One thing I know about Rome is that I did not come prepared. If I contrast this visit to my visit to Paris, I knew what I wanted to see. I read Da Vinci Code just as I visited the city, and despite its flawed history and even geography, it told me the stories of the place and prepared my mind for it. I also knew what I missed: For years, I have been looking into books of Cartier Bresson but could not make it to the Museum. I didn't go to Versailles and also couldn't make it to Museum of Rodin, keeping it for another time. In Rome, however, it is far more overwhelming - not just that I simply don't know what I missed, every church around the street corner seemed to have a story inside (or buried under, as I discovered in San Clemente), I also didn't know what to see in Vatican Museum, within the endless arrays of Raphael and other artists and artifacts. At this time, I am bracing myself for a similar experience at Florence's Uffizi Gallery, as my knowledge of Renaissance art is all but minimal.
I love this wandering around, the exploration, knowing stories about dead people and their ideas, see these grand historical narratives played out, dead and gone. I see the Roman ruins as a message that every empire must wither, the Saint Peters Square as how religion sustains power, and Italy as a narrative where nationalism, religion and feudal power fused together to create a perfect recipe which will bring in Mussolini (and Berlusconi as his illustrated successor).
But such experience also tells me what I like and what I should be doing. I have lived an artificial life for far too long, pretending to be something else other than myself. Italy also magnifies my midlife crisis, that I have been chasing dreams mostly without preparation, and that most such efforts are meaningless. What I am doing now, despite the strength of the idea is perhaps unachievable, and this is because it is standing on a shaky foundation. One does not change the world by talking about it, and it is time I get the message.
When I return to England next week, therefore, I must work to recalibrate myself and do things which matter. My promise to myself is that I shall stop pretending altogether and do things which I really really want to do. I shall surely rejuvenate my online learning project, which I put in back-burner for a year now and come out of the self-imposed hibernation that I lived in for last one year. Indeed, I felt I was close to bring together the business school I dreamed about only last week: But, only days later, I may be as far as I ever was. This is indeed because I have only been working passively, advising others but not doing much myself actively, and it is always difficult to achieve a personal dream by being so dependent. I am almost at a moment when I must be honest with myself and do things what I want to do, rather than pretending to be happy and maintaining the status quo as I have been doing for a while.
It does not matter that this means upsetting my life all over again. If Rome gives me a lesson, it is that contentment is death. The decline starts with status quo, and I am not yet ready to give up and get old yet. So, indeed, I am looking for some interesting times ahead.