Emma Bird makes some good points about changing one’s life in Downshifting or upshifting?
Emma changed her life by, um, upshifting, if I’m not mistaken—and now lives in Sardinia. Sardinia changed my life as well. It was uplifting, actually.
After spending 4 years studying Electrical Engineering, I spent a mere 6 months at my job before realizing life in a cubicle is maybe a couple of square feet different than spending it in one of the US’s numerous and oversubscribed prisons. After waiting it out for a few years, I just had to go outside for air. I went to Sardinia.
It wasn’t soon enough. You see, when you’re an engineer and you stop trying to learn about the latest technologies, you end up in the very lucrative and exceedingly boring field of defense electronics. You needn’t know anything of the latest technology in defense electronics. You just have to stomach people blathering on and on about crap like “kill ratios” in meetings. You “interface” with complete idiots in high places. You learn about how the US goes about killing people and lying about it. You wonder how no one has come to care, even though it was a General—Ike—who warned us about putting too much trust in the Military-Industrial complex long ago. Silicon valley was as hard and unnatural as its name.
Sardinia was different. You went to a house, knocked, told the hauntingly beautiful woman you needed more wine and she filled your bottle from the spigot and charged you almost nothing. You got olive oil from the “feeler,” a man whose hands couldn’t manage to stay away from women’s body parts but who had an olive grove just a five minute walk outside the village (right on top of the bronze age Nuragic village we were excavating at the time, as it turns out). People at the vegetable market quieted down to listen to you order up your evening meal, then gossiped openly about how your Italian was pretty OK for an American. You asked for something out of season at the market—like fresh ricotta—and the lady politely informed you that it was out of season. Then the next day there would be a basket glistening with fresh ricotta made by a local shepherd—for you, the foreigner.
How could life be better? I mean, the local beer had the symbol of the party working peaceably for Sardinian autonomy. How cool is that?
I went on to work as an archaeologist in Sardinia, Puglia, and Greece. When the work got to be too much, I wrote about it and got paid. I amassed enough money to buy a house in Italy.
I owe a debt to Sardinia for its hefty pull toward a simple wholesomeness and Henry Miller for his raucous exhibition of living by one’s wits.
So, I’ve probably not convinced you to quit that nasty job of yours if you have one. But really, if you’re unhappy you might look for something better to do that doesn’t hurt anything. If you have Italian dreams, maybe you should buy a house in Umbria or in Badolato or wherever you think you’d be happy.
Because happiness counts. Don’t live to regret your life.