Giacomo and his wife Maria

If aridity is no objection

A job in finance, the anxiety of performance outside and inside the home. Until the discovery that everything is united only if we recognize that we are loved. Giacomo's testimony to CL European Diaconia.
Giacomo Mazzi

I have always struggled to accept myself as I am in my work. I suffer from impostor syndrome because I got to working in finance somewhat by accident and when I encounter difficulties the doubt of not being up to the mark often creeps in. In the evening I often measure how much I have done or not done, and almost always the weighing up is negative. It certainly does not help me in the work environment, where there is a widespread idea that if you have made money at the end of the day it is because you have been smarter than others, while if you have lost money you are a failure. The thing that hurts me the most is that I actually like my job a lot, I like trying to understand how a complex world like finance works and to be able to explain what moves the markets (fears, risks, the desire to make use of what one has put away).

At Assisi, Fr. Paolo Prosperi recalled that we have moved "from a disciplinary society made up of obligations, duties and prohibitions imposed by the constituted order (incarnated by family, Church and state, etc.) to an achievement society where in theory the only obligations or duties are those of ‘promoting’ or ‘raising up’ oneself, which essentially means making money and gaining in prestige, demonstrating you are someone who ‘makes the difference’ […] You can exercise even greater constraint than You should. Auto-compulsion proves more fatal than allo-compulsion, because there is no way to resist oneself."

How true! And I realized that this dynamic is not simply attributable to work: the idea of performance has often ended up permeating all aspects of my life, from family to time spent with my children to my responsibility for the movement here in England. How many times have I realized that my only horizon has been to find a balance between my energy and the thousand things to do! But even when I seemed to be able to keep it all together I was not at peace. Because living like this is suffocating.

What allows me to re-start when I get stuck in this dynamic? What is really the purpose of my work? I was reminded of a quote by Fr. Giussani, from 1998, which says that "for a Christian, work is the most concrete, the most dry and concrete, the most strenuous and concrete aspect of one's love for Christ. Love for Christ, for all practical purposes, recalls the fact – more than any other relationship – that love is a judgment of intelligence that drags with it all our sensibility, all human sensibility."

So I began to verify whether Fr. Giussani's words were true. How? In a comparison with reality and the people the Lord has placed before me over the years.

Let me give a few examples. After finishing university, Maria and I – whom I would marry shortly thereafter – found ourselves having to choose where to do our doctorate. The way in which we ended up in Edinburgh was a great sign that Someone wanted us there, and this knowledge has always accompanied us in all our moves over the years (from Belgium, to Germany, to returning to the UK). That year, in fact, Maria was offered a position in Edinburgh while I had found one in the South of England. It was difficult to decide what to do but we trusted the good Lord. The day before the deadline to accept or decline the position, a professor called me and proposed a PhD in Scotland. It was done, but some doubts remained. We would have no friends, no one from the movement, and we would leave the day after our wedding. We were nervous but my aunt, who is a cloistered nun, simply told us, " Do not worry, God will go ahead of you to Scotland." He did.

The further we went the more I discovered (I always have to make the effort not to forget, however) that it is only by letting a greater standard of judgment than my own enter my life that I can breathe. And that everything lies in the unity between my wife and I. Let me give you another example. During her PhD, Maria was proposed to do her last year in Belgium, while I was to stay in Edinburgh. This did not sit well with me because we would be separated for a long time. So we went to talk about it to Marco Bersanelli, who was and is a dear friend to us. He told me that I could not think of making a sacrifice like that just to do Maria a favor (who, on the other hand, was very grateful for the opportunity to work in Belgium) because in the long run that would make me unhappy and violent. So he suggested that we look at our unity as a criterion for making decisions. Would distance make us more united or less united? There, I had a criterion of judgment and a possibility of good for me. This kept us much company in the tiring months we spent apart. But it helped us above all to discover that unity among us is not the result of our own efforts but is continually a gift. How often I reduced it to the amount of things we did together, and instead unity was much more. So from there on, my wife and I (who went on to do research) never chose the position or job offer that would advance our "career", but always looked for jobs that would nurture our unity.

Here again is another discovery: while it is right to allow a certain freedom from the society of performance to grow, one should not run the opposite risk of coming across as someone who could not care less. And here I finish with a third and final example. After my PhD and two years as a postdoc in Belgium, we returned to the UK, to Cambridge. Here I was stuck in a job that I found unbearable. It was so hard that I walked into the office every morning with a knot in my stomach and spent my days on LinkedIn looking for a new job, but every interview I did went badly. One day, venting to a friend, I hear an unexpected question from him, "Do you not think the Lord right now is simply calling you to be there, in that job you want to leave?"

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His question provoked me, and while I did not stop interviewing, I began to go to the office every day with a desire to find out what the Lord wanted from me. Gradually – because patience is also something to ask and pray for, since we would like everything and right away –I noticed that interesting things were happening at work, but more importantly, I rediscovered myself to be much more attentive in looking for those few glimmers of beauty that kindled my curiosity (from taking every opportunity to learn new things, to doing my job well because I felt more fulfilled when it was done well, regardless of what others saw). I began to breathe again, no longer living in apnea. After nine months I found a nicer and more interesting job, but that is not the point. The point is that my outlook had changed. Forever? No, because I have to constantly regain it. Even today, when everything is not easy, I can say with certainty that I am a nothing, but a continuously loved nothing. So the dilemma before me every day is between continuing to measure my worth, starting from what I can or cannot do, or starting from this free and fascinating gaze of One who loves me.