Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sognando Italia- The End (of the Beginning)

The best experiences in life always seem to end too quickly. I’m not so sure what that says about previous ordeals that seemed to last a lifetime (i.e. corporate finance class or doing the dishes). However, what I do know is that the past two months have flown by. Alas, the filming of Sognando Italia has concluded and I find myself back in Italy- struggling with jet lag and attempting to reinstate myself into the life I knew when I left two months ago- as a slightly changed version of myself. And although in the whole scheme of things, two months is a finite period of time…the things we did, times we laughed and tears we shed- are countless. It all transpired in the blink of an eye yet at the same time, the sum of events is inestimable.
I have always been a firm believer in the fact that each person we meet in this life, each individual we spend time with- changes us in one way or another. The format of Sognando Italia- the fact that we toured through 10 different cities- meeting 10 different individuals and their friends and families, is just the basic idea. The truth is, these protagonists/subjects of ours- let us into their homes- into their hearts. And each individual had messages for us- wisdom to impart. The best bit was that it was all there for the taking- like an abundant feast of knowledge and truths.
So amidst the work, the early mornings and long hours- we had 10 wonderful chaperons- maneuvering through their cities, and their lives- displaying to us what they understand to be true…allowing us to partake in a bit of them-and take what we wanted….well, what they allowed us to have.
Therefore, in the past two months, I have a large file of encounters rich enough to fill up a short lifetime. Each of which, more remarkable than the next.
I have been in a stem-cell research lab watching as the future of medicine changes, driven a 1952 red Cadillac up the Vegas strip, jumped out of a plane with some of the global champions of extreme sports, been part of a TV set in Los Angeles, sung (albeit poorly) in the recording studio with one of the most notable Italian singers/songwriters in the US, played Anita Ekberg in a reproduction of the Trevi Fountain at a black-tie gala in Chicago, been backstage with the headliners of the largest show in Vegas, biked through times square on a Sunday morning, opened a New Orleans radio show, learned to Salsa dance in a basement dressed as a cat, met noted photographer Doug Kirkland at one of his own openings, played poker with professional players in Sin City (and lost even with two Aces in hand!), seen Elton John live, sat and chatted with legend Peter Bennett about the real reason The Beatles broke up, been first row in a Broadway show, attended (and took a little nap) at the opening night of Richard the 3rd starring Kevin Spacey in San Francisco, been to the Venice film festival as a guest of the production of the new Al Pacino film (thanks Giulia- you rock!). I flew in a wind tunnel, danced in the middle of Hilton’s ornate ballroom in Chicago, witnessed astronauts training in the biggest pool in Texas, touched a moonstone, learned Bocce Ball with the team at Tulane University, visited an authentic oil rig with a select group of MBA students, seen a jazz legend play on Bourbon street in New Orleans, learned to roll a cigar in Miami’s Little Havana, interviewed Italian Ambassador to America Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, chatted with Nancy Pelosi and the same day, met with Dr. Robert Gallo, the embodiment of AIDS research in America. I’ve seen innumerable sunsets, far too many sunrises to be considered healthy and dined in the best Italian eateries throughout the US. I sat in NASA’s ground control rooms, seen the Vegas strip from the seat of a helicopter, jetted around the gulf of Mexico in a speedboat, sat in front of the vastness of the desert in Death Valley thinking about nothing- thinking about life, chatted with the director of the Corcoran gallery at an art opening in DC, gotten caught in a hailstorm at Red Rock in the Nevada desert, ran up a $2800 minibar bill by just picking up the objects and putting them back down, danced the night away dressed as Wonder Woman in one of the most famous restaurants in DC, eaten meat after 27 years of being a vegetarian just for the love of the program, rode a horse on a Texas ranch, seen NYC from the back of a Vespa, toured the Miami Design district and been introduced to Wynwood by one of the most up and coming artists in Miami, held a baby albino alligator, hung off of a San Francisco tram in the middle of a sunny day, and the list goes on.
I got to know America again- after many years abroad. I got to know myself again- something I didn’t realize I had lost.
But above all this, I have come across and become acquainted with some of the most extraordinary people I could have ever encountered. And for this, I am eternally grateful. Cristiana Rastellini and her beautiful family taught me that boundaries don’t exist- that anything is possible…maybe with a bit of “flexibility.” She and Luca inspired me on a personal level and a professional level, to an extent that I thought I was incapable of. Roberta Mancino taught me to fly. And for that, I will be forever thankful- and to her friends, some of the most fearless people I have ever met- I thank them for letting me into their world and therefore, opening up mine. I learned from her that we find our own happiness…as she found hers- in the freedom of flight and exploring new frontiers. To Joelle for fighting everyday- for herself, her family, her son. For her strength and talent and strong spirit. For letting me know that its ok to cry- but when the lights go on and the curtains are drawn- to take all the love and passion for what you do- and let it take over your soul. To Giada whose positivity is addictive and smile is captivating- for redefining for me what it is to be successful- and for totally proving me wrong about my thoughts of being a diva. To Annah, for showing me that I should always “Love Today,” and reminding me that maybe I have found my “happy ending” to this new beginning. To Peter for showing me no matter how serious the subject, we can make it funny. To Checco, Robert, Giulia, Franco and Alex for opening up their homes, introducing me into their families and friends, and opening their hearts to the crew and me. Each one of Sognando Italia’s protagonisti, in their various cities and diverse industries, proved to me that there are no limits- that anything is possible. They taught me about bravery and persistence, belief in oneself and having the courage to keep believing…everyday.
To Nikki, Jeihson, Tree, Melissa, etc…for making me beautiful everyday, covering my pimples and dealing with me in the mornings- and Sandro’s “Madonna hair and EYELASHES” in the afternoons.
And to my beautiful team- my new family…whose talents are boundless and humor is unparalleled. Words don't suffice- they never will. We have shared in an experience that only we will ever understand and exchanged an untold amount of compassions, uncertainties, hardships and kindnesses. You made me laugh and cry and yell and smile everyday for the longest two months of my life. You have opened my heart and invaded my soul- and each one of you will remain there forever- along with your immeasurable time lapses and paglie giganti. Thank you.
It’s a happy ending…to the very beginning

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sognando Italia- The Middle

So this is what I think…really. I think that everything we do leads to something else- something more definitive. I now believe that positivity breeds positivity and that flexibility is one of the keys to a successful and predominantly agony free life- I say predominantly because I am quite sure that a life without any agony isn’t really lived at all. I’ve learned that I am so far from perfect- and that I need to accept other people’s imperfections as well as mine. In the middle of what will probably prove to be one of the most significant turning points in my life, I am wrought with preoccupations yet intrigued by the fact that as time rolls quickly by- the lessons I am learning are growing exponentially. My fixations are being exposed and life’s big lessons, previously disguised as little bumps in the road, are revealing themselves to be the most captivating parts of this whole process. It’s all right out there, barenaked…for me and my little crew- those of us with our eyes wide open enough to notice- to unearth and examine.

Mirroring life in general, each experience, or chapter- has its ups and downs. Therefore, the two month filming schedule throughout the US will naturally have its own crests and falls. The middle, I have found, is the hardest part: the newness of the situation has dissipated- and the finish line seems so distant that it’s impractical to try to imagine. Then again, a rapid tour of North America is hardly monotonous.

It happens to be the expectations that forsake me in the middle. At this point, we know what we have gotten ourselves into, but we are too far away from the culmination to allow ourselves to reflect- or become excited about what the result may be. The middle is the part where I tend to feel trapped- counting the days, dragging my feet and struggling not to let fear or distrust gain entry.

I have done a good amount of contemplating and dissecting. I have made a large number of assumptions- most of which naïve and utterly futile. Yet I feel, on the other hand, that I may have happened upon a few truths- the kind of truths I am in constant search of- in order to assign some sense to the larger scheme of things.

I trust that everything we do, every step we take in whichever direction, leads- undoubtedly- to something else.

Those of us courageous enough not only to try something new, but to stand up and try again when we fail (which we all undoubtedly do)…may one day begin again and change course. Those of us lucky enough to abandon the wrong paths before our minds and our hearts become completely distorted- may have a chance at happiness after all.

I think I may have found my path- or a version close to it.

There is no doubt that I’ve attempted things I never should have tried in the first place, and I pushed myself- oftentimes to my limits, only to find out that I had gone completely wrong at the start. But somehow I made it HERE. And everyday, for me, is exhilarating.

I think I’ve stumbled upon something I am truly meant to do. And honestly? It’s so good that I’m afraid it’s going to slip away- or that it isn’t real at all- or that I am going to do something so utterly wrong that it will all be taken away. But I’m trying to stay positive because although this wild ride is filled with nothing I have ever known, it sure feels like a result of everything I have done up until now. And I sense and hope that I am able to do it- and do it well.

The other day, in between scenes- sitting on the steps of a random building in another prominent US city, amongst my new family, my companions - I took a long sip of my oh-so-American Starbucks, a long drag of my oh-so-Italian cigarette…and it all just clicked. A voice in my head, peculiarly close to my own, stated: this is where I should be, doing what I should be doing. Of course, I have a long way to go- many, MANY lessons to be learned and a bumpy road ahead. But a seed has been planted…and I'm trying to work out the precise elements in order to allow me to grow.

Maybe that which I have been told all along, about life being like a puzzle: pieces fitting, square pegs, round holes and so on and so forth…is right. And for so long- I was searching for not only the incorrect pieces of the puzzles- but maybe I was looking in the wrong stores, in the wrong states- and possibly in the wrong time zones on the incorrect continents. Who knows. What I do know is that I am here now. And it feels good- it feels right. Like a new love- with all the excitement of the unfamiliar- but a strong instinctive feeling that you believe in enough to allow yourself to follow it into the dark- hoping to find the light around the edges.

At the end of the day, the anticipation is half the fun…then comes the discovery, the excitement and the exhilarating fear. The risk of disappointment, like the end, is so far off that one mustn’t worry about it yet.

I may be at the lull of the middle of the experience- the beginning is behind me and the end so far away that I haven’t yet begun to contemplate it- but I have this one major affirmation…that I have found something that fits, and I have embarked on a new path that seems to be like a round peg in a round hole- for once- and it’s something that will remain with me forever, something that can only get better from here.