Naima Morelli

2023: The Year in Review

Finally we are in that part of the year where we start looking back and planning for the future. As everyone who has been around me lately knows too well, this year I went all in into the reviewing and the planning. Never was I so serious about it – I guess because it’s so much fun for me!

The reflecting phase started already from the 1st of December. I had just came back from a swirlwind of trips in end of October beginning of November – Paris, Budapest, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh literally one after the other – and even had to say no to two more, very enticing press trips to Khazakistan and Qatar. But I was exausted. I had to stop and digest all my experiences. So as soon as I put my suitcase on the parquet of my home in Pigneto, Rome, I de-installed the social media from my phone, and decided to go full into the reviewing/planning process. 

All of this was necessary because 2023 was quite the year and I badly needed some reflecting and pondering. There have been so many gifts and new directions, and had to see how to take full advantage of them, and integrate them into my life in a way that is harmonious and meaningful.

This year has been marked by amazing travel and work opportunities, and also by a relationship that – even if lasted only six months – brought an extra dose of beauty and expansion to a life that was already full and happy. Also, in between trips, I had more compact time to work on my stuff, and tighter deadlines, which made my working time more intense. I feel that packing and unpacking, I became more minimalist, and I carried less debris. A rolling stone gathers no moss, as the saying goes!

Some of my top best memories from this year have been being back to Bali in January and meeting my ex-boyfriend – and still dear friend -Lucas, a rendez-vous which has been 8 years in the making. Then going to Saudi Arabia in April for the first time was a blast, so eye-opening, and such great fun! I never laughed so much, for so many days in a row! And that was thanks to the people that were on the trip, the surreal aspect of the situation… the all of it was an incredible experience.

Finally, many dear memories are tied to an unexpected plot twist in June. A man that we would call Mercutio here, came back into my life. I have so many dear memories together from this year. Perhaps the best times involve us on a beach, whether is Fregene and Marechiaro in Italy, or Cullera in Spain. 

What made me feel the most passionate this year have been the open-air movies in the summer, the concerts, the dancing, … ah the dancing! And the sea, always felt so good, especially when playing “violent soccer” with my friends on the shore! There have been also many lovely quiet moments, reading on the sofa, or watching movies, with friends or alone on a plane towards a new destination, reflecting. And being back home for a few days before the next trip. Even though I did this much less drawing this year – and perhaps precisely because of this – I really cherish those peaceful moments at my drawing board, working on my new graphic novel.

Finally, in terms of what made me feel the most accomplished this year, I need to include the assignments I got from magazines, and the act of blithely going to the my local newsstand in Pigneto and seeing my pieces in print. And it was so fun getting recognised at art fairs in Singapore and art events in Paris on in the Middle East by people who have read my articles. Hands down, I’m so proud that my work speaks for itself, and it is widely read!

Overall, I feel my life organically evolved in 2023. Everything came into alignment, everything looked so different from the post-pandemic time, where I planted all the seeds that started coming to fruition this year.

Now I can safely say that I regained passion and committment to my career in the arts, my health improved (it’s always a balancing act with diabetes, like with everything else in life,) more trips are on the way, and now I have a way to make them more sustainable financially. And I have a calmer, confident, present, anxiety-free approach to all of it. All is coming. 2023 showed me this. 

Here a closer look at the different activities and areas of my life.


On a professional level, I wrote with more sharpness than ever (sharp was indeed my word for 2023) and got two more assignments for one of the best magazines ever. I also filed a piece I’m very proud of about Libya, which will hopefully come out soon. I strengthen old collaborations and find new fulfilling ones.

I gained back my confidence to travel by myself, first with my one-month trip to Asia (Singapore and Bali), and then, a great breakthrough by going to Saudi Arabia for the first time in April, then Abu Dhabi, and two times to KSA and the UAE again in November. It opened up a new reality for me, new possibilities, outside and within myself.

A trip to the art fairs Paris+ and ASIA NOW in Paris was another blast – as I am learning more and more about Central Asia and hopefully I’ll travel there in 2024 – as well as non-work trips to Naples, Valencia, and Budapest. Even though it wasn’t all smooth sailing, each one of them brought novelty, and a sense of purpose as I was testing how travel and a relationship could coexist in my life. They were small adventures in themselves, and I felt so renewed in them.

Back in Rome, a cafè called Zazie nel Metro, proved to be the best environment to work in. And I also tried a bit of the digital nomad life, and I enjoyed it!

In 2024 I’m going to amp up my press trip game, as well as pitching weekly the big big publications I’m aiming to write for. I’ll keep a consistent 9 to 5 schedule as well, and be flexible on press trips. My mantra will be “create the occasion, and rise to it.”

Graphic Novels

Overall, this was not the most productive year for my comics. Mostly because of travel, which kept me away from the drawing board, but also because an increase in my journalistic work, and the subject itself of the comic book, which is personal and sometimes I didn’t have the right detachment. 

I have still published Two Sun, my comic book from last year – shoutout to my friend Mino who worked on the graphic – and finished the storyboard of “Via del Pigneto,” the comic book which is still in the making.

For the next year, I’m going to approach my comics in a chill and calm way. I’m of course aiming to improve and do a good job, but without putting any pressure on them. I will silently get better, and slowly slowly network more, letting people know about my work. The only goal is to finish the new comic book by the end of the year, by giving it one hour a day in the evening (while listening to good music, that’s an incentive), and part of my weekends. 

I have also another secret little wish around my graphic novels that I’m not going to share just yet… stay tuned!

Yoga and Martial Arts

This year I still kept doing a little at ninjutsu, I got back to practice a bit of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but I got injured a couple of times, so I had to stop. I do really deeply miss the strength, both inner and outer, physical and mental, that came with training. I never quit yoga, and kept a daily practice, managing to do it also when travelling often, but drastically reduced it to 15 minutes a day. I dropped meditation most days.

However, whenever I had that quiet time, I deeply enjoyed rising up with my favourite spiritual podcast and getting back to my yoga mat, even more than when I kept a daily practice. This year, getting onto the mat meant getting back to myself after having enmeshed too much with someone else, being on their schedule. Getting back to my own depths from a time that was too social and shallow felt like heaven on earth! This happened when I was back from Bali, back from a November of intense travelling. I deeply craved solo time, and I was able to produce so much joy on my own. In fact, when left alone after a time that is too social, I can become a true joy-producing machine.

In 2024 I’m planning to recover from my injury, through physiotherapy and gymnastics, and get back into martial arts quietly and calmly, without overdoing it. Yoga has always been there for me and always will be, so I will keep tailoring my practice around my life and my needs.

Community and Relationships

One of the things that amplified my energy the most this year have been having exchanges and conversations with friends. There is a depth and intimacy I have with them that is so precious, and that I treasure it so much.

In being a little bit ungrounded because of so much travelling around, I found out that what I needed was intimacy and familiarity. And besides my family, I had that sense of home with my friends. My friends since the art academy days, the friends from the art world, my sorrentinean friends either visiting or living in Rome, my Pigneto community and the dear friends from the dojo. So it feels great to be glocal like that; having colleagues and people who work in the arts abroad, that I meet on trips, I keep meeting new interesting people at the local neighborhood cafè, and I have my dear friends whom I can dine with, go to the beach, to concerts, to dance. It’s a beautiful life I’m living, and I’m super proud to have built it and keep on honing it, and refining it.

When social life became to full to the detriment of my work however, I felt a bit drained. At times a lack of intimacy with some people, spending time with friends who didn’t crave my same level of connection. I need my constant bucket of meaning, interestingness. 

Too much time on social media drained me, in fact I social-media-detoxed the whole month of December, and planning to do this again in January. Also draining: second guessing myself. Also, chores and doing too much travelling in a row depleated me. Next year I’ll delegate some stuff, and create better systems to be more efficient.

Finally, I was kept a bit stuck by holding onto people that I should have let go a long time ago. It’s true that things need to be processed in their own timing, and you can’t speed up your emotions. But you can definitely avoid repeating negative cycles, once you gain awareness of them.

I never included a note for my family in the end-of-the-year post, but I feel this is very important. Recently a family friend told my parents about me: “She is the perfect combination of the Paturzo and Morelli families.” I’m so proud to hear that. I’m so proud when drivers wait for me at the airport with a “Naima Morelli,” sign in their hands, and that’s because I’m not only bringing myself to these incredible experiences.I’m bringing also my mother, whose coat I wear, and my grandmother who knitted my jumper. The stories of my grandfather’s trips are always with me, the Arabic name that my father chose for me after his favourite song is always a chance to dedicate a thought to family in foreign countries. The discussions I have with my uncles Jo and Bruno always resonate in my mind. I’m bringing myself around, but also bring the spirit of my family and ancestors. My successes are theirs, as I’m the product of my lineage.

And now let’s move on to the three most important lessons from this year.

Lesson 1: a good kamae 

For my emotional life, this year I moved through phases and cycles. I wrote a new sentence each cycle on the mirror of my bathroom. One action that I kept doing that was keeping me stuck, was writing, responding, and re-engaging when I had already decided to let go. Sometimes you just need to be ruthless and refocus on what’s actually moving forward the needle. I guess I should also work on my subconscious for that!

I have learned to increasingly get a grip on my emotions. It’s all good and well to not ignore your emotions, but you also should go back to that toughness that didn’t allow for you to be completely carried by it, away from your structure and life. Martial arts taught me that it’s important to maintain your kamae, maintain your structure. Then you can take any hit, and perhaps redirect it, make something of it.

In a way, it’s like when we feed the algorithm. We do click on cheaply attractive stuff, although it might be fake news, low-vibe junk and we know it. And the more we click on it, the more we are fed more of it by the algorithm. It’s a bit like the universe works. Let’s click on the nourishing, meaninful, healthy stuff more.

In that process, I am learning to let go of the willingness to change or control what I can’t control, focusing on what is in my sphere of action. Discerning priorities. 

Lesson 2: cultivate self-trust 

One thing I really needed in 2023, but was not able to give to myself consistently, is definitely self-trust. There are some things I completely trust myself on. I know I’m good at my writing, my art, and that I can do anything with my imagination. I know I can be disciplined and reliable when it comes to sports and martial arts, when I get an assignment I’m really able to do a great job. But on more subtle emotional issues, I don’t trust myself enough to set boundaries, to stop and walk away when I need to. I know I can easily get carried on emotionally.

The key issue is that by putting myself in impossible situations – I guess at that moment believing mindlessly I could deal with them, no problem, but subconsciously knowing that there is another mechanism at play – I’d put myself in the position to lose, thus losing also a sense of self-trust in that field.

The depth of my attachment I guess depended also on the fact that I projected my willingness of adventures onto other people. But the universe got me covered also in that department. For example, I fantasized about going to Saudi Arabia with one specific person – that wan’t really up for it – and I magically got offered the fantastic Saudi press trip, which came with meeting wonderful people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The universe told me: “He’s not the one you’re looking for. And see, all you wished to do with him, you can easily do by yourself, and meeting new people in the process.” This gave me a great surge of extra-confidence.

Trusting yourself starts from acting. Acting reinforce the idea that you can do it. Going to training every day without having an inner conversation if it’s the case or not, builds an automatism, and consequentially I know that I can rely on myself when it comes to training. And then I started looking at myself as a person that when starts a sport or martial arts, is disciplined and consistent. That has become my identity. 

So for boundaries I’m starting more and more to act in this way. I’m walking away from uncomfortable situations , as hard as it might be in the beginning (going to train a new sport isn’t all easy-peasy either in the beginning.) I shouldn’t perceive it as a sacrifice, but rather as a training modality. As building a new muscle. As a side plank, a series of squats, that then you can even brag and show off about how good you are at it. Like: this doesn’t serve me any longer. No problem, I can walk away from it easily. I can trust myself about this, because I have done it in the past.

Work, friends, commitments to one self should be the foundations, the basis, the ground. The priority in 2024 should be have solid foundation, a good kamae, and don’t throw all of you so easily away. The rest can be worked in its own time. None of the cases I was faced this year were urgent, or priorities. They could very realistically be sorted in their own timing.

Lesson 3: do the things in a good order

Is quite typical of me not doing things in a good order. Plagued by the “prima il dovere, poi il piacere” motto of my youth, I used to decorate before cleaning. Metaphorically, but also literally. First, create space, get rid of what is not useful, then go to the fun part. Also because cleaning and making space is ALSO the fun part, to be enjoyed. The realisation is that I can enjoy ALL PARTS of a process. We are not speeding to death here. There is so much goodness in STAYING in a phase, really fully allow it to be processed, and sink through you. That is presence. 

I went through different inner cycles this month. Through some of them, I sped out, I wanted to jump to the fun part. But no, there is something to learn in all phases. Something to be changed by. And if you skip some parts, obviously the results are not grounded and ever-lasting. 

So 2024 will definitely be about clear priorities. A good order of things. First comes this, then comes that. First clean and then decorate. First, make space, then look to fill it. Good order good priorities give you clarity and confidence. Also tame anxiety, as you know everything needs to be done in its own timing.

Lesson 4: 

Finally, after so much moving around this year, I have realise that I can easily live as a more minimalist, efficient, and compact self. I’ll move into 2024 with this ethos, with less burden. So my word for the year (which are really two) is Lean/Clockwork.

And so be it. I’m ready to go!

For my year in pictures, hop on Gioco di Donne

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