I had left. I did not know what those two were going to do to get by, and I didn’t care.
Having fights over fights with my bosses at the fashion company where I was working, and after what had happened at home, I resigned in a blink. I began sending resumes all over the world. I wanted to put all the distance I could between myself and all that craziness. Enough. I got a job in a fancy fashion firm in downtown Milan. It was prestigious and I rationally couldn’t say no. It was the job everyone else wanted, and I had got it. But no-no-no. It wasn’t for me. I wanted nothing to do with the big city again; I didn’t want to spend hours in the subway or in traffic. Not my life.
The phone call to freedom.
One morning, as I was getting out of the subway on my way to work, I got a phone call. It was the art director of one company I had sent my resume to, and he wanted to meet me. The interview would not be in Milan, but in a small town near Verona, where the job would have been. I smelled victory.
When I arrived at work, I resigned. There was no way they were going to give me a day off to go to the job interview, and I didn’t want to miss that chance. So I resigned right there and then, and the week after I was at the meeting.
The meeting went incredibly well. The people looked all so nice. The guy who was about to become my boss was only a little older than me and super funny. It was a furniture company, and they were searching for a designer and decorator for the store where we were having the meeting. The store was still in construction, and I had to take part in the designing process if I accepted. I signed the contract without thinking twice, without even blinking.
A new town.
Having never been to Villafranca di Verona before, I looked around and decided I liked it. Lake Garda was near, so were Mantua and Verona, two beautiful cities. There were a lot of houses with gardens for rent. There was still part of me that thought that my dream was an impossible one and that maybe my father was right. So I searched for a small apartment with a small garden. I thought I could aim at least at that. But what was about to happen was beyond my wildest dreams.
I lived in a hotel paid for by the company for six months. I was searching for a small apartment with a small garden and I couldn’t find any. It felt surreal. There were so many apartments like the one I was looking for, but there was always some glitch in the way. I was frustrated. Maybe my life was trying to tell me something. Maybe even looking for a house with a garden was too much of a dream for someone ‘like me’. Old insecurities were always right around the corner, you see.
Turns out there was a reason I could not find a home.
All the apartments I saw couldn’t be rented to me because they weren’t meant to be my homes. Cat Cottage was meant to be my home, but it wasn’t available yet.
Finally, finding Cat Cottage!
One day my one of my co-workers came to me and said ‘call me crazy, but I think I have found a house that it’s made for you‘. He knew well about my struggle to find a home, but knew nothing about my dream of living on a farm. Well, he had a friend who lived in this cottage who had just moved out. To say that I was discouraged from the failures of my extensive house hunt is too little, so when he told me ‘it’s an old renovated cottage with a large garden in the country’ all I thought was ‘yeah, right, whatever?’
One evening after work, he took me to see it. We passed the railway barriers, and we were out of town. We went down the road on a few turns. I thought ‘exactly how much into the country is this place?’. He turned the car onto a very narrow road. All around us were fields and peach trees. There were no houses in sight. I thought it was a sad joke, a prank. But then he turned the car once more, this time on an unpaved road full of holes. I saw light in the distance.
‘You see those lights on your left?’ he said ‘that’s your patio in your garden if you take the house. The lights on the right are from the farm, they will be your neighbors, they’re the nicest of people.’
Patio, garden, farm? What the fuck?
‘What kind of farm is that?’ I asked. ‘They have peach orchards and milk cows. It’s a biological farm. The cows are free.’
The landlady was waiting for us. She opened up the gate, and we got in. It was pitch black, if not for two bulbs from the patio. I couldn’t really understand how large the garden was. But who cared, it was a garden. We got into the house. It was one room downstairs, large and square, with two large windows. The stairs took us to the first floor. A bedroom of decent size, a small room with a little walk-in closet, and a small bathroom with a large terrace.
It was small. The smallest home I had ever had. And it looked sad. But I saw so much potential in the structure, I knew I could turn it around. And it felt as cozy as a blanket.
I took it.
It was late November, and it was dark early in the afternoon. I couldn’t go to my new house if not after work, so I never saw it in full daylight until after I moved in. And even after the first days, the weather was terrible. It was foggy and dark. I couldn’t really see around. Until one morning, the first sunny day, I woke up, opened the window and my jaw dropped.
This picture is actually from some time later in the spring, but you get the idea. Space. A view. Real country life. And a farm. Not mine, not with rescued animals, and not on a hill overlooking the lake. But the lake is reasonably near, and so are cows.
I turned the cottage into what now is Cat Cottage. I painted all the walls blue, yellow, pink, planted flowers, sewed pillows, mounted shelves. It took me a while, but the result came and I highly enjoyed the process.
In the meantime, my job at the furniture company was going great. Sometimes all my insecurities were back, but I knew how to kick them off. I couldn’t believe what I was doing for a living, nor the place where I was living. Sometimes it felt too much like I didn’t deserve it. But I knew too well how much I had fought to get where I was. And really, it was just a pleasant job in a nice place. Normal stuff for all people, but normal stuff I was brought to believe was too much for me because I was worthless.
Anyway, the Cottage wasn’t yet Cat Cottage. I moved in with my two cats, Sabino and Susanna, and my neighbor’s rescued cats came to visit me often. So there were rescued cats after all! I discovered they took home two kitties they found in the fields. A year later I moved in they took home another cat. I joined a local rescue association and fostered needy furries under my patio. The word spread, and cats rained in.
Two cats made this place a cozy Cottage. A few years and thirteen cats after, this place has become ‘Cat Cottage’.
I currently have 18 cats. These are the residents, more just pass by before going to their forever families.
Far from all the craziness of my family, surrounded by furries and country, I felt like all the pieces of the puzzle were falling in the right place. Yes, it wasn’t exactly as I had dreamed as a kid. The farm wasn’t mine. I wasn’t growing fruit trees. There was no lake nearby. But I was next door to a farm, and I was rescuing cats. I had full access to fruit trees. The lake was near enough. I was quite happy and satisfied with myself. I had the strength to leave everything behind me and start over, and now I was in a beautiful place. I had a great job and a lot of friends.
Yes, I wasn’t making a living as an illustrator.
But you know… be careful what you wish for.
Cat Cottage Design was already on its way. But I’ll tell you that story some other time.
There is so much that I have voluntarily omitted. Some things are too personal. And I did not mean this to be a detailed biography, but just a little thing to say that things can change. Always. There are a lot of gruesome things about my life I haven’t written, just take my word. If you are going through a hard time, you can change it. As Churchill once said, ‘if you are walking through hell, keep walking’. Set your intention straight and walk on.