WORKIN’ 9 TO 5 DOLLY PARTON STYLE

It sounds a bit weird to say that, but without my job, I would probably be dead by now. My work has been my life saviour when my mental illness reached its worst bit, and if I’m here typing this blog with my sanity (almost) fully intact, it is only because I had an office to go to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

work-e1534063287773.jpgI am an Executive Assistant, which is like a Personal Assistant on a higher level, or as I like to say it, I’m either a “glorified secretary” or a “babysitter for adults in the corporate world”. Jokes aside, my job is only one thing about me that I have always loved desperately, fiercely, and immensely.

I have always been a person full of hate for everything regarding myself: I hated my body, I hated my life, I hated my brain and all the mental stuff going on in there, I hated the way I look, the way I talk, the way I dress, I hated everything and anything and some more, but never, ever, EVER my job and the person I am once I close the office’s door behind my back.
Outside work I was a mental mess, weak, ugly, shy, insecure, with barely any self-esteem; at work, I transformed myself in a highly confident, strong, efficient, tireless, unstoppable Silvia, who can do whatever it’s requested and some more on the side.

My work has been instrumental in moulding the person I am today, and the reason is because I met amazing people who have coached me and helped me grow, both inside and outside the office.

I remember my first ever job as a guest assistant in Milan’s main business exhibition centre. For a shy person like me, who could barely look at people in the eye, let alone speak, it turned out to be a baptism of fire. Having said that, the buzz of wearing a uniform and be helpful made me feel on top of the world. When I stepped in my first office as a junior secretary aged 20, I was both terrified and fascinated at the same time. I got hired by this family-run company who traded in the production and supply of concrete materials for the building industry.
I knew absolutely shit nothing about it, and I was only supposed to be the pretty lady who opens the door of the show room to our customers, the one who brings the coffee to the boss and does very basic secretarial stuff (answering calls and emails, buying stationery and keeping everything tidy). My manager didn’t take long to see the potential I had and not only he gave me more and more responsibilities, but he also encouraged me to come up with my own ideas to improve things in the office: from re-arranging the showroom, to re-organising the way he kept track of all sales, together we revolutionised that small office and made it in a highly efficient one. My manager soon became my best friend and we had the greatest time ever. I loved working for that company to bits. Unfortunately, mismanagement and a though economic situation in Italy meant that the company had to cut costs, my office got sacrificed in the name of savings and I got made redundant.

I cried all my tears.

Thankfully I got hired pretty quickly by another company, this time a worldwide Certification Body (ever heard of 9001, 14001 and 18001 certifications? Me neither before that job). The best way to describe those two years is: hell on Earth. My manager was the most hideous, horrid and nasty piece of work I have ever encountered in my life. He hated me from day one, because I got hired by someone he hated (like it was my fault, right?) so in his eyes I was “the enemy”. Like I could have cared less to go at war with someone who pays my salary! He insulted and humiliated me very single day for whatever reason he could have thought of, whether work or non-work related. Anyway, this two years taught me a lot more than I’m happy to admit, and all for the wrong reasons: I became an ace at covering my back, at protecting myself against anything and everything thrown at me. I learned to mask my true feelings, to watch my back like a CIA spy, to solve any issue as soon as I became aware of them and before they landed on my manager’s desk, and to keep a straight, imperturbable face anytime I got yelled at (only to run and cry in the bathroom, or in my car). Gosh, I don’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. Two years of pure bullying. I prayed every day, whilst driving my car, to have an accident and end up in hospital for months. Thankfully it never happened.

My saving grace came when I decided that I had enough, and I wanted to change so badly that I was ready to go and work anywhere, for anyone, as long as I could get out of that shithole.
Every day, driving to my workplace, I could see the headquarters of this very famous American company. One day I told myself “why not checking their website. They must be hiring someone. Maybe I could send my CV there and then who knows, my commute would be parking there instead of here”

Me being me, I got all fired up, I started browsing their website and applying to every job I could without not even remotely caring about the actual location of it. Two days later I get an email back from the HR leader saying she was very interested in my profile and to give her a call to discuss the role and get to know each other. Her phone number started with 02, which is the same as Milan. AWESOME!
I call, and the number is not working.
Weird.
I check the email back. No, I typed the number correc… hold on a minute. I scroll the email to the bottom. I read her signature. I check her phone number. It is actually +4420something something.
Shit, it’s London.
Oh well, I’m sure that’s because this is a worldwide company, with offices all over the world, I bet they want to test my English level.
No. It didn’t take long before the HR leader asked me where in London am I living because the office was going to move from Mayfair to Hammersmith and she wanted to make sure my commute was not an issue…. And I had to tell her that actually, commute-wise, I had quite a journey since I lived in Italy! We liked each other though, and she told me she was coming to Italy for her holiday in the next couple of weeks and she would have loved to meet me.
We did, and it was love at first sight. However, I didn’t hear a single thing till a month after that meeting (and my hopes were already dead by then). She apologies profusely, asked me if I was still available and if so, if I was interested in relocating to London and join the company.
I think my heart stopped for what it felt like a lifetime.
I ran in my living room screaming like I was on fire. When I broke the news to my parents, my mum started crying and screaming “my baaaaaaabyyyyyyy going so far awaaaaay” (…..), whereas my dad tried to keep his cool and calm me down. I cried, I didn’t know what to do, but my dad talked me into accepting the offer and give it a go: a month, maybe six, at least a year…

8 years (and counting) later, I’m so grateful for having grabbed that awesome chance.

I moved to London as a young, fragile, ultra-shy girl, still traumatised from two years of bullying. I have been welcomed by a team of wonderful people, who took me under their wings and worked non-stop to re-build my self-esteem, to inspire me into trying new work1things to improve myself and, most importantly, they became my new family and they moulded me into this crazy, confident, no-shit taker and no fool suffering fierce woman. I remember the very first time my manager called me on stage after a two-days long convention I organised for him to praise me in front of a 100+ colleagues. As soon as everyone gave me a standing ovation, I burst into tears (and I’ve been inconsolable for a good half an hour afterwards!). I still cry whenever I get any gesture of appreciation. I’m a softie, what can I say!
When my mental health took a turn for the worse, it was my workplace who stepped in and saved me. I never told anyone what I was going through at the time, but the fact that I had things to do and people who trusted me to do them well turned out to be a massive help. Even though I felt more like wanting to (seriously) die than face my day, knowing that I was going somewhere safe and caring gave me that strength to get out of bed and keep going on.

I still work for that awesome American company, even though I had a three years stint at

xmas.jpg
Merry Xmas! Needles to say, my desk was the best

the BBC at some point. My office is made of crazy, funny, awesome people. We work really hard and we party even harder. I became famous for my acts of craziness. Everyone knows that when I go “I have an idea: how about….”, something totally bonkers is about to happen, like when I decided to not sleep one night to chat with my Chinese colleagues in order to get some documents one of colleagues desperately needed, or when at Christmas I started a “decorate your desk” challenge, and since very few decided to participate, I took the matter in my own hands and I wrapped every single desk like a Christmas present……
My boss is awesome. He is at the receiving end of my rants every Monday mornings. Seriously, he is a legend, and the team I work with is just fantastic, we love each other to bits and there is no better cure for my sadness than hanging out with them. The day I got dumped and I was unusually quiet, everyone rallied around me to cheer me up. Well, every time I’m too quiet they check on me, because it means that I’m either very sad or scheming something….

And when I’m plotting something, it is generally one thing: a proper prank.

nicholas
half-way through my prank

It started one day that a colleague pissed me off by not complying to my instructions, meaning that I ended up sorting a massive mess. I wanted to make him pay for what he did.
I made a mistake ordering stationery few days earlier and I found a way to sort that problem and avenge myself: I covered his desk in post-it.
I patiently peeled them one by one and covered the whole thing. Not a soul that day dared to stop me. I was mad! His face when he saw it the next day… PRICELESS!

Oh, the day the same colleague stole my spot at Wimbledon by convincing one of the managers to take him and not me!!! I was FURIOUS. I was hysterical. I slammed my fists at my desk and yelled “SHIT IS GOING DOWN TODAY!”.
I stormed to my colleague Marge’s desk, told her to get ready cause Wimbledon was coming to the office. She looked puzzled but let me get on with my madness.
It took me a good hour to get everything I needed whilst cursing and hissing, but in the need I turned his desk into a Wimbledon court. A work of art.

wimbly

wimbly1I’m still proud as fuck about it. It was so good that Marge and I went to Tesco, bought champagne, strawberries and cream (traditional of Wimbledon’s tournament) and had an office party there and then. We even sent the pictures to our colleague saying, “when we can’t come to Wimbledon, we make Wimbledon come to us”.

danielFor another colleague/friend who always had a massive breakfast at his desk every morning, I turned his desk into a breakfast heaven for his birthday. The look on his face when he saw it: his jaw dropped to the floor.

The very best? One of my managers resigned and I cried all my tears when he did. He is a Liverpool FC fan to the core, which I hated since my ex is a scouser and anything Liverpudlian makes me sick because of him. However, I loved my manager too much to let him go without a special present.
On the Monday of his last week, I printed everything I needed. Then, on the Tuesday, I woke up at 4am, got to the office at 5am, locked myself inside his office room and turned it into Anfield stadium, completed with football pitch with Chelsea FC (my team!) against Liverpool FC.

 


It was just magnificent.
He worked his remaining days without even moving a single picture because he loved it to bits.

To this day, I haven’t managed to make anything that special (yet), but something tells me I should start coming up with something soon….

STRIKE A POSE

I think I shocked quite a few people, lately, with some of my daring pictures on Instagram.
When you spend a lifetime portraying yourself as the as the ugly weirdo in a heavy metal t-shirt, who can barely put some basic make up on her face and who is as feminine as Godzilla with a skirt, the sudden change to a rather hot babe with full make up, false lashes, sexy underwear and not giving a single fuck about showing off can be quite a big “WHAT?”.

Honestly? I’m loving it and I’m having such a jolly good time.

me2
mastering the truck driver look at the office (for the record, this is Nico Rosberg hat!)

I’ve spent every single day of my life, up till not long ago, convincing myself that I was irremediably UGLY AF, Supreme Court final judgement issued, no appeal, over, that is it, deal with it.
I never even dared to entertain the remote possibility that, actually, I may not be that bad, and that maybe, just maybe, with a bit of effort, some guidance and a different mentality, maybe I could be the person I really am and not the one I decided to be (the one who looks (and feel) like a pub toilet after a Saturday night).

I never had a mirror in my bedroom up till January this year. No joking. Why should I have had something reflecting the image of a body I always hated with a passion? I barely had one in my bathroom and that was more than enough to make me start my mornings and end my days with a “oh no that ugly face again, look at you, jeeez you are hideous”.

I have wasted so much time, so much energy, putting myself down and diminishing myself; if only I had been less negative and more positive! I tried to be the people pleaser whilst flying as low as possible, because I was one of those who thinks that it’s only other people who can be looking good, successful, interesting, good, etc. Even in my relationships, I fell for the wrong men, thinking they were awesome even though they were barely average (or downright twats) because I couldn’t think of deserving anything better.

You know what I realised? Hating yourself is quite a demanding, hard, and tiring job. It takes quite the effort. You are always, constantly, continuing thinking of horrible, negative stuff about you, and your brain is in an unstoppable spiral out of control full of hate, from the moment you wake up, till the moment you go to bed, without any breathing space.
Then, to add salt to your very open and bleeding wounds, you start comparing yourself to others. I don’t just mean the celebrities in their ultra-doctored and intensely photoshopped pictures: any other human being, living and breathing, is a chance for you to dig some more into your non-existent self-esteem.

Oh, but this is not the end of it!

me1
I have been famous for not being capable of having a picture taken without pulling a stupid face

You so hate yourself that you cannot possibly contemplate, not even remotely entertain the idea that someone may disagree with you and see you for the lovely person you are (inside and outside). No, no, no, no! They MUST be wrong. Worse. Not only they are wrong, but they must know they are and therefore they are teasing you. They are having fun at your expenses. Needless to say, you reject any compliment like the plague, and you are quick to answer back shit like “pretty? ME? Dude your eyes need checking”, “What? Are you joking? I look like a bin bag in this dress” etc…
I am not proud to admit that I took this habit of refusing compliments to the next level: I intentionally annoyed the hell out of anyone (friends, colleagues, partners) with my refusal till I ended up making them feel bad, I have forced them to listen to all the tripe I thought about myself to the point I got them so extremely fed up with me that they just stopped complimenting me altogether in order to avoid having to yell at me (or slap me).
I know.

I portrayed myself uglier than what I am because this is the reality I wanted to believe in. Being the victim of my own image meant that I didn’t require any effort on my part to change: I was just passively accepting this as a fact because I knew that changing is H A R D. And I didn’t do hard because I’m lazy at the core and I would have missed a chance to moan and make myself miserable a bit more. I did lazy, commiserating, “poor me” and helplessness. Gosh I was such an unpleasant mess.

I’m about to break this news to you: if you want to love yourself, you got to learn to do it. Even better, you have to start trying to love yourself, one step at the time. Just that. Try. No other options for you. You can either stay miserable all your life (and believe me, I was headed towards this road without a single care in the world) OR, you try to improve. At worst, you stay as you are. But if you try and make a real effort, change will happen. Guaranteed.

I was talking to a very good friend I met on Instagram, who is on a similar journey to mine (you know who you are 😊 Love you!) and we were discussing about my gym body. I told him that I’m nowhere near the body I plan to have, but that I’m working hard towards it, and if only I didn’t spend all my life hating myself, I would already be at that level now. All I had to do was just…

Try.

Don’t get me wrong, I make it sound so easy, but giving yourself the push to try… it is hard as hell.

I read tons of self-help books, all giving great, helpful suggestions on how to start change, what to do to start believing more in yourself and lift your self-esteem.
Convincing myself to follow those advices was a piece of cake: of course I’m going to write some lovely positive affirmations!
Hell yeah I’m going to stop my negative thoughts before they kick in and replace them with positive ones!
Absolutely, don’t worry, from now on I’m going to do all these things, you watch me.
Then the time to actually try and do these things came, and guess what? I freaked out. Because I convinced myself it was pointless. Because I felt stupid. Because my mindset was always in a “I’m a helpless loser” mode. Because what if. Because I knew better. Because nothing can possibly work on someone like me. Because I was so (insert negative thing) that not even a miracle could make me any different. Ever felt the same as me?

Well, guess what? Give yourself a much-deserved chance. I did it. And hear this: you got nothing to lose and all to gain. Don’t think “it is not possible”, shut that thought and re-wire it into a “let’s see what happens!”.

You can’t imagine how hard I struggled to tell myself that I was worthy. It took me more than a month to stop laughing and think “yeah right” every time I said to myself “I am beautiful”. But I didn’t surrender. No way Jose, this time we don’t do half-arsed stuff.
I have always been proud of surrounding myself with positive, loving, caring and inspiring people; when I embarked on this life-enhancing mission of changing the way I think, act, and see the world, I “hired” them as my special angels – change assistants: to ensure I didn’t back down, I asked all these friends to listen to what I said carefully, and yell at me should I have said anything bad about myself. Anything! Slap me too, if I don’t stop. Believe me, having someone telling you “ENOUGH” Rephrase it positively!!” every time you open your mouth is incredibly helpful, mainly because your negativity is so rooted deep down in you that you don’t realise how bad it is unless someone points it out at you.
I have forced myself to say “thank you” to any compliment, without biting back or saying anything else. Thank you and a smile. That’s it. Gosh it was sooooo hard. More so, I started to actively compliment myself: damn I cooked an amazing dinner tonight; good job Silvia, that was great; look at you, going to the gym even when you’d rather be in bed, you go girl. No more “you are shit” and stuff like that, no.
Since I knew one of my worst defects is being a massive lazy arse, I ordered a colleague to drag me to the gym no matter what. Boy she did. I almost got scared of her!

However, the best thing I ever did was to allow myself to see me through all these amazing people’s eyes, and just embrace what they saw rather than staying stuck with what I saw. I started to think: look, if all these wonderful people I love, cherish and admire have nothing but praise for me, and I’m the only one who thinks shit (beside the twat I was in love with, who was just that, a twat) …. Could it be that I’m the one in the wrong?
I let their love fill my empty heart, and I used their skills to learn and improve myself: I am useless at shopping for clothes? I dragged a friend with me and gave her the power of treating me like a human doll: show me what you think I would look good in! I had a photoshoot with a dear friend of mine, and she showed me that even with not a lot of makeup and not “fresh from hair salon” hair, I could look good. I sat and listened to them, trying to grasp any tip, any advice on how to look and act better. I even said to my desk-neighbour “kick me if you see me slouching on my chair (my physiotherapist thanks profusely). I hoarded makeup, and I asked the shop assistant good tips, then I spent endless evenings on youtube trying and testing stuff to learn how to do nice looks without ending up looking like a clown or a prostitute. I pampered myself with a new haircut, a facial, some new gym clothes and a better diet.

I am still nowhere near where I want to be, but one thing is sure:

Yes, I am beautiful.

me3

I need few things to fix, but yes, I am a really beautiful woman.

I have a big heart, I’m a loyal friend, I’m funny, I’m sweet, I’m fierce, I’m strong, I’m powerful, I’m full of love and I am positive force. Whoever thinks differently about me is more than welcome to fuck off back from the shithole where he/she comes from (excuse my language). I’m independent, I have a job I love to bits, I love abundantly, and I am surrounded by love; I am sure that the universe is now gearing up to bring me all the goodness I deserve.

If you are reading this and you have been in my same old, negative shoes, feel free to reach out to me. If you are in need of a sign that will turn your life around, here it is: just do it! Just try! I am just like you and I’m still walking down this path, stumbling, and falling at times, but still going strong, because I don’t want to live that negative hell anymore. Listen to me, give yourself this chance. Forget negativity, that won’t lead you anywhere but misery. You are unique. You are special. Leave your past to rest, focus on today and start loving yourself. Don’t feed your negative narrative and push away whoever tries to bring you down.

And in the words of the wonderful Whitney Houston (may she rest in peace):

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me they can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me

HEAVY METAL OR NO METAL AT ALL

When people say “music saved my life”, I don’t have to make any effort to believe it.
I am one of them too.

kreator1My life saviour was Heavy Metal, discovered through MTv (dinousaur mode on: back in my days, MTv was a true music channel!). In Italy, we could only watch the US version of it, and just for a handful of hours a day, as it was hosted on another italian tv channel. MTv Italia came later on, when MTv headquarters realised that Italian youngsters were eager to have a brand new, modern channel dedicated to them.
Being a teenager, I soon decided that sleeping a decent amount of hours at night was overrated, and that staying up late at night (and waking up with massive dark circles around my eyes) was super cool;  Star Trek The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were on at 1am, so there I was, cup of tea in my hand, mesmerised in front of my best friend forever the TV, and who cares if the price to pay was being a zombie at school the next day.

One night, skipping channels out of boredom, I ended up watching a programme on MTv called SuperRock.

And DAMN!

That music! Those guitars! Those sweaty, long haired people shouting anger and fury at a microphone, surrounded by even sweatier and angrier people down the stage. I had an epiphany there and then. Like for all my passions, I went from nothing to “I’m so into it like nobody can ever be able to”. Out with the colours, in with all black clothes.

Yes, Madonna was my hero (because she was so doing whatever she wanted to do, whether it was appropriate or not, and to me she was an inspiration of the woman I wanted to be), I quite liked rock music and I am still a proud Queen fan, but other than that, pop music never spoke to me at a deeper level. Boy bands? oh dear me no… I found them embarassaing (now, 20 years later, I am one with Gary Barlow and Gary Barlow is with me. Oh, and Backstreet’s back alright!).
Spice Girls? PPPlllease. Bunch of chavs (I didn’t know what a chav was, of course, but in Italy we called them “zarri” o “tamarri” which is kind of the same thing).
That creepy dance music? What is love (baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more – sorry I HAD TO!)?
Heavy metal didn’t need me to be anything but myself. All that frustration, all that fury, all the drama of being so not the norm, suddenly it had a voice, and a fucking loud as hell one. I finally found something I could relate to.

Hiding in my bedroom now went from “I hate everyone, I don’t want them to see what an ugly, stupid disaster I am” to “I’m meditating about life whilst listening to Slayer”. Hours and hours with headphones on, crying over those lyrics, raising my horns up in the sky, releasing through those guitar riffs all the pain I had inside. Those people really knew what I was going through, they were just like me, only older and more famous. I found my dimension.

My parents were not convinced at first, but being my parents and being used to my craziness, they decided it was best to allow me to enjoy my latest passion rather than denying it. They hoped that, like other previous stuff I got into, I would grow out of it at some point (hopefully sooner rather than later) and maybe, just maybe, that I would pick something less doom and gloom next (unfortunately for them, it never happened).

I saved like a crazy Uncle Scrooge every single penny to afford any metal album out there. I was like a drug addict, I needed more, more, more, more! On the subject, I would like to officially blame Luca Signorelli (HAHAHA I love you!) who, thanks to his album reviews on the italian version of Metal Hammer, made me fall in love with some amazing bands I still adore to this day (Kreator, Megadeth and Testament, to name a few!). My poor dad had to be dragged every single Saturday to the music store to buy CDs (“dad, Luca says that Endorama is a bomb, I have to have it”; “dad, you don’t get it, I know, but Machine Head “The More Things Change” is like… omg dad… read Luca’s review, come on, I MUST OWN IT RIGHT NOW daddy please daddy he is raving about it I will die if I don’t listen to it”). My dad rolled his eyes, resigned himself at spending another Saturday amongst the weirdos at the music store and stared at me and my peers, surrounded by those CDs with these quite creepy covers, pretending to be totally fine even though he looked like a fish out of water, because yeah, she is my daughter, she is cool, poor you other dads who don’t get it.

My mum, eager to do shopping with her daughter even-if-not-for-the-lovely-pretty-dressed-she-hoped-for, came with me to all those metal-dark-all black shops full of band merchandise (SoundCave and Mariposa, I salute you!) and helped me pick the best t-shirts (“no that dragon is too brown, get this one instead, the red writing matches your new jeans better, oh and you definitely need this one with all these skulls and blood. Oh, get this long-sleeve, for colder days. Oh, accessories! Get this necklace with this 15cm sword pendant”). Of course, she also got me a leather jacket because you ain’t a metalhead without having one. FACT!
Best of all, I was allowed to wear those t-shirts at school. My mum said so. Who am I to go against my mum?
Yes, ladies and gentleman, we didn’t have school uniforms in Italy (and we still don’t)!
Once a teacher dared to make me feel bad about my beloved Blind Guardian t-shirt, 19featuring a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’ Silmarillion; she said I should have worn it upside down because she couldn’t stand that horrible drawing of some creepy satanic scene. I went histerical and I basically told her she was ignorant as fuck (ok I didn’t say it in these terms, of course, I was a good girl, I didn’t want to be suspended) because those satanic drawings were, in fact, a scene from the Silmarillion written by Tolkien, and that maybe she should have studied some proper literature before saying shit about my shirt.
Read some books bitch!
Of course the teacher was not impressed at my attitue and of course she called my mum. If you read my previous posts, you know that my mum is… my mum. Yeah, she stormed in my teacher office telling her to mind her fucking business, that her job was to teach me Latin, not to be fashion police, besides what the hell she thinks she knew about fashion anyway, it is known that black is flattering, skulls are cool, and I picked the t-shirt for my daughter, it is not offensive in any shape or form, it is art, this is Tolkien ok? Never heard of the Lord of The Rings? Hey I will make my daughter wear it every single day till the end of the school if I have to OK? How about you get the book and you read it in class so that you can teach the kids some culture?.

Aaaaand I ended up parading metal shirt all school year long.
Cheers mum, you da best!

I remember the very first time I went to a metal gig: Blind Guardian were playing in a little, punk / rock place called Rainbow in some dodgy area somewhere in Milan. A friend and I, both 14 years old (I think) went there totally unprepared for what we were about to experience: we thought we were super cool and super alternative, probably amongst the older chaps in the place. Turns out, we were just… exactly who we were. Two kids. Amongst very hairy, older, taller, bigger people than us. We kind of lied to our mums to be able to go (“noooo don’t worry it is just… some Germans…. Fans of Tolkien…. Yeah super cool thing, fantasy lovers, nothing to be concerned….”), and I can still see as it happened yesterday the look of pure horror and terror when they realised where their precious 14 something years old offspring were about to spend their evening. We smiled and waved, then run inside in the hope they would not chase us and drag our sorry asses back in the car and home. We were sure we’d be grounder for couple of years after this, but fuck it, we were too cool to care. We had the time of our lives. Metal has always been (at least back then) such an inclusive community, because at the end of the day we were all in the same condition of being outcasts, and weird, and different, so if you had a band t-shirt and you lived and breathed metal, you were part of the family and be looked after. Period.

Incidentally, my love for heavy metal happened at the start of what I like to call “The tech revolution” in Italy. It was the beginning of a “fast”, reliable, affordable 24/7 internet. Before that, internet was only for those who could pay quite the eye-watering telephone bill, and if you wanted it for free you were allowed only 30 minutes a day. But there’s more: you had to unplug the landline phone, plug the internet one in, turn on that fucking noisy 56k modem and hope for the best. Ahhhh, those where the days where websites were 4 lines of texts and a picture or two, and you’d see it loading line by line. You had to have patience. Now I freak out if my 4G doesn’t load BBC Sport in 3 seconds. Our parents used to yell at us if we forgot to re-plug the landline back, and important calls went missing (yep!). Google made its debut and suddenly everyone discovered what a search engine was. Gosh I feel ancient! ANCIENT!

The world started to feel smaller. In the comfort of my room, I discovered I could connect with everyone, from Australia to Peru; most importantly, I discovered something totally ground-breaking: I was not alone.

Hyperventilating moment.

I was NOT alone.

Out there, thanks to my computer, I had the power to reach tons of people that were like me.

Weird, like me. Different, like me. Listening to heavy metal, like me. Wearing black, like me. Being outcasts, and nerds, and crazy, and fun, and intelligent, and non-judgemental…. And the list goes on and on. Words cannot express how good and relieving it felt to finally be part of something, to have a gang of friends always ready to be there for me and chat with me and have fun with me anytime I switched my computer on.

Of course, my parents wanted to make sure I was not ending up in some satanic cult, so they met all my new friends, and because all of us were based in various cities across Italy, they drove me to whatever city we decided to have our meeting in (and joined the fun too!). By the way, I was the youngest amongst my friends. Most of them were at university already, some were older and were working, some had family and kids. Still, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. What matter was what we had inside, what we had to say, the music we loved, not what society labelled us (“old”, “freak”, “ugly”, “student”, “son”, “father”, “wife” etc…). To this day, I’m grateful for this experience: it taught me you can be friend with anyone, anywhere.

To this day, I’m still a metalhead, and I’m still crazy at heart.

slayer
yeah, I looked a bit like this that day

My wardrobe is full of black band t-shirts that I wear to go to work: I traumatised few colleagues with my t-shirts; one of them had the “baptism of fire” the day he started: he was all suited and booted (corporate, finance world attire) in reception, waiting for “Silvia” to pick him up. He was expecting, well, a corporate dressed woman…. and instead, he got me, Slayer t-shirt, ripped jeans, scruffy hair, storming in the reception, phone in my hand, yelling at whoever forgot to tell me that guests needed to be picked up.
Oh, the day I turned up at my desk with my Kreator “Satan is Real” t-shirt: hey, it was casual Friday, nobody said anything about “maybe NOT that casual”…!
If someone wanders around my office looking for me, my desk is easy to spot: there are pictures of Slayer everywhere, including on my stapler, and before we moved area, I even had a German corner with all my German favourite bands (sorry, Ich liebe Deutschland sehr).

Heavy metal made me travel countries for gigs like crazy, to the point I ended up being in a special, secret EasyJet club for frequent flyers (no lies!).
I met almost all my favourite musicians and I got some funny stories to tell about it… ah, the day I almost fainted in front of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, the poor guy kept hugging me, telling me “it’s ok, it’s going to be fine, give me a big smile”; the day I spent hanging out with Testament thanks to the cake I baked for Chuck Billy’s birthday, or

anthrax
Amongst the Italians

Steve Souza of Exodus on stage dedicating “Blacklist” to me as he met me outside the venue before the gig, I was in tears ’cause I got dumped recently (by the same guy I got recently dumped, I should add)…. or when I froze to death to meet Sven Dirkschneider, or Wolf Hoffmann, or Kreator, and the time I met Anthrax and Frank Bello shouted “this picture will be called Amongst the Italians”….

And those friends I made on the internet? They are still (!!!) my friends. We chat on Facebook all the time, we meet if we have the chance and we have fun just like we did when we were younger. Over the years I met some incredible people thanks to this music. Hand on heart, the sweetest, craziest, funniest guys on Earth. Boy, they have to handle me, and some of them learned the hard way what it is like to have me as “your

ros
Ros and I at Slayer’s gig

BFF”. Rosario, my dearest of all, still has nightmares thinking about going to gigs with me: to give you an idea, the time we saw Kreator together, I began the gig by promising him I’d behave, but by the time the lights went off, I have been told I threw my beer up in the air shouting “OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD” and I began ramming people down to reach the front row…. Rosario eventually found me, headbanging the hell out of that gig somewhere in the venue, totally mental. Slightly better than the time we saw Slayer, and I kept texting him a barrage of messages, then I started jumping around him, yelling in hir ears and be a total nuisance. He still loves me, somehow (till the next gig).

For the record, since when it comes to Heavy Metal I’m still the bonkers teenager at

mille
Me & the lengendary Mille Petrozza

heart, my friends still treats me as such, and to this day, they still tease me for having Slayer tattoed on my leg (of course!) and, most of all, for still fancying Mille Petrozza of Kreator. Hey, 20+ years of pure, undisputed love here guys, I travelled half of Europe to follow the guy, I even mastered to learn some German for him! Show some respect!

HAHAH HORNS UP! \m/

“NO” IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE

Do you want to know what’s the thing I struggled the most in this path of personal change?

Learning to be more selfish.

Disclaimer: I do not mean “being selfish” in a negative, asshole way.
That is not acceptable, and there are no excuses for that behaviour.
I mean it in a self-loving, self-preserving, positive way.
Let me explain.

I’ve spent all my life, up untill recently, being a “rescuer”. It never mattered whether I was tired, sad, dealing with big problems, feeling like I didn’t want to live another day, working 26 hours a day, swamped with shit to deal with etc.: everyone else always came first. Always. I never moaned, never complained, I never dared to say “sorry, but it’s not a good time”, in fear of losing the crown of “the amazing friend who will always be there for you”. If anyone needed me, I’d voluntarily (and happily) sacrificed myself and my needs. No question asked.

I think I already mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot of self-help of books recently, and few of them talked about the “triangle” of relationships between the victim, the rescuer, the persecutor, and the distorted, negative dynamics going on between these three figures. It made me have a serious, deep conversation with myself as to why I act as I do, how my actions made me feel and what were the real motives behind my apparently “amazingly selfless and generous” behaviour.

The first real motive is very simple: focusing on others meant that I didn’t have time to focus on myself. When you have an extremely low self-esteem, and you hate yourself, you don’t care nor want to dedicate a moment of pure “me-time”. It would mean facing your demons, or acknowledging feelings that you rather keep bottled up in a far corner of your brain, or even worse, end up being alone with yourself and no one else: who wants to be left in an empty room with a person you detest to bits? Yes, no one.

The second real motive is… ok I really had to be honest with myself here, and it is not even easy to put it into words to write. I’ll just say it as it is, without making it look prettier or playing with words: the second real motive for me behaving like this is that I was desperate to keep holding on to people. I feared being alone.
No, that’s not even the full story.
I feared being UNLOVED. I craved (and I still crave) love so badly that I just grabbed it wherever I thought I could find it, even if it was unhealthy, unreal, or not enough. I thought that by being so… everything, and more, that people would think “I can’t imagine my life without her”. This goes for friends, boyfriends, colleagues, and any person in my life who I felt the need to keep close.
Of course I will lend you money I don’t have, this way you’ll have to stay with me at least untill you’ll give it back (but you’ll stay more because you’ll always need me); let me take all your pain away and put it on my shoulders so that you can be happy and love me for being such a martyr; sure, let me work harder, let me love you with more intensity, let me sacrifice myself further, so that I can show you how amazing I am and then you will stay.
My life has always been a race to go above and beyond the call of duty to make people happy. Even better was if I could anticipate other people’s needs or if I could anticipate needs they weren’t even aware they had, but because I loved them dearly I knew so here it is, enjoy.
Yes, I am the Ultimate Martyr of Love.

Marge used to warn me all the time: “be very careful at being the way you are, because the more you give to people, the more people will want, and you are not paid, or loved, enough to keep doing what you do, and when you’ll have to stop, it’s going to hurt”.
Did I listen? Of course not. I knew better! I love my job! I love my friends! I love my boyfriend!

work
an unhappy me, working extra hours doing stuff nobody asked me to do…

How did it end?
The boyfriend dumped me because I loved him too much, and I was suffocating him with my love.
The friends just kept asking and asking, even when I had nothing to give, and I became (very) resentful.
The work? I ended up working every hour under the sun, plus weekends, holidays and medical leave, just because I wanted to be so helpful, doing stuff I wasn’t even supposed to, and of course, I didn’t get any special award, any pay rise, not even a single thank you.

I sat in my room, in the middle of the night, trying to make sense to all these feeling, and I was reading these books begging me to love myself more, to care for myself more, to do more of the things I really wanted to do… and to say a very simple, powerful and yet so frightening word: NO.

In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying yes is not always a virtue
Pablo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

Can I really do that?
Can I really say “NO”?
What would other people think if I do it? If I’m not there for them, if I become….

… selfish?

There are two reasons you tend to give a fuck about what other people think: one, because you don’t want to be a bad person, and two, because you don’t want to look like a bad person
Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”

Well, it looks like I’m in a deep shithole here. I’m sad, I’m crying, I’m unloved by the only man I desperately wanted to be loved from, I feel like everyone is draining my extremely limited energies and that they are ignoring my pleas to give me some breathing space (after all, that is what I got them used to, right? “don’t worry about me, even if I’m not ok I’m here for you”, right?), and work… I dread to check my phone and see how many emails I have to read.
I realised I became desperate to care for myself, but to do so, I needed (badly, I should add) time, energies, focus, and not to be dragged into stuff that was not giving me anything back. I told myself:
“This is something that must change.
This is something that must stop.
This is something that no one can stop, but me”

It’s about respecting yourself, instead of catering to your insecure need to be liked
Jen Sincero, You are a Badass

I started to force myself to say no. More so, to quit with the victim attitude of “I have to do it or else the world will end”. I cut the crap of “ok, I suppose I got no choice”.

Gosh, the first few “no” felt like I was doing something so outrageous, so horrendous, borderline illegal; I felt guilty like I murdered someone with my own bare hands, and with the full intention of doing so.
It was awful.

You know what I discovered though?
To begin with, the world didn’t end.
Last time I checked, it is still spinning around the sun, not giving a flying f@ck about me saying “no”.
Then, you know what? Once I overcame the fear, guilt, anxiety and… yes, novelty, of saying NO, I discovered that, actually, it wasn’t too bad after all.
The more I grew confidence, the more I realised that I did have a choice, and a very powerful one: the choice between “it is relevant to me, ok, yes” and “I cannot be arsed, leave me out of it”

“No, I am not coming to those drinks. Sorry, I have other plans (aka: I am going to bed at a decent time, because I want to be nice and rested for the gym tomorrow)
“Sorry, I know you really want to share this with me, but it is not a good moment right now”
“No, I don’t have the time to hear about this useless drama”
“No, I cannot help you, I’m busy already as it is, you’ll have to either do it yourself, wait for me to be less busy or find someone else to help”
“No, this is not something I want to be involved with”

You know what’s very important to learn, and learn quickly, about saying no? Mean it.
Saying no is a piece of cake. It’s just two letters: N and O.
Holding your ground and not backing down, however, that requires balls. You better grow up a pair as quickly as you can, because you either have them or your NO will turn into a “…(puffing)… ok, YES”.
And you know that will happen next? You’ll end up feeling guilty that you said no when you could have spared yourself the pain, say yes and put up with whatever you are (unwillingly) agreeing with; you’ll have tons of resentment for being made to do stuff you didn’t really want to; you’ll get tired, because you used energies you don’t necessarily have for something you don’t necessarily care; ultimately, you’ll end up being angry, very angry with yourself because “here we go again”.
People will naturally push back when you say no, especially if you got them used to you saying yes straight away, or “no but ok, yes, fuck it”. This is where guilt will make its glorious entrance in your brain. I know it is hard, but push that guilt away and just reiterate that you said NO, and that.you.said.it.because.you.mean.it.
Don’t give too many explanations, because the more you do, the more you
a – give people reasons to make you change your mind, and
b – give yourself reasons to feel guilty, and silly, and unreasonable, for having said NO.
It’s a no, you said because you know it is right and that’s all that matter.
What you chose to do, instead of what you are being guilt-tripped into doing, is no one’s business but yours.

hello
Embrace your new “you”

“Sorry, but no eating shit for me or drinking more than one glass of something” (I committed myself to work hard at the gym in order to enjoy having a JLo, gym-toned ass).
“Nope, I’m not staying later than 6pm tonight” (I want an undisturbed, love making session with Sky Sports and my bed)
“Sorry, I am really not in a good place right now to listen to you” (I’m trying to mend my broken heart, I don’t need you rubbing salt on my wounds)
“no, I have to give this one a miss” (I will be too busy attending Slayer’s gig)
“no, sorry, I cannot afford this (boring as fuck) dinner this month” (I could, but I don’t want to)
…the list goes on and on.

Hey, in your “learning to say no” path, you better learn to say no to yourself as well, so you don’t end up doing stupid stuff you know it won’t do you any good at all (“no I am not texting him today”, “no I’m not stalking him on social media” and “no, I’m not giving myself any excuses for his behaviour – he does not want me and I must stop sugar coat this truth”… yes, it is something I can’t quite master yet…. I know….). Stop the things that are making you hurt yourself, hate yourself, be negative about yourself etc. These are the hardest NO you’ll ever learn to say. It is the NO to that cigarette you are so craving but you have decided to quit smoking (been there, done that). The NO to spend time with people you know are not healthy for you. It is the NO to overeating, or undereating, or eating shit, when you committed yourself to improve your wellbeing. The NO to anything that falls in the “if I do it I know I will regret it” category.

What you’ll gain from all of this, it is something no money can buy: self-love, freedom, time. I know it seems hard to believe, but you’ll also end up having better, more balanced relationships. Your true friends will still be your friends, and they will respect you more for (finally!) respecting yourself.
At work, you’ll have all the time you need for the things you really need to do, and you will do them better because you won’t be distracted. My boss is loving my new “hell no” attitude, because he finally is spared the pain of yelling at me stuff like “I told you so” and “Don’t moan with me about it, I told you to say no and that I don’t want you to work extra hours!!!”. Your love life will benefit as well, because you will learn that it takes two to tango, not just your loved one and his needs: you are just as valuable. You’ll have plenty of energy for the things that matter, you’ll be more confident, you’ll learn to demand respect and to respect yourself…. And that will only lead to love yourself more.

There are two exceptions about saying no that you should be aware of though.
The first one is that you must not become a twat. I already said it, but I want to reiterate it to make it VERY clear. This is not about saying no to hurt people, or to offend them, or to put them in a position where they are screwed as fuck and you tell them to do one. You are still the same decent, caring, loving, brilliant good friend, partner, colleague you have always been, and therefore if you are genuinely needed, you HELP, and you keep doing as you always did. Don’t be a prick.
Your new “sorry, but no” is for all the “noise” that gets generated around you, and that will distract you from yourself, the real meaningful stuff and the truly important things you should be focusing on.
The second one is that you MUST NOT use the power of no as an excuse to avoid doing things that you are scared, anxious or petrified at the thought of doing, even though you know that you’d greatly benefit from them such as “going to this new place and see whether I can meet new people? Mmmm maybe not”, or “should I just spend this hard-earned money to pamper myself for once? Naaa….”, or “I have an hour for myself: how about I read a nice book? Nope, let’s waste it checking Facebook and twist the knife in my poor, broken heart”.

In conclusion, love yourself enough to say NO to those things that are are making you hating yourself a bit more. Sound so easy, and yet, if you are anything like me, it is like climbing Mount Everest when the only physical activity you ever did is getting in and out of bed.

41CVAwRkafL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_There is one amazing book I would like to suggest you. It is incredibly funny, but full of very helpful learning stuff. You’ll read it in a bang, and then you will re-read it couple of times to really get the lessons drilled in your brain.

Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k

Keep it next to your bed as a visual reminder of the person you don’t want to be anymore and the one you are aiming to become. You’ll thank me for it, and let me know what you think about it ok?

FORMULA FERRARI

I have always been, and I will always be, 100% daddy’s girl. I am not sure if this is the root cause of me being a total, unapologetic tomboy, but I can’t deny that my undisputed love for my dad had certainly an impact on who I am.

Hands up, no lies, my dad in my eyes was this mystical creature descended from heaven, the saviour and bringer of anything good and amazing, the legendary super powerful dude who-drives-the-car and who-goes-to-work and who-spends-time-in-office and who-owns-a-computer and omg he is such a hero fuck you stupid princes my dad is the real shit. I never quite got why the entire planet Earth didn’t consider itself honoured and blessed to be The Planet were my dad was born – I certainly considered myself being so lucky to be his daughter.

As you can imagine, anything my dad did or said was pure gold out of a fountain of diamonds and rainbows; anything he liked was to be religiously and devotedly liked, and anything he owned or hoped to own were the official Most Precious Things Ever Existed.

Much for my mum’s dismay, it became quite obvious that I had more things in common with my dad than with her.

He loved (and still loves) to travel, he had amazing stories to tell, he took beautiful papapictures, he used to have a dark room kit to develop photos from film, he did some pretty cool stuff when he was “young and wild” (and hippie!)… excitement all around. But most importantly, my dad has always been into sports. When he was at home, the TV was constantly showing some sport programme: NBA basketball, wrestling, football, motorbikes, athletics, skiing, you name it.

For the average Italian catholic family, Sundays were the days dedicated to God: you had a shower, you wore your Sunday best clothes (aka: the prettiest dresses to make all other church-goers green with envy), you went to church to attend mass, you spent mass doing some proper fashion police and gossiping about people you saw, you repented from your sins (or pretended to), and if you survived long enough to see the end of it, then you went to the nearest patisserie to buy dessert to take home for the Sunday lunch.

Well… in my house, only my mum was (is) religious. My dad is as atheist as it comes. My mum made sure I did all the sacraments and Catholics bits and bobs, hoping for me to develop some sort of faith. I did, just not for the God she was hoping for. For my dad and I, the Only Religion Worth of Worship was Formula 1. Still is! (yes, and to a much worse lever of hysteria, for the record). Trust me, when people talk about “religious integralists”, they could have easily portrayed my dad and I on a race Sunday. Infidels-hating people? HA! No match for my dad and I’s rage against whoever dared to step in the way of Ferrari and its racing glory. Oh, and we A L W A Y S watched it live (and still do). Even if it meant waking up at 4am and be barely able to keep our eyes open.

The ritual was always the same every single racing Sunday: silence fell at exactly hqdefault12:00pm with the first few notes of Grand Prix’s theme tune (an Italian programme about Formula 1 and motorsports in general). The presenter, Mr Andrea De Adamich (a former racing driver), was our Pope. My dad and I stared at the TV without even blinking our eyes. If we were eating, we didn’t chew, or swallow, or anything, to not miss any single breath coming out of the presenter’s mouth. No guests were allowed, unless they loved Formula 1 AND only if they brought luck to Ferrari. I remember I had a friend, during those glorious Schumacher years, who supported Mika Hakkinen and McLaren. For four Sundays in a row, he came over to watch the race at my house, and in each race, Michael Schumacher didn’t even make it to the first corner. I unplugged the 526x297-u6llandline and went into hiding, or faked sicknesses, or other things to avoid him like the plague on the following Sundays (vengeance tasted so sweet when Michael won in Monza and Hakkinen was found crying somewhere around the track)

Of course, my dad and I spent Sundays praying. Oh yes, we did! We prayed non-stop, deeply, and intensely, we prayed hard and till tears run down our faces… only we prayed whoever the Ferrari drivers were at the time to not let us spend another depressing Sunday afternoon witnessing Ferrari doing the usual shitty race and mourning the driver’s championship that surely, we’ll win – just not this year (again. FFS).

Put it this way, I learned the hard way that prayers don’t work. Period.

Whenever Ferrari won, our household exploded: we got the cakes and the wine out, we’d shout, and jump, and scream, then I’d run to grab my enormous Ferrari flags and I would hang them in every window or terrace of the house. My mum was not allowed toschumacher_1980206c touch our display of Ferrari love up until the following Sunday. YES SIR. Oh, when Michael Schumacher made the Miracle with capital M to win the Constructor’s championship and then, finally, the DRIVER championship. My dad and I cried for a week solid, and then we enjoyed 7 blissful years of:
– turning the tv on to watch the race;
– sit on the sofa (bed in my case, as I had the tv in my bedroom);
– watch the race start;
– ensure Michael was leading the race;
– fall asleep;
– wake up when Michael was on the podium;
– repeat the next race.

s-l300On Monday, my dad would buy Austosprint, the most famous motorport magazines, and when he finished reading it, he’d pass it on to me so I could cut Ferrari’s pictures and stick them to my bedroom’s wall. If it was summertime, then he’d also buy “La Gazzetta dello Sport” every day. I am proud to say that those two things helped me perfecting my reading skills at a very young age, because my dad was kind and prima schumi-kVkE-U901001961194ISG-350x467@Gazzetta-Web_articolosweet, yes, but after the fourth time I made him re-read the same old article, he’d tell me “learn to read and read it yourself!”. And rightly so! Oh, that day I read that Ferrari was about to sell Jean Alesi and Gehrard Berger to hire Michael Schumacher… I was FURIOUS! I hated that German prick with a passion. That hate didn’t last long though!

My dad’s and my love for Formula 1 has been often borderline insane; I bet that my mum has secretly wondered more than once whether she should have had us locked up in a mental facility. The stuff we did…. like waking up at an ungodly hour in the morning to queue at Monza and get the best seats to watch the private practice’s sessions, lying to my mum “we are just having a little gathering with some Ferrari fans….” and ending up in Monaco for the Thursday practice session (my mum was not pleased….). There is one lovely episode that I feel like sharing though:

My dad knew I was madly in love with Nigel Mansell. He is still today one of my all-time Ferrari heroes (my son’s second name is Nigel… just sayin’…). One of the Italian petrol companies came up with a Formula 1 sticker album, with all the drivers and cars: every

nigel
of course I bought his authobiography!

10 Mila Lire of fuel (no Euros when I was a little girl!) you got a bag of sticker, so the more you filled your car, the more stickers you got. The thing was though that fuel of that brand was more expensive, and my dad didn’t really want to spend more for some stickers, since my bedroom was plastered with Ferrari stuff top to bottom anyway. I begged, I begged, and I begged some more, till he gave in and said, “ok but JUST THIS TIME”. He filled the car, got the stickers, gave them to me.
We both held our breaths whilst I opened the first little bag.
And I saw it.
One shot, one kill, here it was, Nigel’s sticker in my hand.
We had a moment of silence.
My hands were shaking.
My dad and I screamed the car down of happiness (I bet he was also very happy that he didn’t have to put up with a very disappointed daughter and, potentially, more fuel purchases to find that fucking sticker!).

The price to pay for loving an extreme sport is that, unfortunately, sooner or later, you’ll learn that those daredevils you hail as heroes are just as mortal as you are. My dad used to tell me all about those legendary accidents that he witnessed over the years of his Formula 1 love, such as when Niki Lauda almost got burned alive in 1976, or when Wolfgang von Trips collided with Jim Clarke’s car and his car went flying, killing him and 15 spectators at the Italian Grand Prix in 1961. I remember how emotional it was for both of us, walking around Monza’s circuit, and stand in the sport where it happened. Yes, if you are wondering, my dad also talked an awful lot about his personal legend: Gilles Villeneuve.
When you are a kid, and you hear all these stories, you don’t really get that these are real things. Most importantly, you don’t think that, one day, you’d be the one witnessing it happening in front of your eyes.
My rose-tinted, legendary portrait of the Formula 1 world ended dramatically on the 1st of May 1994, when Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix. Even though 24 years have passed since that fatal day, I still had to pause for a moment before keeping writing about it.
That race was just… NO. That weekend was doomed from the start.  Rubens Barrichello almost died on the Friday practice session. On the Saturday, Roland Ratzenberger was killed by crashing his car at 310kmh on a wall. It was not looking good. But, life goes on, and to quote Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day”. I can still see it happening in front of my eyes as we speak. It felt so surreal. I didn’t want to believe it. Nobody wanted to believe it. My dad was shocked and he wanted to just shut the television for good. He knew. I didn’t. I held on to all the hope I could with all my heart; I prayed, yes, for the first time I summoned any god or anything above to do something and… please don’t take him, please don’t. I spent my day glued at the TV in search for news, any news. In the evening, Ayrton was declared dead. I cried like a baby in my dad’s arms. My dad just kept hugging me in silence. Ayrton was gone and with him, the fairy tale died as well.

Ok, before I burst into tears, let’s bring the mood of this post to a fun one, shall we?

As I said, my passion for Formula 1 is still alive and strong. Even though we don’t have our Sunday ritual anymore, my dad and I are still as crazy as ever. Even though he is in Italy and I’m in the UK, we make it work but furiouslyferrari2 texting each other constantly during qualifying session and, most importantly, during the race. We don’t have filters, and most our conversation is made by an endless list of swearing words, curses thrown at random drivers, F-bombs (or, V words, as we go VAFFANCULO in Italy) and so on. Yeah, we would make sailors blush.
However, I missed sharing this crazy passion of mine on a daily basis with someone, and guess who is now at the receiving end of my Formula 1 love? My dear colleague Shary!
I know you are reading this my friend, and I want to use this space to personally thank you for being an awesome friend and Ferrari fan. You are da best in da world!

shary
bad Monday….

Shary and I are on a constant stream of Formula 1 talks and updates. We live and breathe BBC Sport Formula 1 Gossip. On a Monday, depending on how the race went, we don’t even have to talk: we just look at each other and we instantly know what the other one is thinking… and then we start debating like two Formula 1 pundits, much for the “pleasure” of the other colleagues surrounding us!
Over the last 2 years I’ve worked hard to get the rest of my office not only into the racing spirit, but also into supporting Ferrari, and to do so, I have used the most powerful resource after “money bribery”: FOOD. Everyone knows that, if Ferrari

ferrari
caught in the act of delivering the cake

wins, I will bake a cake and bring it over to celebrate. They may not watch the race and be truly Ferrari fanatics like Shary and I, but they WILL check the race results and they will text me “so…. How about Lemon Drizzle?” “is it going to be Red Velvet tomorrow?” “can we have cake even though Vettel arrived second?”
I’m telling you, should Sebastian Vettel win the Driver’s championship, I’ll bake a cake so big I’ll need to come to the office in a truck to carry it!!!!!

BREATHE IN STRENGTH, BREATHE OUT BULLSHIT

I must admit, I have never truly appreciated the power of meditation till after my ex broke up with me. Before that, it was just an exercise I used to do (when I was arsed enough to do it). I used to sit, spend 5 minutes or so trying to clear my head, get bored to death, decide I was done for the day, tick the box of “I did it”, the end.

One day, the shitstorm happened. Meditating quickly became the only resource I had to preserve my sanity. My brain was in overdrive with all the negative emotions, my heart was bleeding, my body was in pain, I was in the eye of the storm and hell was breaking lose. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, I was exhausted. I needed a mental break. I clinged to this practice like my life depended on it and I never abandoned it since.

Let me set the record straight: meditating is HARD. It is one of those things that everyone brags about doing, it is so hipster it hurts. Everyone will try and shove it down your throath:
Be more mindful!
Mindfulness is the secret of success!
Meditate or die!
And so on. So, you think “yeah, why not, lemme give it a go”. You google “how do I start meditating” and you find a mammoth amount of all these coaches and teachers that explains what to do, making it look so damn easy: sit there, breathe, clear your mind, see your thoughts as clouds passing by, imagine this, imagine that, visualise stuff, add a mantra or two and job done!

YEAH RIGHT.

Believe me, it is so fucking hard. Do not believe who says it is a piece of cake. REAL meditation requires training, dedication, and an unbelievable level of discipline. You must practice it over and over and over again, every day, and you won’t get the benefits of this practice till you master the art of it. Proper meditation means that you have total power and control over your body and your brain. If you have an overactive mind like mine, where you just cannot stop thinking and overthinking, meditation won’t come naturally to you.

It will be a struggle.

Couple of minutes after you sit down and get into it, you’ll realise that everything is actively conspiring against you to make you fail. The more you’ll try to clear your mind, the worse your chain of thoughts will become. If your brain will not succeed into making you give up, your body will work against you and you will start becoming restless. You’ll feel the urge to scratch a sudden itch on your foot or your head, a song will pop up on your mind and you won’t be able to make it stop, then you’ll be thirsty, or your throat will feel dry, you’ll feel too cold, or too hot, your clothes will be too tight, or too loose, then you’ll need to scratch yourself again; if you are in the lotus pose (I beg you, from the bottom of my hearth, do not attempt to do it or meditate in that pose unless you have few months of yoga under your belt), pain will drive you to the brink of madness and then you’ll think “mmmm maybe I should move a bit so I can feel comfier…that’s it… so… what was I thinking about anyway?” and you will give up shortly afterwards. Oh, did I mention that you’ll feel like it was a very stupid idea and a waste of time? Yeah, that will happen too.

However.

Don’t surrender. Please, don’t. If you stick to your guns and impose yourself to keep going, I promise you, meditating will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. It took me a while, but now I consider it a pampering session for the brain. My days are less stressful, less emotional, less chaotic and I am much more relaxed that what I used to be. I try to do it first thing in the morning and right before I go to sleep.

namaste
Namaste! Ole’!

My morning meditation gets me all geared up for the day: I go through a list of my tasks, I visualise them in front of me and I’ll prepare myself mentally to face them. It really helps if you struggle with anxiety like me. Then I add few positive affirmations: these acts like an injection of power and strength. I know, it seems totally dumb telling yourself stuff like:
“you are strong”
“you are fierce”
“you are beautiful”
“you are full of love, and energy, and power, and you can accomplish everything”
“there is nothing that you won’t be able to face”
I swear though, it works. BUT! You really must BELIEVE that those affirmations are true for them to work. Just saying them for the sake of “there, I said them, ok?” with a “this is just bullshit” attitude it’s a no-no.

STOP IT: I know what you are thinking right now. It is something along the lines of “yeah right, because I’m going to sit there, telling all this shit to myself, right? How embarrassing is that? Only losers would do it.” How do I know it? Because I thought exactly like that too. I was “better than this bunch of crap”. Until I ended up with my arse on the floor, desperate to try anything to feel better.

I gave it an honest, humble go. I didn’t have anything to lose. I chose to believe. I chose to re-wire my brain with positive messages. It is SO.DAMN.HARD. But. It works wonders. The more you do it, the more it gets easier, and at some point, you’ll realise that you won’t need to force yourself into believing those affirmations: you will own them, and saying them will become a “reminder” game to keep you in the positive loop.

To think what you want to think is to think the truth, regardless of appearances
Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich

My bedtime meditation is my decluttering, release-all-the-stress session. This is the moment where I let go of everything that happened during the day. If there are lessons to be learned, I will acknowledge them. If something pissed me off, I will analyse it, I will take any positive thing (if any) and then I will let it go. If something made me happy, I will cling on the beautiful feeling I experienced. I will say another round of affirmations, then it’s sleep time, goodbye world, see you tomorrow.

I am, by no means, an expert on meditation, so what you just read is nothing more than my ritual; of course, I invite you to try it and do the same, but you may find out that you’ll need to tweak a thing or two (or everything!) to make it work for you. And that’s the beauty of meditation: once you learn “the basics” and you get the hang of how it works, you’ll make it work for you, there is no right or wrong, good or bad: whichever way you’ll do it, so long as you’ll do it and you’ll do it seriously, you’ll experience the benefits of the practice.
If you are a total beginner, I suggest to start with some guided meditation. Having someone talking you through the process it’s incredibly helpful: it takes away the stress and anxiety of “I don’t know how this shit works, what do I do now. Am I doing good? Am I doing anything meaningful?”. Plus, it makes it easy to learn how to focus and how to deal with all the thoughts that will run around your head, since you basically have to follow the lead and do as told. I still use guided meditation, especially when I’m tired, or sick, and I need to be dragged into my subconscious because I don’t have the strength to do it by myself.

For your meditation resources, Google is your friend, and in Amazon (or any other shop, virtual or physical) you can find books, CDs etc… and then, you got YouTube. Speaking of that, I want to close this post with a bang and share with you the BEST meditation ever. Marge, my close friend and partner in crime, found it and shared it with me. Disclaimer: it is rude, so if you get easily shocked by swearing, maybe don’t click on the following link…

An Honest Meditation

We listened to it so many times that now we know the words by heart, and to thank her I bought her (and myself) the book version. We love it! I even got the app! The best bit? If one of us is feeling a bit low, or is having quite the day at the office, the other one will start reciting this meditation… and we’ll be laughing our assess off till tears.

“..and as you slowly open your eyes, greet the world and everything in it with a new, beautiful breath… of fuck that!”
Jason Headley, F*ck That, An Honest Meditation

LET’S GET PHYSICAL! PHYSICAL!

I wanna get physicaaaal let’s get into physical (hey I’m a child of the 80s, I can’t help it. Here is the link if you fancy blasting this song out loud  Let’s get physical).

I have a weird relationship with the gym.

Sitting here, in the comfort of my sofa, I love it like crazy. I love sweating like a pig whilst I row on the rowing machine or run on the treadmill; I adore exercising till everything hurts like I just got run over by a truck on full speed; oh, that feeling of finally dumping myself under the shower, closing my eyes and… aaaaah, peace at last. I end up so tired I can’t even think. Oh, and the best bit? Checking myself in the mirror, see the results of my hard work and bask in my own glory for a minute or two (“fuck yeah! Check these abs bitch! Uuuuh look at that ass! Your arms – wow!” and so on).

When I actually have to go to the gym, well, it is a total different story: I HATE IT.

I hate it with a passion. Gosh I hate going to the gym. I hate the smell; I hate exercising; I hate gym clothes; I hate all the machines, none excluded; I hate weights; I hate barbells and don’t make me start on dumbbells and kettlebells; I hate classes; I hate personal trainers and I hate myself for going there even though I absolutely hate it. I’m a lazy arse who just wants to eat lasagne and be left alone ok?

In the building where my office is located there is a little gym. Most of my colleagues are fitness fanatics, and when you don’t see them killing themselves in the gym during lunch break, it’s because they are running 5k outside “to get some fresh air and train for running a marathon”.

For the record, I hate running. I can barely tolerate it on a treadmill. I tried to run 5k twice in my life and believe me, I don’t think I will put myself through that again unless I get paid a lot of money. The first time I did it I was working at the BBC. I surrendered to the pleas of my good friend James, who’s leader of the running club. I am embarrassed and ashamed to say I made those 5k a nightmare for him and his mates. I moaned and moaned and moaned some more for at least 3k; when my legs told me to do one, I found a bench, I sat down and I kept moaning to myself; when James and the other runners finished their run, I moaned non-stop all the way back to the office.

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Things you do for free food

Put it this way: if he is still my friend after that, it is only because he is amazing and has a very big heart. The second time happened two years ago, at a charity event organised by JP Morgan. I knew that enrolling into this race was a horrible mistake, but my colleagues convinced me by saying that, at the end of the race, I could have enjoyed free barbecue and drinks. I can’t say no to free food, I just can’t! I’m not proud to admit that I ended up running less than 1k, then I got bored and I just played PokemonGo for the remaining 4k. I arrived at the finish line an hour and too much time later. The barbecue was over. I wasn’t happy. At all. Damn!

I have never had a good relationship with my physical appearance. I started hating my body at a very young age, when I became aware of what I looked like, and I compared it with what everyone else looked like. Hating yourself is a slow and deadly poison. It creeps into your brain, one negative comment at a time, and before you know it you can’t think of anything else but “I’m fucking shit”. Constantly. Worse, it spreads in every aspect of your life: everything you do, everything you experience and everything that comes into your life gets filtered through this dark cloud of negativity. It becomes your everything. It permeates your reality in such a wicked way that you succumb without a fight.

The ideal Italian woman has always been sexy and curvaceous. I have always been the exact opposite: skin and bones. Not even a remote idea of boobs or bum. Everyone, from my friends to my parents, told me I looked like a stick with clothes on. I knew that if I were to cut my hair short, I would have easily passed for a boy. Now, imagine being in a locker room, full of girls who-look-like-girls, who behave like girls-should-behave: I started comparing myself to them. I started asking myself why I was like me and not like them. WTF was happening (or not happening) that I got stuck in this joke of a stupid body, on top of having a stupid brain? It didn’t take a lot of effort to convince myself that I was not only different, but also U G L Y.

I Just could not accept who I was, even less than before. I looked at the mirror and everything was a no: my hair? Barely average. My face? Please…. With these horrible, messy teeth? Hardly worth of looking at. My body? Or should I say, my skeleton? Only appealing at Halloween, maybe (though in Italy we didn’t have Halloween, of course, catholic!). I spiralled into a self-esteem crisis, where I felt (and convinced myself) that there was nothing I was good at: I was a failure as a girl in every possible aspect.

You can imagine how “glad” I could have been to go to the gym with a background like the one I just described. My mantra has always been “don’t bother because nothing will change”, even if deep down inside I wanted to look good and feel good about myself. I am embarrassed thinking of all the gym memberships that I paid in the heat of the “this time I’m going to train like I’m on fire!”, only to end up not going there. EVER. Not even for the induction session. I know. Don’t make me start on the very few times where I did go, but instead of exercising I just roamed around, not even pretending to try and put some effort. I even had a personal trainer once: I thought that this way, I couldn’t cheat and I had to force myself to go. If only I’d have been less stupid and used the same energies and efforts to do what he said, rather than to trick him into believing I was training, I’d have had the body of a bodybuilder.

Over the years, I have avoided any form of exercise like the plague. I didn’t want to even think of the remote possibility to do anything at all. Even walking for more than 2 minutes was something I could not contemplate. Life had other plans for me, however, and when I moved to London, I found myself surrounded with healthy fanatics & sport addicts who kept trying to drag me into whatever they were into. I dumbly resisted any temptation because I thought I knew best and, whilst everyone was shaping their beach bodies, I was sitting at my desk pretending I didn’t care (but I was secretly envying them hard).

When I started reading all those motivational books, I realised how stupid I have always been for wanting things and never actually work hard toget them. My “ideal body” included. I got fed up of looking at the mirror thinking “if only”. Enough! Do I really, really want it? How about I do something about it? My brain, used to my negative ways, was having none of it.

“Yes, ok, but you don’t have a great track record with gym attendance, you know that”

“well, how about I challenge myself?”

“how about you don’t fool yourself into thinking you can, when you know you will fail?”

“well, how about for once I don’t try to talk myself out of something and I simply give it a go?”

And so I did. I went to buy a pair of trainers, some yoga pants, I dug up a shirt from my (extremely old) gym clothes and I asked one of my gym fanatics colleagues, my beloved Elena, to take me to the gym no matter what. I imposed myself to stop overthinking and to start doing. And I enjoyed it. And I haven’t stopped going since. And when I want to stop, which is like every time I have to go, I know I just have to wait for Elena to hover around my desk; she will start by kindly asking me to grab my things and go, and when I start “mmmm I don’t feel like it today…. I’m mmmmm not ok…” she will cut my crap there and then and force me to overcome my laziness. She will put up with my moaning like a pro, so long as my legs are moving towards the gym. And then, she will endure a class with me huffing and puffing and ranting “what the fuck have I done?” “why did you make me do it” “this is the last time I swear” “fuck this shit I’m out of here” “I’m dying and I’m not inviting you to my funeral” etc… I know, I’m so bad!

britney
You better work bitch!

Oh my, the time I had the brilliant idea to ask the personal trainer of our office gym to give me a lesson. I was so geared up. I spent all morning shouting positive affirmations, blasting heavy metal out loud, I was on fire. I went to the gym all motivated and ready to slay it.

“Farrah, I got dumped and I want a revenge body: I want amazing abs and a bum hard as a rock! I want to be a goddess”

“how hard are you prepared to work?”

“BRING.IT.ON”.

She did bring it on. Oh God, she did.

She gave me an hour of total hell. She pushed me, and pushed me, and pushed me some more, till I begged her crying that I just couldn’t take it anymore. She didn’t give in and pushed me even more. My body hurt for 2 weeks solid afterwards. I felt paralytic. I put my heartbreak into perspective: yes, it hurts, a lot, but I take that anytime compared to wishing to chop off half of my body.

I am proud to say that I didn’t surrender. If anything, it made me want to do it again. And

gym1
gym time!

I kept training hard. Because I hate it, yes, but I love it too. I really do. It is helping not only my physical health, but my mental health as well. For once I not only feel great, but I also look great. On the path of my personal greatness, I have embraced this torture and, for the first time ever, I’m really putting an effort into it: I changed my diet, I changed my attitude, I stopped telling myself “Silvia you can’t” and swapped it with “Silvia, how about you try?”. I even ended up lifting weights! I’m proud of my body and I’m proud of myself.

… what’s today class, by the way? Total Core? Oh no. I’m too tired. I can’t be arsed. I’m just staying here today, I think I can give it a miss…. Elenaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa help!!!!!!!!