When I first came across this famous Greek poem – Ithaca (1911) at school, I thought nothing of it back then. As I grew older, I came back to it more frequently and it has never betrayed me. It has prepared me. This poem is about the journey to Career Eudaimonia and living your Purpose. Your Career Odyssey starts with setting out for your Ithaca (your home). Give her the meaning she deserves, and set out to make her yours (again).
This poem is dedicated to Ulysses or Odysseus. The king, who according to Homer’s Epic Iliad, was he bravest and most intelligent of all warriors at the Trojan war. Odysseus fought and won the Trojan war after 10 years. Then it took him 10 more years to return to his home island – Ithaca (an island in the Ionian sea, next to Kefalonia – yes the island of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin). Homer wrote his second Epic Odyssey after him. 20 years of reminiscing his homeland, having left his wife (Penelope), son (Telemachus) and kingdom behind. Undeniably this is the most EPIC life-long home-coming journey a human being could go through.
And so I dedicate this poem to you because you are the protagonist in your career journey. I know you have experienced confusion, frustration, anger and impatience. You most probably have felt lost on where your North is, or still yearning for a career change… If you are still searching for your professional “home”, listen to this poem recited by Sean Connery (my favourite Bond by far!) with music from Vangelis Odysseus Papathanasiou (the composer of the Oscar nominated Olympic Theme – Chariots of Fire). Click on the link below and the read through while listening:
Ithaca by Constantinos Cavafis
As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensation
touches your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbours you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.
Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you would have not set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.
What it means for your Career Journey
Paragraph 1: Don’t rush this precious journey and don’t let fear lead you. You create the obstacles you find in front of you (Laistrygonians, Cyclops are mythical monsters and Poseidon the god of the seas according to the ancient Greeks). “Keep your thoughts raised high” and let courage be your compass. And allow this “rare sensation that touches your spirit and your body”. It is not the new, but the familiar feeling of nostalgia… that will lead you “home”.
Paragraph 2: Take your time – do not rush the moments of joy and pleasure. Tune in to what magnetises you. Enjoyment / indulgence is a choice you can make no matter the circumstances or hardship. Allow your life & career to be a discovery journey, experiencing new things that will stretch you. Allow your senses to feel and learn from those wiser than you!
Paragraph 3 & 4: Ithaca is your purpose. She will inevitably guide you to your destination! Don’t be impatient or you will miss the magic. And if you get frustrated and you feel you have been fooled, remember that it is “who you become” on this adventure. Ithaca was the reason you set out and and she will gift you the marvellous journey. You may have a few Ithacas to pursue in your lifetime. Let them take you places. These voyages will result in finding “meaning”. You would have found your “Ithaca” when you have located this delicate feeling of having reached “home” in your heart.
The poet – Constantinos P. Cavafy, was born in Alexandria, Egypt (a city built by Alexander the Great and where Cleopatra reigned).
Although I have been to Ithaca (the very island) as a child, now she has a whole new meaning for me. Who would like to join me in finding her? If you are curious, let me know in the comments below and I will organise a “Career Odyssey” trip for us.
If you need a guide on your Career Odyssey to finding your very own “Ithaca”, let ’s chat about Career Coaching. It costs nothing to explore what Eudaimonia Coaching can do for you. Book your FREE Discovery Session here.