The Value of Italian Gold

I don’t remember when I stopped wearing the golden Italian chain that hung around my neck. I think it was sometime around the death of my grandfather, years ago. On his death bed, from what I was told, he took off his gold chain, hung heavy with a thick crucifix, and told my father to give it to me to wear. Yet, I’ve never been a very religious person, so I felt as if I was going against myself to have such a thick gold crucifix hanging around my neck.

And yet, almost five years later, I find myself wearing my grandfather’s golden chain around my neck as I write this newest entry. During my time at home this weekend, I found myself creeping into my parents’ closet, where most of the gold is kept, slowly opening the creaking box, and revealing all of our Italian gold.

Among the treasure was my golden chain. Keeping the crucifix company was il corno, a small golden horn that signifies good fortune, and an Italian trio of charms that signifies hope, love, and charity. Soundlessly, I slipped my grandfather’s crucifix off the chain and back into the jewelry box. With the two other relics still on the chain, I cautiously clasped the jewelry around my throat; it felt heavy at first. However, at the same time, I felt like I had been reunited with a piece of myself that had been missing for all these years. I felt whole again. And as you can tell from the main photo, all of my other family members also choose to wear similar gold jewelry.

Like the chain, I am now ready to be reunited with some values that may have been sitting on the back burner. Which is why, for this week’s post, I want to talk about values as a twentysomething. I wish I could write an advice post on this topic. Something like: “Ten Tips on How to Maintain Strong Values.” But I can’t do that. Values are so personal to each of us. What I can do, however, is share some of my own experiences in hopes that some of you may be able to relate. Because chances are, as a twentysomething, your values will waiver a bit. They may even change completely. And that’s okay. And in an attempt to convince myself of that, I want to share three values that I’ve been reflecting on lately. Three values that I’m going to be focusing on a lot more from this point onward.

Wearing a golden chain won’t make me any closer to my family, geographically speaking. But when times are tough, or I’m having a bad day, I know I will feel that chain brushing against my neck and lifting me up with my family’s best wishes. Ever since I moved away to college, this is a value I’ve struggled with. It’s challenging to remain close to people who are hours and hours away. And during all this time, my family has changed. I have changed. And because I don’t see them every day, the changes seem so drastic. It’s easy to get caught up in my own world away from everyone, but at the end of the day, my value is in my family.

For me, this is a tale of placing most of your self-worth in one single person, only to have that same person slash it to pieces. It’s been over a year since this happened, but damn, some days it still feels like I’m climbing an uphill battle in trying to get back those pieces of myself. Thinking forward, I’m reflecting on where I place my self-worth. My job? My schoolwork? And that is a very big question. I think it’s more of a journey, something that will be continuously ongoing. But I’m going to be more intentional about building my own self-worth as a single man. Because that way, when I do meet someone else, I won’t fall into the old habit of completely morphing into them. I will stand tall as my own person.

How many of us have heard the phrase “work-life balance?” Well, to be honest, I’m freaking tired of it. I get it, we all need to have balance in our lives. But unfortunately, what that phrase has turned into for me has been two selves: Work/Professional Michael and Personal Life Michael. Which didn’t work out well, because incidentally, Work Michael became Life Michael. So rather than trying to figure out all these different selves, I am making a vow to myself to Just Be. I want to be congruent with myself, have all identities merge and agree and compliment and mix with each other. And Just Be.

What are some other values you may be struggling with as a twentysomething? Or any that you are currently reaching towards? Feel free to share your own stories!