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The Ladies Of My Vision Board: The Female Role Models of my Life

“There is art in being a man and seeing the world with the eyes of a woman”

As kids, we are taught to visualize a bright future. To innocently plan it with cut-outs from papers and magazines, getting for free and in playful formats the same wisdom we pay for as adults; and living our lives by it. “Choose a role model,” they’d say in school, and in my reality, the superhero exchanged flying for belly dancing barefoot on a stage, fighting villains for fighting hunger with UNICEF, and traded her Lycra costume for blue jeans and braided hair. 

A role model, celebrity crush, a kid’s first love – name it what you want. It’s the kind of love that, over the years, becomes a safe space for children to freely believe in their heroine, to turn their fixation for their grandmother’s pearls and lace suits into a fashion career or their recipes into the book they never got to publish. 

When dreams don’t have rules, who will guide us to grow wise enough to materialize our vision boards? To turn the collages we renew every year like subscriptions into palpable achievements? Like dreams, motherhood comes manual-free, is to face destiny blindfolded and expect to hit the aim. “It’s the one art form you can never fully master,” mine says. Yet, they can cut through the darkness, and make us invulnerable to it. And if we’re lucky enough, we’ll be there the day it’s time for us to lead that army of two. For us to take the blindfold, and lead by example. 

There is art in being a man and seeing the world with the eyes of a woman, a sensibility that this author credits to his artsy-almost-hippie mother and to a career mentored and inspired by females. What for them is nature, for us men is a sixth sense, a developed ability to see like them, approach logic like them, and relate to their universe – but rarely to sense the universe the way they do. 

I believe I’ve been crossed by truly genuine expressions maybe once or twice in my lifetime. Of those phrases contained in perfect moments that freeze time and drown you into deep introspection. In Procida, in the presence of a multimedia art installation set in a tabacchi shop on the island, a lady cried out loud, “la voce, è bella, vero?” (the voice is beautiful, isn’t it?), seeking confirmation. She, a local in her late 70s, looked enchanted by the female voice in the work singing in a foreign language while standing carrying a tote bag with groceries. 

In the presence of the piece camouflaged in a well-supplied convenience shop, in the middle of a crowded island warmed up by the August heat, everything the woman was drawn to was that voice –– the beautiful voice. While I and others were taken up by logic, trying to decipher simplicity, she had the privilege to be alone in her moment, dissecting the song from the chaos, and enjoying the beautiful voice. 

Because vision boards would be ineffective without gratitude, if I were to compose one today, it would be written with the names of the women who shaped the man I am. Grandmothers and my mother, friends, bosses, and colleagues. From strangers that have sparked an idea – to the Procida lady with the tote bag.

Around them, I felt safe, and they showed me where to go. Women guarded me against darkness, taught me beauty, and to dissolve the noise.