books and newspapers
Pam, 54 - Berkeley, California
- When I was a kid, my father told me, "You can do anything you want to do." I took him to heart. It was at the time when women's liberation was taking hold. I think my parents thought I would marry some guy who could support me and just be an artist on the side.
I always liked doing things that guys like to do. I liked to work on cars. I wanted to know how to fix my own engine, how to do sheetrock, how to paint and do carpentry, and just how to do practical things in the world. I spent a lot of time doing art at school, and after I graduated I became a printmaker, almost by default. As I became a printmaker, it became apparent that I had truly found what I loved and what made me happy. I had the technical skills and had the ability to advise an artist on what they should do in the print studio. Working with artists is such an exciting moment, and every artist is a whole new world.
Happiness to me is solving problems and doing things with my hands. This is what I do every day: I have a business where that is my primary function. When people ask me, "When are you going to retire?" I always say, "Why would I ever retire?" I am happy doing what I do at work every day. It is totally satisfying to go in and face all kinds of challenges, meet them, and then see the results of my efforts. My business has become a success, because I love it and I am happy doing it. I think that is the key to being in this world. I don't make tons of money, but I make enough and I am fulfilled doing what I do. What could be better? -
Pancho, 26 - Berlin, Germany
- My story is a children’s story. Although the happy ending might be unique, the beginning is not. It starts the same way as thousands of other stories lived out along the Mexico & U.S.A. border every day. I can still remember the exact date of the traumatic experience:
Tuesday, August 26, 1997
With no understanding of mom and dad’s reasons for chasing the “American Dream,” I found myself inserted into the bowels of a mechanical bird (or was it a time-machine?) in which I was to cross the border between my past (Guanajuato, Mexico) and my new present (Chicago, USA). When I got there, I found myself immersed in a new reality, and I had no concept of its social, cultural and linguistic systems. Unable to communicate or engage with the natives about this new world, I began to wonder how those systems worked, and more often than not, I reached my own conclusions. It was at this time that my attempts to understand my new world, while simultaneously searching for internal cohesion and external control, began to manifest themselves in what I would now call art and poetry.
The experience of switching countries, cultures and languages at such a fragile age, when my sense of socio-cultural identity had yet to take root, and my subsequent struggle to adapt to this new reality, was traumatic. I had no friends I could relate to, and without any border-crossing superhero I could use as a role model, I built a wall between myself and the outside world. I became extremely shy and fearful of any new faces and places I encountered. The reflection of myself that I would see in other people’s eyes came with the brand of “outsider” burned into my forehead. The promised dream was in fact an American nightmare.
That is why today – almost 15 years after my story begins – I find myself in Berlin, living under the pseudonym “Pancho Panoptes”. I am one-third masked artist, one-third border-crossing superhero, and the remaini
Raul, 33 - Maracay, Venezuela
My childhood was happy and straightforward. I grew up with a lot of comforts and privileges compared to a lot of other people in my country, and a few years ago I noticed that I'd never had to struggle to obtain anything. Everything had always fallen into my lap. I needed to put myself to the test, so I decided to take part in the “Caminata de San José”, a 42-km walk from the mountains to the sea. None of my friends thought I’d manage it. But when I got to that last kilometre, it was one of the happiest moments of my life!
Sometimes, you don’t know if you can do something till somebody tells you that you can’t. It's an undisputable fact, and people don't often use it to face challenges in their lives. But sometimes it works … (laughter)
Forty-two kilometres? More than five hours’ walking? Ten kilometres uphill and thirty downhill? These and other questions were what I expected to hear from everyone when I told them: I’M ENTERING THE CAMINATA DE SAN JOSÉ in Maracay.
The more I heard people tell me “No, Raúl: you’ll never finish it", the more it became a challenge for me. If more than eight thousand people can do it, why not me? That was the question that tormented me. So I decided to start proper training, two weeks before the event (more laughter).
But there were a few things that lifted my spirits – lots of people wouldn’t finish it, but I was going to. Then there was a support team to help the walkers ... Obviously, the ones who couldn’t manage or didn’t want to finish the walk.
Lots of food for everyone, water, people with ingrown toenails, lots of “It’s hurting, I can't go on", more water, biscuits, pain-relieving drugs, buttocks exposed to receive the injections, lots of “Come on, not far to go”, chocolate, lots of "Ow! Who made me do this!", fruit and more water … All of that went on continuously throughout the forty-two kilometres, to the point that you got fed up of hearing the
Ryan, 23 - New York City, USA
- Filmmaking is one of the few popular arts that brings together so many people. Initially, there are those who create the film and then ultimately it engages many others as a viewing audience.
This block in NYC’s West Village will always be fondly remembered by me not only for the hundreds of films I have seen inside the IFC Center with friends (including incredible midnight repertoires by favorite filmmakers such as Ozu, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Lynch and Carpenter) but it is also the block where we shot key scenes for our Oscar-winning short film, GOD OF LOVE. I produced that film with friends from NYU and it would go on to premiere on the very same block of the IFC Center just a year later as part of the Oscar Nominated Shorts Program.
The fact that the film’s journey had its genesis a few blocks away at NYU as writer/ director/star Luke Matheny’s graduate film thesis, coupled with the fact that it was created by a group of good friends is something that made the project truly stand out to me. So this location holds many special memories for me as we all moved together on the path from production to the finish-line, when the cast and crew were able to gather once again to share the film with NY audiences - just steps away from where we started!” -
Stacey Lee, 32 - San Francisco, California
- Imagine a young girl fresh out of college moving away from everything that she has ever known and away from everyone close to her in her entire existence. Yes, well that was me about 5 years ago when I moved to San Francisco right after college for a job in the bay area. Coming from the very warm and sunny Austin, TX, the cold and foggy weather in San Francisco took some getting used to. I will never forget the first time that I heard a foghorn. It was a late misty night and I was going to sleep with the sound of the waves from baker beach in the background, when all of a sudden the foghorn sounded, “BoooooooooonnnK!” I sat straight up in my bed wondering what on earth this could be! After years in the city I am well aware that the Golden Gate Bridge foghorns have guided hundreds of thousands of vessels safely through the Golden Gate Strait, and forewarned San Franciscans when fog was rolling in to envelop the city. The foghorns operate, on average over a year, about two and a half hours a day. During March, you'll hear them for less than half an hour a day. However, during the Bay Area's foggy season, which typically occurs during the summer months, they can sound for over five hours a day or for days at a time. This sound has become very soothing to me and I always feel happy to know that I am close to home when I hear a foghorn sound. It gives a whole new meaning to the Van Morrison song “Into the Mystic” when the lyrics say, “And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home. -
Stefano, 42 - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
- I can definitely consider myself a happy person, so choosing a happy part of my life was not an easy task. I’m optimistic and positive by nature and I love travelling in all its forms, but I decided to drop my anchor in one of the most beautiful cities in the world - Rio de Janeiro.
Here the sun is always shining, and waking up in the morning with the birds singing and the view from my bay window gives me the first moment of happiness every morning.
I’m surrounded by wonderful people all the time, and lucky enough to discover new places, countries and cultures every year.
I love making people feeling at home, and the most genuine, pure welcome I ever received was among the most humble, poor people.
Living in such a controversial, uneven society, not seeing the reality of the other less fortunate people around you would be like sticking a finger in your eye. The “favelas”, or community as they call it nowadays, is where everyone always a has smile and a little kindness to spare, no matter the size of their bank account.
I find happiness in the company of the less fortunate, and am always inspired as I learn that happiness comes from within.
It’s not what you have that makes you smile, but what you are.
Being a happy person I can be full of life’s gifts, by giving to people in need – even just a chat or a happy word -
Sun, 31 - Shanghai, China
- What is happiness?
Depending on your time of life, happiness might mean very different things.
When I was young, what made me happy was going on a trip, playing with my friends, wearing new clothes, winning first prize in a sports competition, performing in a dance show or wearing crazy make-up. Even just an ice-cream.
Happiness was more about an object – if I got it, I would be happy.
But as I grew up, I wanted more. Happiness was about doing the things I liked, being successful, gaining pride and respect. Travelling, exploring the world, being carefree. Being loved and spoiled by the person I loved.
But then, all of a sudden it felt as though nothing would satisfy me. I started questioning everything around me. I even went to a monastery to find myself, I had no desires. There was a void. I had to start learning who I was, to be reborn.
After that I changed, and became “emptier”, somehow. It was like my mind was starting over. Things I used to ignore were somehow winning me back.I was like a soldier returning home from a distant country. At last I realised the ultimate happiness was to cherish what I have here and now – my family, my piano and little jobs that keep me busy.
One day I hope to lie in my garden with my children running around, and watch them playing with my parents as my husband prepares the dinner. That to me will be the perfect happiness.
Vanessa Peters, 31 - Dallas, Texas
- still remember the feeling of recording my first album.
It was just a simple little 5-song EP, and I recorded it with some friends who were just learning how to use their audio equipment. I was their first “client,” and it was such a scary but exciting moment. It's very different to record your songs than it is to play them live – you are suddenly aware of every possible mistake, and it feels very strange to be wearing headphones and hear your voice coming back at you, plus there's the metronome inside the headphones, which was really hard for me to play with at first. It's different from playing with a full band. It requires a different kind of concentration, and if you are a perfectionist like me, it can be very frustrating.
But it can also be very rewarding! We worked so hard that weekend to record those five songs. I was actually in a closet (it was the most soundproof room available) and I just stared at men's shirts all weekend while I tried to relax but stay focused. At the end of the weekend, they printed me a copy of the album – my first one ever – and I went straight home and stayed up all night, designing artwork for the cover and burning copies on my computer so that I could sell them at a show the next weekend. When I listen to it now, I can hear how young and inexperienced I was, but also how excited I was to finally be recording my own songs. It's an excitement that you can hear better in that first album than any album of mine since, because it was so new and shiny and full of possibility. I like to listen to it every so often to remind myself that music is fun (because sometimes it can be quite discouraging and hard), and when I listen to it, I feel 22 years old again, full of hope and joy at the possibility that I might be able to play my songs for other people for a living. -
Viola Cangi, 27 - Città di Castello, Italy.
- I slide my right hand into the bag while holding it with my left. It’s so cold my breathe freezes white at each breath. Among the old receipts, coins, sweets and metro tickets, I find my house keys. I grasp the pink one, the one for the front door, and slide it into the lock as I wipe my shoes on the mat. Looking down, I usually see a toad, looking at me as it squats between the flower pots. I think he likes to wish me goodnight, but that night I don’t see him.
I open the door with a gentle shove, turn on the hall light and climb the stairs, trying to be quiet and taking tiny ant-steps. Second door: yellow key, I fumble for the lock and there it is. One turn of the key is never enough, I turn it twice to make sure, and the door opens. The smell of home is unmistakable, I can tell exactly what Mum cooked that evening. My mouth waters at the smell of baked fish and courgettes au gratin.
It is pitch dark. I hang my jacket on the hook and go to my room to turn the light on, helped by the glow of my mobile phone.
I don’t want to wake anyone up, so more ant-steps to go to the bathroom. There’s a long, narrow corridor that I know like the back of my hand, and I walk down it remembering the exact position of the telephone table, the box of Ettore’s toys, the vase of fake flowers and the bookshelf.
At the eleventh step is my parents’ room. The door is almost always open. I want to make sure I haven’t woken them up, I put my head round the door and hear them breathing. I can’t help but smile, it’s lovely to see them still there after twenty-six years, still cuddled up in the same position, as if they were in a painting.
Sometimes they make me think of a daisy at night, when the petals curl up. Their heads so close that their hair mingles together -