I had to kill myself to be born again.
Cabo da Roca, the western point of Europe.
On 20th September 2021, I took off with three bags and fled Italy. Behind me my old friends, the hugs of my family, and the room that I had so carefully furnished over the years in order to use it as a comfort zone, filling it with memories of past experiences that I always wanted to remember.
But more than anything else, on 20th September 2021, I left my child self behind: with a strong and sudden detachment, and without having fully realized it, I mutilated myself from my past, suffocating the child who still lived in me to give space to what from me was still to get born. At a certain point in my experience I felt like an artist at work (never complete, never finished) on their masterpiece: a complex, exhausting sweat, which draws vital juice from the subject who works it, like a newborn that feeds on mother’s milk, but that at the same time renews, revives, rises in new life. I was thinking of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Oval Portrait“, but also of Herman Hesse’s Demian: “There was but one duty for a grown man; it was to seek the way to Himself, to become Resolute, to grope within his way forward wherever that might lead him”.
They say that the calendar of our life is marked by the inflexible rhythm of the years. On every birthday a new amount is added to the number that we call our experience in the world; at eighteen we have enough to decide whether to smoke cigarettes, drink wine, to drive in traffic, to vote. The adults from whom we learned the art of being in the world caress our faces with an affectionate
smile: now we are part of their group, and we proudly show our ID card to the perplexed tobacconist who refused to sell us one pack of smokes the day before.
Yet the calendar of our life, which it is said to be the skeleton of our history, remains silent to the rites of passage, to the hurried metamorphoses, to the blind launches into the void. The eighteenth birthday party sees you laughing, light, drunk with the ideal of a future and unknown life. Still, your friends from always are there laughing with you, friends on whom you have modeled yourself, a mirror through which you have worn your best dress; still your parents are moved by seeing in your dance steps the child staggering through the furniture of the house, sliding on the carpet, and breaking their face in tears.
But a ritual is not a party. Every rite of passage starts from the separation from the child’s life and continues in the euphoria mixed with the disorientation of being completely alone in the labyrinth of the world.
You pack and unpack your bags, and when you turn around, you don’t see those familiar faces you know by heart, they couldn’t take you there, they stopped a few steps back, just before you got on the plane. They remain looking at you from your childhood room.
Each rite of passage ends by returning to the starting point. I came back to my old room exactly one year later: on the 20th of September 2022. Everything remained disquietly identical: my mom left the furniture in the same place, only the sheets she changed, putting on a clean pair. The photos are still hanging, the pillows still smell the same: yet this room does not taste like home, does not taste as a comfort-zone. Rather, it is a museum of my past, anchored in my high school years, and I cannot relate to it anymore.
I remove the photos from the walls, change the arrangement of the furniture, attach new poster, and throw away a bunch of rubbish that I kept “just-in-case”: only the sheets I leave as they are, at least they are clean, and taste fresh.
All this does not stop just in my room, I discover a new and unknown microphysic of power that pervades me in a molecular way, future that overlaps with the past. I realize that during this year I have not only questioned myself, but also all the social figures close to me. From the mouth of my parents no longer comes a claim of authority, but a friendly advice. The difference is abysmal. Maybe that’s why I wanted to mark it by lighting a cigarette in front of them. Their faces were visibly confused, but they didn’t say a word. Though harmless and metaphorical, it was a claim of power over myself, my choices, my pride. Even my old friends still refer to me as my old self, with my old insecurities, my old mistakes, my old thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one that sees myself in a different light, as it is happening only in my head and nobody can notice it, as it wasn’t real. It is extremely complicated to make people get used to calling you with different pronouns, just to use a metaphor.
Today I renounce those habits that were hideouts to not come out of the closet. I deny everything where I cannot find myself here, now. Even the most suffering, the most beloved, the most poignant: on those I exercise almost absolute power, I force myself to grow and mature over them. I know that my inner journey is only beginning, and to look back would be catastrophic and difficult to recover.
Painful as it is, I feel it’s the right way. Even if this means not finding yourself in the phrases of old friends, feeling like an outsider in your city, if you have to revolutionize a room to stay in it without
suffocating, if you have to take the first opportunity to leave again. I know that all this is part of a new process, a new transformation.
And all in all I am grateful to live it this way, as a continuation of my evolution and not as its negation.
After all, even at the ‘65 Newport Folk Festival, after being bitterly criticized for playing the electric guitar, Bob Dylan finally takes the acoustic guitar, and plays “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue“.
“Leave your stepping stones behind
There’s something that calls for you
Forget the debt you’ve left
That will not follow you
Your lover who has just walked through the door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor
The carpet too is foldin’ over you
And it’s all over now baby blue
Well, strike another match
Yeah, go start new, go start new
‘Cause it’s all over now, baby blue.”
The Carl Kruse Blog Homepage.
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
Other articles by Asia Leonardi include Lisbon Diaries and War of Art.
Carl Kruse wrote about Primo Levi over on Medium.