Balancing Work and Life Through Loss

Turning off the work burner in times of a family crisis may seem obvious to many people, but it's a lesson that came to embrace the past couple weeks. My map of the freelance world is still vastly blank, but navigating through this particular loss has defined one of the most important areas.

Propositura San Felice a Ema firenze

I haven't posted in three weeks partially because I've been swamped with work and social engagements making up for time spent in quarantine, and partially because my father-in-law succame to his cancer a couple of weeks ago.


As a wife, I knew that my role was to continue the emotional support I've been giving my husband throughout the past several weeks when his father's illness took a turn for the worst. However, in order to be totally present for Elia, I had to confront a situation in freelancing that I've never confronted before. In short, I had to ask for extensions on nearly all of my deadlines.


The midwesterner I am, talking about myself, and my personal life is something I try to keep entirely separate from my work. In grad school, the death of an old friend shook me and one of my largest regrets is that I didn't email my teachers and just ask for a day off from critiques and due dates. The time I missed decompressing and processing my emotions was time lost. This time around, however, it wasn't only my needs on the line, but it was my husband's. Partially surprising myself, the first thing I did when Elia called me from his father's home I contacted all of my active clients.


Most freelancers would agree that keeping to deadlines is basically what keeps you employed. Clients will eventually ghost you if you ghost them for long enough when an item is due. I immediately felt guilt and regret asking for leniency even though I had explained my situation and all five of them were sympathetic and understood my request. I'm sure I'm not alone in admitting to having worked with clients that were all around difficult, so I feel like my honestly in this situation was met with exceptional understanding.


My hesitation dissolved the following days after the death of Elia's dad, because for the first time in a long while my thoughts weren't split between work and family. When it comes to death there's not a lot that people can do to remedy the situation other than standing by those who need it most with a hug and a tissue ready.


Turning off the work burner in times of a family crisis may seem obvious to many people, but it's a lesson that came to embrace the past couple weeks. My map of the freelance world is still vastly blank, but navigating through this particular loss has defined one of the most important areas.





On a separate note, the last days of May and the following days into June have been difficult for Americans, namely those who have been protesting tirelessly in the face of police violence, the black community as a whole, and of course for the friends and family of George Floyd. The anger and sadness being felt and expressed in the United States right now are not lost on ex-pats. I know that many of us here in Florence would love to be back in the states supporting our hometown communities, but the best we can do is convey our solidarity through social media and donation.


Local ex-patriot activists organized a protest outside of the American consulate, which had an amazing turnout of Americans and Italians of all different backgrounds. This protest was one of many that included ones organized by student groups and those protesting against fascism and racism both here, and in the United States. The whole world is watching, including Italy.




Mourning Casserole

Final note, I learned a lot about mourning traditions in Italy:


They don't necessarily wear black to funerals. Wakes can often be an old-school entire day affair and people are not buried with shoes on because obviously, they don't need them any longer; what a metaphor. Lastly, as Americans (this can't just be an American thing?) making a ton of food for the deceased's family is not a tradition. Honestly, my first thought upon hearing the news was, "ok, I need to make a casserole". One American bud asked me if she should make one too as a joke, but deep down inside I knew she wanted me to say yes.

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