When I look at Giulia, whom I have known for about half a decade, what I see is a woman who is not bound by her age, it’s as if she forgets she is in the neighbourhood of 70 odd years old: her enthusiasm and relentless search, mainly for the best version of herself, make her a pleasure to be with. Giulia is also the rare bird who has always placed love front and center, and love has informed most of her adult decisions, for better or worse.
Giulia was born in Rome, Italy but grew up in Argentina, single daughter of a single mom. She returned to Italy, after getting married young, and had two children. At a time when the conventional choice was to stay home and look after the family, Giulia, needing to push open the stifling confines of a conventional marriage, built a career for herself, in the movie industry, where she started as secretary and ended up with her own company, representing movie buyers all over the world. It was at a Cannes Film Festival, after her first marriage had faded, that Giulia met Michael, the man she followed to Los Angeles.
Leaving Italy was a hard decision because her children, close to adulthood, decided to stay behind and their relationship has always been tinged by the shadow of her departure.
We chatted at Giulia’s home in Los Angeles – I had asked her to look back at her life and distill a few nuggets she wished she had known when she was younger.
Follow your heart. In my case, literally. I married very young, at 18, something I would not necessarily recommend but was the custom in those days. I continued to grow and change, and I feel I didn’t start living a full life until long after I was married, until I was able to incorporate a career into the equation. But I married for love, I loved my job intensely and when I fell for my second husband, I fell hard. There is some regret attached to some of my choices – nonetheless, there was also an enormous amount of love and passion in all I ever did and that, I do not regret.
Understanding suffering doesn’t erase the pain. I can’t say I left my children behind – I had envisaged them spending a lot of time with me and my new husband but, for multiple reasons, they always felt much more at home in Italy. That separation was one of the most defining and hardest moments of my life, one I have spent a lot of time trying to justify and explain. I think my children, who are now well into adulthood, have understood and made peace with my decision. They realize the life I chose at 18 was not the life I wanted for the rest of my days. The pain that my decision cost them has never been erased though and that is something I had to learn to live with.
Don’t lose your financial independence. When I married Michael and moved to the States, I kept some of my clients but, mainly, I started working for his company. When he decided to sell the company and retire at age 47, I found myself out of a job. I decided to stay home, I had two more children in the meantime, but, if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it. I have never been very good at depending on someone else, not since I started earning my own money. Also, make sure you talk to your partner about finances – do not relinquish financial decisions, do not leave them to the higher earner. Do not let yourself be blinded by love when it comes to practical matters.
There are no assurances in life. Because I saw my mother struggle when I was a child, I always looked for safety: safety in marriage, in financial stability. Life doesn’t work that way – there is no such thing as safety. The tide comes and goes and it’s better to learn early to deal with the highs and lows.
It’s never too late to take care of yourself. At this stage in life, I am seeing a therapist to sort out some of the unresolved issues in my past. I have taken up meditation. The last few years have been very difficult for me: Michael has gotten progressively more sick and now lives in an assisted living facility and we have had some financial difficulties but I am determined to recover my peace of mind and emotional stability as best I can, and I am working hard on it. Even at this age, I still feel there is room for growth.