Aside for the jealousy, rejection, and the feeling that I wasn’t good enough for the French Village Boy, the feeling that has been haunting me in the past few weeks is: I have always felt ok with the idea of being alone, but I’ve always thought it without actually being alone. Now I’m objectively alone: I have no one to justify my actions to, I can sleep with whoever I want, I can choose whatever job I want, not worrying if my partner will find a job there, or even want to come at all.
How good am I at managing all this freedom? It’s actually a very complicated question, because we, as humans, tend to be braver when imagining things than when we actually have to act on them. I’m a 32 year-old woman, I have two degrees, a job which I like and a good salary. In theory I have nothing to worry about. And yet, I am considering what I’m going to be like in 10 years. My friends are, for the most part, either married or getting married, and having children.
I never wanted to get married, per se, but I honestly struggle with the idea to have no one who will care for me, who will worry about me if I don’t come home, who wants to share a part of their life with me. The same goes for children. I don’t want children now, there are still so many things I want to do with my life, and none of them allows space for children, but what will it be like in ten years time? I don’t have the rest of my life to start a family, should I do it now for fear of time running out? I think not, and I’m pretty sure of my decision. I’ve been dumped twice, by two long term partners, because I wasn’t ready to give up my freedom for the sake of having a family, but what if I’ve made a mistake and I’m left with nothing?
What bothers me, more than the children as small beings that are born from me, is the fear of leaving no legacy behind. And this is, I think, what haunts people all over the world: the fear of being forgotten. When I was small I used to go with my grandmother to the cemetery of her small village. Every now and then there would be a grave with no flowers, weeds growing on it, a faded photograph. My grandma would always leave a flower saying “When you leave nothing behind, this is how you end up”.
Now, I’m not a big fan of the afterlife and to be honest what happens with my body after I die is not of great interest to me, but leaving this earth knowing that within a few years nothing will remain of me, that no one will remember me, that none of the things that have belonged to me will mean anything to anyone really bothers me.
My extended family always taught me, both in words and in actions, that our legacy is what we build, regardless how many children we choose to have, or not have. And I believe this. I have built my “extended family” in every country I’ve lived, I have friendships that will last forever, I have lost people and taken it as a personal duty to keep their memory alive, even if we weren’t related.
But then again, what happens when they go? In my grandma’s house there are pictures of people who died a century ago, we remember them because we are their descendants and have passed on their stories for generations, but their friends probably remembered them until they died, but haven’t passed on their story.
At the end of Pasqualino Settebellezze, an extraordinary film by Lina Wertmuller showing the cruelty of the war in all the small, bloody and morbid details that every other director working the Second World War left out, the protagonist goes home after the war and tells his former girlfriend, who has waited for him to return from a concentration camp “We have to start again, make children, a lot of them, because they are the only thing that will make us immortal”. It took me thirty two years but I’m starting to understand the intimate meaning of this statement, and the thought of being forgotten scares me. A lot.