By Natasa KG
I’ve just come back from my Saturday morning bike trip. The feeling is great and I’m ready for the day.
When I was a child, the bike was a symbol of freedom for me. Summer holidays. Friends. Going through the day doing things I loved. Reading or hanging out with interesting people. Such days were almost magical for me. I felt like the world was there to make me happy.
I was born in Yugoslavia. In its northern part – Slovenia. Since I was an athlete, unlike most of my friends I had the opportunity to travel outside the country. And what I saw there appealed to me. Strongly. I felt so lucky having that chance. But that also meant that I was constantly seeking for something more, something that was out of my league.
I didn’t want to spend holidays in Yugoslavia, but had no choice. I didn’t want to grow my tomatoes like my parents did. I didn’t want to run home after school or work to make lunch. (To be honest, the best sister in the world did that most of the time.) I just wanted to grab a hamburger at McDonald’s or a takeaway at a Chinese restaurant (that didn’t exist) as I saw it in the movies. I wanted to buy tomatoes and strawberries in a supermarket in January. I wanted to replace my bike with a car as quickly as possible… None of these were possible at the time.
After high school I decided to study languages. This gave me another opportunity to travel. In fact, not really, since money was scarce. At first I traveled in my mind. I felt the magic when dreaming about going to places I only knew from the movies, books or just the news on TV. But I never gave up the dream: one day…
Eventually I had enough courage and persistence to find myself spending a year in France. I was 20. My loving parents hardly understood my decision, but they love and respect me so much they decided my happiness was more important than their peace of mind. I’m still so grateful to them, grateful for the courage they had to help me realize my dream.
It was a unique year for me. I felt as if nothing could get in my way. I was proud of myself. And I was lucky since the family I was staying with was wonderful. They taught me so many things. Speaking fluent French was the first one, of course. But with that came self-confidence I had never had before. They taught me to appreciate things I had no idea they could provide such a pleasure. Good food. Good discussion. Art. Wandering around just to feel well. Just to feel the magic of life…
After coming back to Yugoslavia I continued my studies and soon found a job. I was spending my days at the office working and learning. It was a real pleasure using my knowledge to do something useful. This hasn’t changed since. I still love working and achieving results for the company.
But a lot of things happened:
Today I have a wonderful family – two marvelous teenage sons and a husband with whom I share the values of life. I had never thought being a wife and a mother could be so fulfilling.
In the meantime Slovenia won its independence and went through an interesting process of changes. All of the sudden everything was available for us. Magical! I would be able to live like I saw it on TV! It was as if what I longed for so much in my youth was there waiting for me to reach it. But it slowly began to change the mentality of the Slovenian people. Today everything can be bought – any food I can think of, any clothing I can imagine, books in any language I want, there is so much choice in shoes, cars, bikes, gadgets… Things. Owning them makes people feel more confident.
But where is the magic?
I’m 48 and for me today the magic lies in my working in the garden, in watching my tomatoes and other vegetables growing. Today the magic lies in cooking for my family and our friends. The magic lies in weekend morning biking. And I don’t need tomatoes on my table in January while it is heavily snowing outside. I’m happy with the frozen or pickled vegetables I made during summer to preserve the vegetables we couldn’t eat fresh and didn’t want to throw away.
It’s a struggle at work. Every day. But when I come home, I can share this magic with my family. And life is beautiful as it is.
Is that change in my attitude to the world coming from my age or is it a consequence of the experience? I don’t know and I don’t mind. I’m fine.
Photographs: Natasa KG
Natasa says: “I’m known as somebody who is full of energy, sometimes making people nervous because of that. But since I work in the world of the automobile industry, this energy helps me to face the issues without much damage. I’m interested in everything and don’t understand how come that a day only has 24 hours and that I need a 7 hour sleep. My favourite pastime is — sorry it’s a cliché, but it’s so true — spending time with my family.”
Editor’s note: When Lori and I traveled to Italy in the fall of 2012, we squeezed in a two-day trip to neighboring Slovenia to visit with a second cousin on her dad’s side of the family. Boris and his wife Alenka proudly showed us their country and organized a big dinner so we could meet other relatives. Kissing, hugging, gesturing, laughing — and lots of eating — ensued. That evening, we met Boris’ nieces. One of them, Natasa, spoke excellent English and expressed great interest in us and our family. We became Facebook friends and this year she accepted my invitation to join the Voices of August party. She asked to be identified by her first name and initials only.
Tomorrow: “This song’s for you” by Michael Granberry