“Good morning, your name please?”
“Good morning, my name is Marco Vivaldi”
“How old are you?
“I am eighteen years old”
“What subject are you good at?”
“Very well, here’s one magazine, two flyers and a few brochures for you. You will find everything you need here.”
Marco goes away. Behind him, dozens of people were waiting for their turn. Some of them were looking down at their mobile phones, others were looking around, and Luca… “Oh my God, Luca, what are you doing?” Marco approached him incredulously. “Are you crazy? What are you doing?”.
Luca is calm, he replies: “What are you saying? Can’t you see? I’m smoking. It is useless to come to these orientation days to look for the most suitable university for you, I would say daddy’s and mummy’s little prince, since you don’t even understand that if a person has a lighted cigarette in his mouth, that means he is smoking”. Marco starts to mumble, he feels guilty as if he were the one smoking: “We’re in a closed place, put that stuff down. You’ll get kicked out”. “I want to be kicked out”. “What are you talking about? Why are you behaving like this? Give me that”. Marco picks up the cigarette and throws it on the ground, extinguishing it with the sole of his shoe and continuing to stare at Luca. This boy doesn’t understand him at all but likes him in some way. “For me, we have to leave while we still can”, Luca says with a sly smile. Marco, with incredulous eyes, turns away for a moment. He turns twice, first puts his hands in his hair, and then leans them against his hips, looking exhausted: “I can’t stand you. Who do you think you are? You’ve been talking for months about how great university will be: you’ll be able to choose your courses, study only what really interests you and finally leave the hated high school behind. We are here today, trying to figure out what our future is going to be, and you almost want to get thrown out, standing there, half sleepy half angry and smoking. But why, I just want to know why”.
“How was the meeting?”
“Do you understand what I was saying? You want to go to university and you don’t even understand when I talk. The meeting with the man there, the gentleman who is supposed to show the way to the future and all those stories there.”
“He asked me what my favorite subject is and…”
“This is not true”
“He didn’t ask you your favorite subject. I heard that too. He asked you what subject you are good at.”
“So why are you asking?”
“There is a big difference between asking what you are good at and what you wish to be good at. Don’t you see that? Don’t you understand that? Look around, we’re all crammed into this smelly gym. We’re in the middle of the rink, where they are usually games, competitions. And look over there, in the stands. Who do you see? The teachers, who are checking, observing, having to monitor that everything is going well, that in the arena we are following all the orders we were taught: queue, wait for your turn, say which subject we are good at and not our favorite. They are the competition judges and they are watching you. They’ve given you some leaflets and brochures: now you have to go to the university stand that they’ve indicated. So you go there, you in the midst of hundreds of other kids, all with the same coloured leaflets, and they tell you that this is the university for you, that they have a great time, and that you are the future of this wonderful country, or something like that. At this point, here comes the big one, wait, one of them comes up to you, asks you your name, so he can repeat it throughout his speech, and to you it will sound more convincing, you will believe that he is really interested in you, exclusively in you. And after you have heard a whole series of things that you did not understand and that seem interesting to you, you will go home. As you will say the name of a prestigious medical or engineering university, since you answered mathematics, parents will tell you that it is the best choice of all. They’ll say things like, “But do you realise what being a graduate there means?” And at that point you’ll be convinced that you’ve made a choice, when in fact, the only thing you’ve chosen, right here, right now, and freely, is to smoke a cigarette and you’re the one to put it out.
“If I’m good at maths, then obviously I should go into engineering, don’t you think?”
“No, I don’t think so. In fact, I’m telling you, I think from a logical point of view. I don’t think so from a human point of view. We fixate on the fact that everything has a cause and therefore a necessary effect: good at maths then you will do medicine; a nice engaged couple then their love must last forever; you are a doctor’s daughter then you cannot do comedy. Maybe people should start doing what they like and not necessarily what they are good at. If you do things you’re already good at, you get bored, you get full of pride, you feel complete. Shall I tell you a secret? Life is never complete, the only thing that is complete and definitive is its end, and I want to live in a totally incomplete way, always looking for something, I want to think by myself, to try, to test, and not to be classified by age. If you are twenty-five then you must have a degree; if you are thirty then you must be engaged and have a job and start a family. Life is much more complicated, we keep giving ourselves rules, we think we can regulate everything. For years philosophers have been looking for the right formula of describing the being, the essence, life: the great truth is that no one has ever understood anything and I would rather be good at something sad, than be perfectible, improvable, modifiable, flexible, but in something that makes me happy. What do you think?”
“I think you should pass me that cigarette”.