July 2014 | EditorSpeak

Work and Respite

As the cover makes obvious, with this issue Dance Studio Life celebrates 10 years of publication. I’ve been on board for seven years as editor in chief, but I had a hand in some of the earlier issues as a freelance editor—which means I’ve seen how much the magazine has grown and changed since its inception. The anniversary is Rhee’s topic this month in “On My Mind,” so I won’t say more than this: the most gratifying part of my job is seeing you, our readers, respond with enthusiasm to the magazine’s evolution. Our goal is to make a difference, helping you develop as business owners and teaching artists, and offering you new paths to creativity. Like you, we take our work seriously, and that’s as it should be.

Work, however, isn’t everything. As I write this, I’m freshly back from southern Italy, where I did my best to share in la dolce vita (“the sweet life”). And there’s another phrase that describes the Italian mind-set, perhaps even better: la dolce far niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing.

Nothing could be farther from the American way. But in Italy, life is to be savored. Take the traditional passeggiata, a time-honored evening stroll when sidewalks and streets are packed with people socializing, flirting, or celebrating soccer scores—or lamenting them. Mothers and daughters hold hands; lovers lean against seawalls and kiss; neighbors greet each other as if they were long-lost friends. Spirits are high, and so is the volume of voices and laughter.

Travelers to Italy get another taste of this relaxed approach to life when they arrive at a shop that opens at 9:30am (so a sign claims), only to find its doors still locked at 10, or 11, if it opens at all—and we Americans sputter and protest and wonder why that shop owner doesn’t worry more about his bottom line.

The truth is, that shop owner—who perhaps decided to go fishing, or see a friend, or run an errand for his mother—arguably has a better sense of priorities than we do. I’m not saying bottom lines aren’t important or that Italians don’t work hard; they are, and they do. True, unemployment is rampant in Italy, especially among the young, but those who don’t have jobs are not the only ones who gather in piazzas to share stories or a gelato. Business owners, fishermen, farmers, and service-industry workers find time for friends and family too. They understand that life is about more than work.

Here in the States, overwork is the new status symbol; we all complain about having no time, about being “crazy busy”—and while we claim to wish things were otherwise, many of us, if we’re honest enough to admit it, say the words with hidden pride. We are working longer, but we are not necessarily working better. Welcome to burnout.

I know this because I’m quite good at managing two jobs (plus, for two years, grad school), but relaxation? Not so much. Yet in Italy, despite my typical “overachiever” nonstop pace, I felt my mind grow languid. I let beauty—in the form of volcanoes and green seas, paintings and stained glass, eggplant and gelato—consume me.

Yes, it took going to Italy to remind me I need to slow down at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By the time you leaf through this issue of the magazine, it will be July, the dead heat of summer. For a morning, an afternoon, a day, even a week, squash that urge to be über-productive. Instead, do nothing. La dolce far niente. Perhaps a better translation would be “the sweetness of a healthy life.” —Cheryl A. Ossola, Editor in Chief