Naima Morelli

Where do you want to live?

I remember one beautiful evening few years ago in Rome. I was walking with my new friend Francesco, a mime just met at Cinema Trevi. Quite strangely for a mime, he was a chatterbox. I thought that was because he couldn’t talk on stage, so that was his way to vent. Since I just came back from an opening at Gagosian gallery, I was wearing red lipstick, a little back dress and red shoes. Francesco and I keep on whirling in the street paved with cobblestones and he said: “You know what the beauty of life is? That you can live wherever you want. You just have to choose a city, and you can move there anytime.” Then he went on telling me about when he was my age – twenty-one at the time – and he moved to Spain by himself. He was working in a bar near the beach, studying as an actor at the same time. He also told me about that time that he saved a girl abused by a group of guys – an anecdote he clearly unsheathed to impress me. Aside from that, the beautiful thing about Francesco was his constant excitement and exaggerated optimism. He could have been banal and cliché in his representation of happiness, fancying sunsets on the beach and the like, but he was still infusing me merriness and even a little inspiration.

Over the years I kept on asking myself: Is that true? Can you really pick a city you like and decide to move there on the whim?
Where I wanted to live has been the question I kept on asking myself even before finishing the art academy in Rome. I always thought I wouldn’t live in Italy forever. With the economic crisis and the work-for-free mentality (“we are doing it for the glory” kind of thing, as I pointed out in the past), Rome is not a city to start with, but rather a city to come back to. I guess I have been spoiled by Rome, which is of course one of the most beautiful city in the world. I expected the rest of the world to be the same, to have the romanticism, the monumentality, the sheer beauty and the friendliness of Rome. For what I have seen of the world until now, Paris is the only city who can compare –friendliness aside.

Of course, Paris is pretty much every girl’s dream, and reading Henri Miller’s books and Lee Miller’s biography doesn’t help. For years I kept on drugging myself with French movies at the Centre Culturel Saint Louis De France every Tuesday at five o’ clock, so clearly my mind is completely twisted. I remember the Peruvian protagonist of the marvellous book “La niña mala”, by Mario Vargas Llosa, having the one dream of moving to Paris. He was open to do whatever job in order to live there, because the city itself was his dream. But as much as the charm of Paris doesn’t dim, I know that’s not the city I need to be at the moment career wise.
I am building my path with writing about contemporary art – especially tied to the Asia Pacific area – curating exhibitions and freelancing for magazines. I do speak a little French, but learn to write as a native when I’m still work-in-progress with English seems a little bit too much. I’m not in the position to thoroughly devote myself to my French dream, so I’ll keep it “on file”.


To start all over again. That’s the thing with moving. When my friend from the art academy Rosa moved to Madrid, I thought: why would you want to lose all the contacts you have laboriously conquered in going to vernissages almost every night to move to another country? As well, I had not read “The Sun Also Rises” back then, so I couldn’t really understand what was with Spain. Now I know she was probably victim of the same itching for travelling and moving out of Italy that I’m experiencing now. When I moved to Melbourne and back, I had been wise to not burn the bridges. I guess I’m now working with cultural exchange value in art, and I’m getting truly passionate with cross-cultural issues. Is not that when you move country you lose everything.
But yesterday I was talking with my boyfriend that I’ve been travelling with since we met, almost three years ago (around that time my friend Francesco disappeared, strangely enough). We were sitting on a lonely bench in Sorrento’s public gardens. Sorrento is where I come from and where my parents live. I sat on that same bench with many friends in my teens. Every time I came back from Rome or whatever, I use to sit there with a friend, telling him about my adventures that he generally couldn’t understand or care less. That was definitely a coming-back-bench, “Heureux qui comme Ulysse” kinda bench, if you’re into Brassens. And if you’re not, just google it. Anyways, my boyfriend who wasn’t into Brassens either said: “When you move somewhere, you can’t expect starting off in first gear. All immigrants or expats – call them whatever you want – start very small. You can’t expect to move somewhere and bring your career with you. Maybe in the first two years you will wash dishes, then you will be a car cleaner, then a waitress, then a barista, then you start working for Greenpeace, then…” “Stop there! I can’t clean dishes because soaps irritate my skin!” I argued
“They give you gloves! But that’s not the point…”
“Yeah, but water filters through the gloves…”
“That’s not the freaking point!!! What I’m trying to say is that when you move abroad you have to start everything all over again!”
And that got me a little sad.

I often fancy coming back to Melbourne, but I have mixed feelings about it. Since lately I’ve been writing a book about contemporary art in Melbourne, pitching a lot of Australia-related stories and listening to “The Creative Conversation by Nicole Lee”, a podcast hosted by an Australian journalist, I feel kind of nostalgic at times. Yesterday night though I dreamt about going to Central Coles in Elizabeth Street and I had nightmares about the dreary food choice. This morning at breakfast I ate delicious chocolate cookies by the Italian brand “Le Tre Marie”. They were so delicious and you can tell they had raw ingredients (to make sure I read the ingredients list on the box). Melbourne Cole’s cookies were delicious as well, I had to admit, but that typical taste of pure fat is stuck in my mind. The list of ingredients never stopped. You might say, that’s enough of a reason to not give Melbourne another shot? I guess it’s more the thrill of trying out a new city, even if it’s as cold as Berlin gets. Obviously the problem with Berlin is that people speak German there. If I was considering a distraction learning French – a language which I adore – image learning German. Don’t get me wrong I studied German too and it would be so cool being able to read Uschi Obermaier biography that hasn’t been translated yet. But that would probably get me off the track again.

I have another friend whose experience is emblematic at this point. My high school friend Diana has been very indecisive about what to do with her life for a long time. She studied fashion design in Rome and after graduation she came back to Sorrento. Even if she, unlike me, has many friends in Sorrento, she wanted to find a job in a big city and leave her town. For about three years she had flinched. “I have to take a decision” was the refrain. Then something changed. Now she is juggling an apprenticeship at a local tailor with a casual job – advertising a restaurant by handing flyers to passerby in Sorrento. She is learning to saw and she is starting to make her own clothes, while saving up for her next move – probably going to Milan. I admire her greatly, and when I see people struggling like that – facing a future that is as indecisive as mine – all my efforts and worries seem to fade away.


One important thing that my friend Diana already did, and everyone really should do, is to free ourselves from the narratives we built for ourselves. One of the reasons we should do that is because at the time we built those narrative – when we were children or in high school for example – we didn’t know much about the world and its complexity. Dreams and romanticism are good, is to have them as this fix thing that can’t change shape that is bad. To live up to expectations is detrimental in the long term. The important thing is to get to the core of what you are doing and knowing that things happen. In life there are so many elements out of your control, so the only thing you can try to do is do what is needed at the moment. You do that by keeping yourself close to your intentions and the things you love to do no matter what. The shape these things take will certainly be in the realm of compromise. But that shouldn’t let you down. If our life would happen just as we imagined it, it would be a total bore. You can even have the imagination of Tolkien, but with no unforseen events it would get boring. So get at the core of your narratives. It’s just a pretty picture of your future life that you like, or is there something more meaningful behind? Do you want to live in Paris and just in Paris and if Paris gets destroyed by aliens you would still dwell its ruins, or do you want a bohemian life? Do you want to ride that exact jeep in that exact desert with those exact friends with that exact music in the background, with a mission to accomplish, or do simply you want to fulfil an aesthetic sense of adventure and camaraderie? Or you just like the desert? Because you know, I experienced a little bit of desert in Australia, but my friends insisted in playing Daft Punk – which I totally hated – instead of the Dire Straits that – let’s be honest – with those sliding guitars are much more of a X-Men in the desert experience. Nonetheless, I had what I wanted. Not precisely how I wanted, but you know what? I’m happy, because I ended up having more than I expected. I had beautiful pictures for my fashion blog. Who could have imagined that burst of narcissism in my wild desert fantasies?

That’s it. You may ask what happened to the other friends I mentioned earlier, just like in a movie before the credits.
I recently met Francesco in the street of Naples. He is still very talkative and positive, and he is currently working at San Carlo theatre. I don’t know much about Rosa, except that she lives in Barcelona now and she has become a hardcore feminist – which is always good. My boyfriend is now sleeping in the other room, probably dreaming about Daewon Song asking him to borrow his board. It is nine twenty and my friend Diana is in her Sorrentinian lane out of “Pane Amore and Fantasia” handing out flyers to tourists and thinking about that jacket that she has to work on a little more. I’m on a small terrace few blocks away, overlooking terracotta roofs, typing on my laptop with a cup of tea next to me although is summer.
Sometimes reminding yourself of the struggles and boldness of your friends keeps the blue at bay. We are all facing indecisiveness. We are all worried of making the wrong decision. The hard part is deciding, after that all we have to do is keeping yourself determined and close to our values. So I will ask you again: where do you want to live?


Photo 1, 2, 3 from Gioco di Donne
Photo 4 from The Dirty Stache

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