Dear Athena

It was 2022, and I knew that I had to make a change.

I’d been unhappy for months, avoiding difficult conversations and going with what society was telling to do. Why? Because it was easy and comfortable. That was until I couldn’t avoid any longer as I gasped for air, quite literally drowning. That caused the string to finally snap, and I pulled the trigger.

I’ve spent two years wondering if I did the right thing, but everyday I discover a new piece of myself that I would not have otherwise found if I stayed. Instead of yearning for what could have been, I now thank the stars for that day we first met eight years ago.

I wouldn’t be me today without you in my story.

Πάντα ῥεῖ (everything flows)

Two years ago, I decided to trial out the digital nomad lifestyle. The world was slowly getting out of the pandemic, I needed to get out of the UK and enjoy sunnier days. This became more important than ever since internally I was more clouded than ever.

Luckily, this aligned well with a work trip to Valencia. To escape sooner, I went a few days early and extended my trip in Spain.

I loved my time in Spain. As a child, I fondly remember trips to Barcelona and so it felt quite familiar. The new people I met were promising connections and I had existing communities to fall back on. This was my first time travelling alone abroad, yet it didn’t feel completely out of my depth.

I made my way to Barcelona with a rough plan of staying around the area for as long as I could. How long was that? Wasn’t sure. I was running from my problems, and at that point, I was ready to run several marathons to keep them away.

That was until my close friend Georgie helped redirect my running away towards Greece, where she was planning her European summer trip. Seeing as I had no commitments anyway, I booked a one-way ticket to Athens with the rough plan of returning to Barcelona after this “short trip”.

This wasn’t my first time in Greece. Before the pandemic, I visited the islands and completely fell in love. Prior to that trip, my long history of admiring Greece extended from musical film set there (Mamma Mia! Here we go again!) to quotes that always led back to Greek philosophers.

I was looking forward to learning more about the mainland, the rich history and culture, eat everything I could and do that all with one of my dearest friends.

Η αρχή είναι το ήμισυ του παντός (the beginning is the half of everything)

I landed in Athens on Tuesday 24th May 2022, and was greeted by the happiest taxi driver ever.

On the drive to my Airbnb, he shared his favourite spots in Athens including the best place for the classic freddo espresso, where to go for a romantic sunset view and a hidden Jazz bar beneath the hill. He recommended I also visit the island of Crete to “see something different” than the typical islands.

That next day, I took my first freddo espresso at a café.

That summer, I extended my “short trip” and visited Crete to celebrate my 26th birthday.

That autumn, I visited that Jazz bar beneath the hill and kept going — almost every night.

That winter, I applied for a Digital Nomad residency permit.

Today is Friday 24th of May 2024, I started my day waking up in an apartment under the hill and grabbed a freddo espresso at one of my favourite cafés on the way for my workout.

Maybe the saying of time passing quickly when you’re having fun is true.

Although I haven’t been living in Greece for two years straight (because of travel for work and frequently returning home) and there have been ups and downs, I’ve had the time of my life which is probably why it all passed in a blink of an eye.

Μηδὲν ἄγαν (nothing in excess)

After pouring my whole identity and self-worth into a long-term relationship, it felt like my life was also over once the relationship had ended.

Picking myself back up and re-building from scratch was difficult. There were moments where I turned to habits I’m not proud of just to fill the void.

Athens is one of those places where it’s easy to get lost.

(No, I’m not talking about the subway system which is actually one of the best in Europe 🤭)

If you’re lost within, it’s so easy to get swept up in the fun drunken warm nights, the ridiculously sweet words spoken by local men who do not see you more as “just some fun” despite their half proposals, or even simply chasing the sun so much that you get burned.

At the start, I was swept away and I got burned in all the different ways you can imagine.

It hurt, but “character building” was what I (naively) labelled it as time and time again.

Η ευτυχία εξαρτάται από εμάς (happiness depends on ourselves)

On the flip side of the same coin, Athens also brought me back to life.

In my search for… something… A sign? A cure to help me feel better? A distraction, perhaps? An answer?

I found another home in the world.

I found another life outside the bubble I grew up in.

I found new relationships — new friends I made as an adult out there, randomly in the world with no common thread like attending the same school or work.

I found (briefly) love in someone else.

I found small joys in the simplicity of life compared to the “always on” culture I’m used to.

I found myself, two (almost three!!) years older and certainly wiser than when I first arrived. This is an entirely separate piece of writing that I’ll keep for myself for now. 💜

My romanticised life in this beautifully imperfect chaotic country is one that I hope I will never forget.

At the very least, I hope that my 40-, 50-, or 60-year-old self remembers that life didn’t end when a relationship did.

On the contrary, life began again.

And it always will.

5 responses to “Dear Athena”

  1. This is such a wholesome post and something I kinda resonate with.
    I left everything that was my “comfort zone” and moved continents over to dear old UK and a month ago it was my first anniversary here. To suddenly be in a whole new country on your own is daunting and I’m so glad you have found your place in Athens!

    1. Proud of you for making the jump though! I’m glad that you’re adjusting well in the UK.

  2. It’s amazing how sometimes we need to go through difficult process to see and accept who we are, to discover that as a person most the times we live by how others see us just to make them happy without understand that to be happy we only need to be ourselves.
    Happy to know that a young lady like you found your happy place.

    1. 💜 Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  3. It can be hold to make changes when we know it still makes us unhappy. But those hard times do make us appreciate the good more and help us grow, which looks like what you experienced. I hope you experience more of the good!

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