The Free Trial Month

Someone I follow recently wrote that for them 2024 would begin in February and they were taking January as a free trial month. I completely understand. Between having done a lot of travelling the last half of the year (first the US, then Germany and France), and then one more holiday without the kids, coupled with the weather here in Sicily which has been somewhat frigid, windy and intermittent gray mixed with amazing, awesome color, I’ve found myself caught between the promises I made for 2024 and not wanting to do anything but sequester myself in the sheer grandiose of our incredible, artistic world. Everyday is a chance to walk amongst it and not let the thoughts of the modern world enter into anything that wasn’t a part of it a million years ago. 

Were it not for this vicious, frosty wind (I joke, but half-seriously, that the wind here starts in Finland and ends at our front door). Which is to say I’ve not been much in the mood for anything other than eating, reading, abusing dry January, watching Seinfeld reruns and otherwise avoiding anything that even closely resembles productivity. I joked about my lack of inertia even to a new friend I met who will be retiring this year from the military and is considering staying in Sicily: Every day here is like a Friday: Maybe you work some, maybe you screw off some. Mostly though it’s the latter. 

So, to keep this streak alive and embrace the practice that January is simply a free trial month to see how the new year wears on me, I’m taking a different approach this week and instead of writing about some bullshit nonsense we have to deal with because, well, just because, I thought I’d answer a few reader (okay, not really, let’s call them internet-inspired) questions that might be fun enough to jolt me out of my apathy.

I’m not holding out any hope, and neither should you. These kinds of questions are not meant to raise important issues, but they might be the icebreaker I need to get my thoughts (and work life) back on track. 

And so, because I doubt I’m alone in this laissez-faire attitude I encourage you all to play along and jot down your own responses. If you really want to commit, share them in the comments. It’ll be a nice chance to get to know one another. If you choose not, well, that’s fine. At the moment I really don’t care anyway 😁

p.s. thank you Courtney Martin for this cool exercise.

  1. What did you pay a lot of attention to this year? Well, if my writing is any indication, I paid a lot of attention to exploring why exactly we choose to move to Sicily and then promptly proceeded to take every chance to go somewhere else. Oh, and I also passed the Italian Driver’s License, which was kind of a big deal that I let absolutely no one get away without hearing about it.
  2. What was one of the best conversations you had this year? What made it so memorable? This is easy. The best conversation I had this year was any that happen in Italian. I love learning a new language at this stage of my life. It gives me purpose, introduces me to this new culture in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise, and has allowed me to grow closer to my friends here and the community. I have a long way to go, but everyday is a chance to practice and get better. Some days are better than others, but I try really hard to not let a day go by that I don’t think, talk or listen in Italian. 
  3. What wasn’t yours to do that you did anyway? What is yours to do in 2024 that you are excited about? This is another easy one, but a subject I have struggled with since day one: Overparenting. I love being involved in my kids’ lives, but there is such a thing as too involved (Whatever you picture, now imagine it happening from 5,000 miles away). Offering unsolicited advice on school and work, providing travel arrangements, suggesting they’d do better by following a budget, and top of the list, then over-encouraging them to take time off and come visit. In 2024 my motto is: Get a grip, Steve. Stop causing your kids (and wife) to stress out. 
  4. Where did you feel stuck? Where do you crave to have an adventure—whether literally or metaphorically? Sicily is full of open space, with ancient footpaths leading in every direction. When we thought of how our lives would be when moving here we pictured long walks, pilgrimages, really, from town to town, across mountains and along the coast, anywhere our feet could carry us. Pilgrimages made so far: zippo.
  5. How did your relationship change this year? Both Franca and I have thought a lot about this and how moving here is an opportunity to not simply re-invent ourselves—which feels a bit like saying we’d been bad selves up until then—but to make some changes as to how we spend our time, both together and alone, with more focus on the things that bring us delight (again, together and alone), by shifting our attention and availability to the present so that we may relate to one another in a more fulfilling, complete way. I don’t really like how that reads like a mission statement, but it is what is. If you prefer, in more entertaining emoji’s it might look like this: A couple of ⏰ midlife expats 🛵 moving to Sicily 🏝️ to find their place in the 🌍 only to discover one another 👩🏽‍🤝‍👨🏼
  6. What are you grieving? How could you carry that grief more collectively? Loss is always hard, but the older you get the more you lose people who greatly influenced your life. This past year I lost three of them. One spoke to me through song, one through words and the third through action.
  7. When did you feel courageous this year? Not to brag, but have I mentioned yet of attempting and passing the Italian Driver’s License? 🪪 Also, #2 was a big chance for me to step out of my comfort zone. 
  8. Who made you feel most safe this year? Who pushed you in ways that helped you grow? No contest. Next question.
  9. What was a thing you had a hard time admitting to yourself this year? Admission may be too strong of a word here—in the words of Popeye, I know what I yam—and, at the sake of going deeper than what I intended with this free trial month, what I am is a bit of a control freak who lives very much in the future and when things don’t go according to plan overreacts and projects the problem onto those closest to him. There, I said it. Call it an admission or just saying out loud what everyone already knew. The point of an admission, or whatever you want to call this, is what happens next. And that, we will leave for February. 
  10. When did you feel more free this year? You probably already know what I want to say (ahem, 🪪) but really, I can sum this up with one word: Numbers. And numbers never lie

Thanks for reading.

Alla prossima!


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