Ikaria, a woman of strong character
Ikaria. It always seemed the word was too small to encompass the fullness of what Ikaria represents. To me, she has always been a woman. A woman of strong character with ever changing moods, who is uncompromising, unrepentant. Fight her and you lose. Accept, respect, love her, and all things are possible. Does this seem like flight of fancy? Perhaps. To me Ikaria is not just an island, she is a way of life, a different set of values, and a totally different philosophy on life and living. For those of you who have spent time on Ikaria, you will surely understand. They say that when you first arrive, Ikaria will either embrace you or reject you. I am grateful that she embraced me from the start. My mother's family is from Ikaria. I was born and raised in Michigan and was lucky enough to come to Ikaria often as a child. I remember the sense of freedom my brother and I enjoyed in those early days as kids. That sense of freedom I felt back then still remains. Here it is not possible to hide behind a title or a label. There aren’t any boxes or expectations you have to fit into. Everyone either knows you or knows of you. You are defined most of all by your character and your unique personality. Over the years living here, I have found that this sense of acceptance gives one the freedom to be themselves without needing to pretend to be something they are not. There is also a very particular sense of humour here on Ikaria. It is more subtle with the ability to make a problem funny. A friend of my husband’s loves to tease me – it’s usually something about my personality or habits that he finds amusing. There has never been any escaping it! It’s only now after all this time living here that I have begun to understand the local humour. Once I made the comment to him that I never realized how much he would tease me, and his reply to me was: “You still don't catch half of it!” There are so many different undercurrents and meanings that have taken me years to understand, and yet underneath the humour, is a sense of acceptance of who you are and your individual nature. Living here for the past twenty-five years, I found as time passed I was becoming more accepting of myself and who I was as those in the community started to accept me. Living here has taught me to be true to myself and who I am. I never realized what a relief that would be. Growing up in the States, there was always a feeling of having to live up to a certain standard of values, what kind of job or qualification I had. I never felt I made the mark. The truth is, I always felt out of step, as I grew up I always felt confused about what the point of all that striving was for. In these uncertain times, I still find it sad and disappointing that this seems to still be the trend, that somehow we have lost the true meaning of life. It always seemed so exhausting to be forever striving to make the “mark” when each person’s uniqueness is so beautiful. This has undoubtedly been one of the greatest gifts living on the island has brought to me – a gift I love to share with others.