(always late) Arrival to Ithaka


Glimpse into my life: A few days ago I finished university. I am now waiting for my graduation ceremony and there is a lot I am planning for the future: an MFA degree, as much travelling as possible, lots of writing and some work experience, of course. It is the very first step, a small victory allowing me to try for the next one. How much does it feel like one, though? – enough about me!

There is always a bittersweet taste when something ends, especially a part of your life you enjoyed as much as I enjoyed university. Of course, there is always someone with that typical saying  at the tip of their tongue: “one thing ends and another one begins”. Well, as much as this sounds helpful in the movies, in life things tend to get a little bit more complicated than that. There are people, places and habits you leave behind and the separation can be hard.

So this Sunday afternoon we are talking about the irony of dream-chase. I read a quote by Neil Gaiman recently and it instantly brought tears to my eyes because I now know how truthful it is: “the price of getting what you want is getting what you once wanted”. I usually forget quotes even the ones that really impress me but this one felt like a punch in the stomach and I don’t think I will ever be able to let it go. So let’s talk about it Let’s examine the tones of wisdom hidden in every word. 

Being people, we are made to evolve. We are made to change day by day, minute by minute and that change depends on our experiences. We’re not goldfish, we learn even from the slightest experience. As we change, our dreams alter so do our priorities and our values. That is very healthy and we should be open to it. It is  after all the only way in order to become better. But we also become more and more afraid because aside of the brilliance of independence, the always-growing strength, the depths of human affection and the beyond-the-sky levels of actually being when falling in love, we discover the edges of our pain tolerance – and there’s no such thing! -, the fear of being less than enough, the certainty that we never were enough in the first place and the realisation that life has a way of trapping us like mice inside our own choices, our own rights and wrongs, inside our minds. 

All the above make our dreams change. You wish you would dare to be that childhood fantasy of yourself and it now seams completely… impractical? Even crazy! Who are the brave ones who will dare to be it? The “brave ones” or the idiots, who will end up regretting their lack of reason in their decisions?

And so, when you reach the mountain top. It now looks like a different place than the one you once had in mind. It’s not. It is usually exactly that. It’s you! It’s your eyes that look at it differently now. With a little more fear, a little more practicality and maybe – if you’ve been smart enough to understand the paths this journey led you through to get you right here – with a little more wisdom.

So, since you’ll always end up in the wrong place because your desires will always be one step ahead of you, just try for the best and appreciate what the steps you took to get there gave you. That’s why the beautiful quote we discuss today is not pessimistic at all, when you read it a second time. It would be a curse to be completely satisfied with what you have, because the only true gift humanity was ever given is no other than curiosity!

p.s. Sorry I’ve been away! Exams were a lot to handle. I’m back to stay!

Relevant recommendationC.P. Cavafy discussed what we are talking about today lots and lots of years ago in a beautiful poem, if you haven’t read Ithaka, you can enjoy it easily. Google it!


Have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

Between the lines: Piano Man

It was around midday last Sunday, I was putting my make-up on when a song started playing on the radio: Piano Man by Billy Joel. I usually really like songs that tell a story, so it caught my attention. While it was going on I realized it talked about something that has been on my mind a lot lately: the feeling that you don’t belong where you are and that you could be in a better place if circumstances were different or if you had handled situations better. I have come to realize that most if not all people feel like this in one way or another.

I played the song over and over to discover its secrets and since I wanted to make a blog post referring to this, I thought I could start from those wonderful lyrics.

The song builds a very atmospheric image of a piano bar on a Saturday evening. We see everything through the pianist’s eyes although we never learn much about him compared to what we hear about the rest of the people who are spending the night in the bar. The figures are almost stereotypical and we can probably recall them in our memory. We have probably come across them at some point.

As the pianist begins to explain what he sees, he starts describing an old man who seats near him drinking his gin and tonic – he actually uses the words “making love to his tonic and gin” which emphasizes his dependency on alcohol. The old man asks him to play a melody he knew as a young man. This person is the first one who is being described and is probably somehow the future self of everyone in that place. He listens to the piano full of nostalgia, missing a life he had but he was never able to appreciate at the time just like the younger people in the bar. He looks back at what everyone else turns away from and what he probably had turned away from when he was young: his life. Now, he only lives in memories hanging on a bottle and the tunes of the pianist that will somehow let him return to what he once was.

The next person we meet is John, the barman. He comes across as a very cheerful man He always has a joke to tell but deep inside he just feels trapped. He is a friend of the pianist so he can confess to him that he’d be a movie star if he wasn’t stuck at the bar. In this case, we, as the listeners, feel like he could change that. He dreams of being an actor but remains there doing nothing about it. Of course, we know nothing much about John’s life but we assume that if he wants it that bad, he could take a risk. He says that this life “is killing him”, so does he have something to lose if he takes a risk? Is his phantasy of being a famous actor really a desire? Or is it just something he uses to make himself feel somehow like a failure?

Two men are sitting somewhere near, Paul and Davy. Paul is a novelist who doesn’t have a family. We can assume he is a cynical and practical man, since the pianist describes him as a “real estate novelist” and he is taking to another man named Davy who still works in the Navy “and probably will be for life”. Of course that “still” is the magic word that changes the meaning of the lyric. It instantly gives us the sense that Davy wasn’t intending to stay at this job but for practical reasons, he stayed. He probably had bigger dreams. Maybe he would be a movie star just like John would but he’s there now and he’ll never know.

Lastly, Bill, our Pianist, refers to the waitress who speaks with a stoned businessman. They are both lost in their loneliness trying to fight it in meaningless conversations. In the end of the song, as we are almost seeing that bar in front of us, feeling the loneliness of every single person in there and knowing that they can only get away from it for as long as a song lasts – a song by the piano man  – something devastating happens. Someone approaches Bill and gives him a tip. Then he asks him “man, what are you doing here?”.

After we’ve seen everyone else through Bill’s eyes realizing how they’ve wasted their lives and they’ll probably never be happy, someone else comes to ask the question we’ve been too busy – thinking about everyone else – to ask. What is he doing there, in this sad, little bar filled with unhappy people looking to drown their problems in alcohol instead of admitting their wrong choices? Was that his dream all along? Is anyone where they were supposed to be? Is life an endless chain of mistakes we just keep trying to cover up? Is loneliness inevitable?

I thought of the song lyrics for days. I started noticing people around me wondering how they were experiencing loneliness or what were they settling for out of fear. Let’s not lie. At some point we all do. Or… can we chose not to?

have a magical day,


glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

A little something you forgot to consider

When you look at the world you see a combination of brilliance and dirt altogether. It makes you want to get out and explore every single part of it, every possible human emotion and at the same time, it makes you want to run to bed and stay there forever. It’s like being in a huge library with a billion books. You wish you’ll choose the most fascinating ones, those that will teach you a lot and make you a wiser person but still… you cannot know the ending in advance. There’s always a risk.  It’s scary – terrifying actually – but I suppose life can give you a few things that are worth the “pain and the aches of the outcoming fortune” in the words of the Danish Prince.

It is incredible that you have all these choices concerning who you want to become and how you want to use your life in order to contribute to society. But what most people forget to mention when they talk about the endless possibilities is risk and fear. The smallest choice you make has outcomes. There’s never a win-win situation. You always have to face consequences, responsibilities and stand up for the path you took and for the person you are today.

We chose friends, behaviors, careers, lovers, places to live in and even ways to approach situations. Every little thing is crucial but there are some choices bigger than others. These are the choices that will change your life. When you stand in front of a choice this big, I tell you, it’s scary. Nobody mentions that. Everyone goes on and on about doing the right thing but… when you’re actually standing a step away from opening one door or another, you can’t see “right” or “wrong”. You can only see the regret at the end of each way and you’re afraid of it. There are paths that guarantee security and others that involve greater risk.

street artist.jpg

Making the step is hard. But no matter what you have been thinking so far, no matter what all the voices around you have been going on and on about, you have to take a step back and put yourself in the microscope. I don’t mean endless hours of worrying and re-thinking – which is something I am guilty of, to be honest – but to really stand across your deepest desire and ask yourself “Where do you want to go?”.

This process is usually so hard because we forget to keep in mind the fear that goes with it. It’s what we forget to consider when we make plans. Fear is usually a huge part of our choices but it shouldn’t be. Go with your gut. There is an instinct inside every one of us, we’ve just learned to ignore it over the years while trying to rationalize everything.

Remember back when you were a kid? You took one look at a person and you knew if you liked them or not. You went to ballet lessons for a week to find out you want to quit and then you tried piano and Italian and none of those were right for you. You knew and you were not afraid to admit you changed your mind. Nobody would call you a loser. Then, you finally tried tennis or playing the tuba and it was fun. You couldn’t see the time to go to practice. That’s what we suppress over the years, our pure instincts. We learn to like what we should like but, how will we ever be happy if we don’t risk walking the road our heart tells us it leads to happiness?

Charles Bukowski said “Go all the way” and he was right. If you don’t go all the way, you’ll never know. It takes a huge amount of courage to stop thinking of every little thing that can go wrong and focus on your pure desire. Don’t be afraid of it. Take a step on the path your heart points at. There must be some reason. Show it some trust and you’ll eventually find out why it took you there.

Have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

“I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic!”

If you love Tennessee Williams as much as I do, you already smiled because you recognized the quote from a Streetcar Named Desire. Don’t we all have a few drops of Blanche DuBois somewhere inside us? A little dreamer who can’t go along with the world around them and aches to escape in their own way…

i don't want realism

I am still wondering though… What really is “realism” and what separates it from “magic”? Aren’t there parts of one in the other? Let’s define realism as everyday life and everything that goes with it – the struggles, the routine, the alarm that goes off on Monday morning etc…. I am not by any means implying that getting up at 6:30 a.m. on a Monday is poetic, don’t get me wrong but… smiling to your neighbor, who also just got out of his apartment with a thermos in his hand, their hair still messed up and an expression that looks exactly like yours, is kind of poetic. It’s what I call “magic” because even if that only lasted for a moment, you’ll both forget it in the next sixty seconds and get on with your days, it was enough to make you feel you’re not alone.

Magic is hidden in the details. The people who know how to find it, find happiness easily. So learn to enjoy the little moments and learn to observe and appreciate. Bring along the people around you and get them to smile more. And if they’re still grumpy complaining endlessly about that alarm that has to go off on a Monday morning, that’ ok. You can always rely on the kindness of strangers.

(I am winking at you at the moment)

have a magical day!

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou