- The neighbour’s dog *is* as vicious as he sounds. I recommend not getting stuck in the stairwell with him but, if it does happen, kicking him with a stiletto heel is quite effective. I’ve left a pair for you just in case.
- The car keys are locked away for your own safety. Seriously.
- Try dipping tarallini in peperoni piccante and olive oil. Your taste buds will thank you.
- The best gelato is to be found in the centre of town (I recommend Sicilian granite mandorle and pistacchio).
- Don’t combine 3 and 4 unless you want to be violently sick.
Think that’s all for now. Enjoy your day in Italy!
ps: I forgot to take the rubbish out last night. Would you mind …? Ta.
No, really. Forget the dictionary or the Wikipedia page for a second – this is about common informal usage, sans reference book. “Maniac”. “Maniacal”. What do they evoke? All the mad energy but none of the creepifying sociopathy of “lunatic” – and a hint of Back To The Future’s Doc Brown (“Great Scott!”) and Fringe’s Walter Bishop. Dr Horrible is a maniac. So is Doctor Who. They’re all fun, and they’re all slightly bananas – but most importantly, they all get things done. Brilliantly.
So now you’re looking at the title of this website. Well, I can’t comment – I’ve never been in a car with Kate behind the wheel. I also can’t comment if the title refers to Italians in general, since making sweeping statements about national traits is an appallingly narrow-minded thing to do. (Now, if you were talking about *Belgians*, then yes, I’d agree with you. Belgium shouldn’t be allowed to have roads. They’re all insane. Solution: give ’em bikes, which works because Belgium’s really flat. Suggest it to your local MP. You know it makes sense).
There’s a lot to be said for exploring the world like a maniac.
The best way to do something well is to fling yourself at it. Take the author of this site. How would you approach a teaching career abroad? Kinda pick at a few courses, build up a CV for a few years, take a few tentative jaunts to prospective employers here and there, dip a toe and then another toe? That’s one way, and not only is it agonisingly slow, it’s self-defeating because you’re staying within your comfort zone all the while. Or, like the author of this blog, you can get a big run up and then hurl yourself through intensive training, living on your nerves and enjoying the thrilling, terrifying freedom of seeing how much change you can take on the chin without going bonkers.
(I’m not suggesting Kate isn’t bonkers, by the way. This post isn’t a piece of fiction. Thanks).
There’s a big problem with modern life, and it’s this: we like pigeonholing things as “reckless”. Reckless is a bad word that means “unnecessarily risky”. It’s reckless to take a risk with your career. It’s reckless to follow your heart’s yearnings at the expense of your bank balance. It’s reckless to believe things you read in stories, or think in your dreamiest, most hopeful thoughts. And so on. We’ve even fashioned a vocabulary around it. “You want to deliberately make yourself homeless for months at a time? That’s so WEIRD.”
But there’s one very noticeable thing about ‘reckless’ maniacs. They’re happy. Big grins on their faces as they buck convention, risk their social credibility and teeter on the brink of embarassing public failure. Happily.
Sounds like a fun way to be, frankly.
So with that in mind, I’d like to offer up my personal definition of Living Like A Maniac.
1. Since other people aren’t you, don’t follow their orders. This especially applies to adventurous activities like travelling the world. Parents, teachers, friends, work colleagues – they’ll all have something to say when you first air your globetrotting plans. Listen to them, by all means (every suggestion has value, even those from idiots), and process everything they say very carefully – but when it comes to decision time, remember that there’s only one You, and that may call for a strategy that hasn’t been tried before. This is often construed by the world as “being weird”. (“Karl Bushby? Weirdo!” And so on). Congratulations: you’re now turning into a wandering maniac.
2. But the key requirement for a truly maniacal lifestyle is optimism. Maniacs screw up all the time. Take mad professors. Which are they better known for – their successes or their failures? Perhaps thankfully, it’s the latter. And that’s your fate as a maniac – you’re going to spend a lot of time flat on your face. The good news is that it’s a shortcut to success – the more mistakes you make, the quicker you learn what works and what doesn’t. Only thing is, it’s incredibly demoralising – especially when you know you’re perceived as acting a bit weird in attempting it at all. This is where you need to cultivate a maniacally good-humoured self belief that will propel you forwards towards your next facial rendezvous with the ground. Chin up.
3. When practical, do the scary thing. Maniacs test their limits all the time. They toy with discomfort, dabble with self-inflicted anguish. There’s a good reason for this, and it’s that comfort files the edges off your determination. Remember writing essays at school or college, and doing a better job on the ones where the deadline is applying excruciating pressure? Same kind of thing. So instead of viewing terrifying, nerve-wracking things as automatically bad, have a good think about *why* they’re so scary. Think back to times when your heart was in your mouth – how alive did you feel at the time? Have a think about how you’d feel if you actually did them, and why you’d want to. And if the reasons are good – don’t be afraid to be afraid. Maniacs never are.
Mike Sowden is a freelance writer and writes for, among others, MNUI Travel Insurance. He is usually to be found at his blog, Fevered Mutterings. His DVD boxsets, however, are usually to be found in Katja’s flat in London.
Image by KatieW on Flickr