© Ioana Bîrdu
This project is an exercise of introspection and honesty, a way of traveling back in time to reflect on some of the moments and relationships that have a meaningful impact on our lives. Connections talks about all of us – the experiences that bring us joy or sadness, the little things we might take for granted, the people we meet.
Did you invent stories when you were a little girl? What were they about?
Of course I did and I keep doing it. When I was little I liked to play theater with my grandma because she raised me and I spent almost my entire time with her. When I woke up in the morning, I went to the kitchen where I hid behind the door while she worked. I was counting on the fact that with the radio turned up and her being caught in her work she couldn’t hear me come. But she obviously knew! Nevertheless, she played my game and walked through the kitchen as if I was invisible, which was something I loved. So I was hiding there until it seemed it was the right time to get out on the stage and surprise her. Then she exclaimed: Ionicaaa! (I’m also named Ioana after my grandfather, her husband, whom I never knew, but everybody who knew him says we are alike; I was born at approximately one year after he passed and in a way I was like her life belt, because she could direct all her love and attention towards me).
I asked her: 'you really had no idea I was there?' And she said: 'no, not at all, are you invisible?' And from that point we made up an entire dialog about my superpowers and how I could be whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and how when you have an authentic inner freedom that you develop and you believe in, nothing can stop you.
Another favorite story was with my aunt, Mariana, who, by the time I was 7, played Santa for me. Every year during the holidays she called me on the phone and asked me questions about my year and I was telling her poems, being sure that I was speaking to Santa. She was also my partner in discussion. Whenever she came to visit us I waited for her like a real host with my plastic tea service and snacks and I spoke in an affected way just like I thought adults were acting in those kind of situations. I have many stories like these and all of them are dear to me.
What’s the most beautiful memory from your childhood?
I have many memories of my childhood, it was a joyful one! However, one of my dearest involves my grandmother, with whom, as I said, I spent the whole time until I started going to kindergarten at age 4. I love her and she is dear to me because she always acted like I was a grown up and included me in all her activities. For example, I will never forget our walk to the doctor, the same route I would later go to highschool and university, where she was going to these galvanic baths. I used to explain to the doctors why I brought my grandma to see them. And while she was getting her treatment, I was walking through the hospital talking to doctors or nurses or whoever I happened to bump into. I was a curious kid, but not a tactless one; I always wanted to understand things around me. And here I am today writing stories, and it looks like ever since those times, I naturally developed this ability to interact with people, ask them questions and try to understand them.
Tell me about a person who had an impact on your life.
There are several people who were more than welcome in my life and that taught me a lot in a given period. I’m not a declarative or full of effusion person from this point of view and I don’t want to use big word such as “changed my life” because the impact a person can have in your life depends on how much you allow it. The people I would like to mention are my parents, my grandma, my childhood friends, my highschool friends who are still my friends and Stephan, who is my mirror. Meeting him two years ago made me feel, for the first time, that I wasn’t alone. Alone in the sense that I wasn’t the only one seeing things the way I do. And this brought me comfort and joy, a state of wellbeing that stays with you whether that person is close to you or not.
Professionally, the majority of people I’ve worked with were people who taught me a lot, who believed in me and who sometimes gave me more responsibility greater than I thought I deserved and for that I thank them!
What did you learn from your past relationships?
How much time do you have to read it all? Either way, I will shorten all my learnings in a well-known quote: “Never do to others what you wouldn't have them do to you”. In a nutshell I self-educated to take each person as she is and not try to project on her my needs or expectations because it’s unrealistic.
Although many of us have a tendency to exaggerate the image of others for the better or for the worse, most of them are pretty clear in their intentions, throughout their behavior and not their words. This happens because we are often led by the most powerful instincts that we have in us, fear and desire for self-preservation. If you learn to read people, read their behavior and the words behind their words, everything becomes easier!
Did a stranger do anything nice for you?
Yes, many times! There are small gestures that reveal someone’s goodwill and I always appreciate them. For example, being allowed to pass in front of someone in a supermarket queue when they have a bag full of groceries while I only have a bottle of water. Or those moments when I wait at the pedestrian crossing on a rainy day and see a car coming my way slowing down so that I won’t get sprayed with dirt while it passes me. I notice all these things and say thank you in my mind every single time.
What about the other way around, did you do anything nice for a stranger?
Yes, I also did nice things for others. The most frequent one is feed the people who need it. If I go to a restaurant with my friends and there are leftovers I always ask to have it as take away and later give it to someone on the street. I hate wasting food and there is always someone who needs it and it’s such a simple gesture to do. It’s a thing I encourage!
When in your life did you feel most alone?
I am someone who functions very well on her own and I don’t usually suffer from loneliness, I actually enjoy solitude the vast majority of time. I like reading and writing and think about what’s important to me and to my life. And yet, I felt alone two times during my childhood: when one holiday, the hotel elevator went up several floors with only me inside and one summer holiday, at the seaside when the small inflatable boat I was standing in got carried away. My parents still say that I was barely moved by the wave a few feet, but I was downright terrified and I'll never forget the strong feelings of helplessness and fear I had.
Oh, and there’s one more. When I was 10 I woke up one morning and heard my mother crying and I knew my grandma died (one day before she had a heart attack and got admitted to hospital). I felt alone because I knew a very important person in my life was gone and I was never going to see her again.
Andrea, 30 years old
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