The Story (Part 3)

Carlo still insists that I did it on purpose. That is, he tells me to this day that I didn’t “just forget” my battery charger at Cretaiole. I DID forget it, but it was a fortuitous forgetfulness. 😉

I called him the following morning, “Ciao, I think I left it in my room, can you please send it back?” And this was the beginning of endless phone conversations, every day, several times a day. After a month of talks, it became clear that we were more than just good friends.

February 14, 1997, St. Valentine’s day. In his dad’s old Fiat Punto, Carlo drove 580 km to come see me in Cernobbio on Lake Como, where I lived at that time. I felt I was on Cloud 9. But his dad, Luciano, was thinking that his son had gone completely crazy.

Cernobbio is my hometown where I spent all my summers and weekends as a child with my family. Our beautiful family home with its spectacular views on the lake is still there, and even now when I visit, I feel like the girl of my youth again.

At the time I met Carlo I lived there with my dear Aunt Livia, my dad’s sister. I was working in Switzerland at the Campari factory as the assistant to the Managing Director, who “shaped me” over three years of time—like water rushing over rock, he transformed a “rough diamond” (these were his words) into a sparkling one. From him I learned to work hard and not to give up. If I can do what I do today, it’s largely because of him and his impeccable organization that became my nightmare. But at the same time he showed me what passion is and how through commitment and dedication you can do amazing things in life. The key is simply not to give up.

Every morning I had to show up on time (which really meant to be at least 15 minutes early) and if I could not finish my job I had to work extra hours until it was done. Complaints were not well received. He would tell me, “ When you complain, you lose precious energy that you can use instead to change the things that you don’t like.” I didn’t really understand what he meant, but now I do.

I didn’t know how to type, how to keep an agenda, how to write a letter, or how to be organized or efficient. I worked so hard, but always had the feeling of being overwhelmed and of not being productive enough. In time, however, I became a very efficient assistant—reaping the praise of my boss and the satisfaction of building a career (not just a job), and the joy of working as part of a team reaching important goals. I started to experience the meaningfulness in helping other people to reach their goals, and to make them happy and successful; and in this process I began to feel a great sense of purpose and satisfaction with my life’s direction.

Life is weird: if you don’t have any special talent what are you going to do in life? That was my main question in my 20s after having returned home from a year spent in Canada where I went to study English and experienced complete independence. Also after having successfully completed, a few years later, my studies in Public Relations at the University of Milano, I didn’t know what I would do. But as it often happens, you take a direction and see what happens. I had always been quite a creative person: good in languages (I speak and write fluently in four), in theatre performance, and in cooking. I loved good music, I played tenor flute in the school orchestra, I sang in a choir, and I had a genuine interest in psychology and people … but in none of these things was I good enough to transform any of them into a profession. I was desperate to find a way to shine, but as so many young people struggle to find a direction: how can you be successful if you don’t have a special talent?

So, after my studies, my first real job was the one at the Campari factory. It came by accident, without a plan, without an intention. It came with life, and I jumped into it. I was not aware of what was happening to me, I didn’t understand what I was doing; I just did it, with full commitment, and without thinking.

Things started to be great, full, intense, social, rewarding, and generous. In the evenings I would return home to my lovely aunt who spoiled me with the best meals, and I slept like a baby. That went on for three years. Until I met Carlo.

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