I R I N A

 Lisbon | 2019

I R I N A 

City  Lisbon
Age  34
Love life — Single
Profession — Business Controler
Years in Lisbon 25, born in Angola
Location — LX Factory

T H E  L I S B O N  S T O R I E S

‘I NEED

MY SPACE

AND FREEDOM

  • What makes you really happy? “Travelling. For me it’s the only way to relax one hundred percent and be totally happy. At home I can’t stop thinking about work or other things that make me worry, but when I’m abroad, I’m only focusing on the country I’m visiting. Plus, I feel a bit lost whenever I’m travelling. In that state I can really find myself again. The people there don’t know me, so there’s no need to put on a mask. I feel free to be who I really am. At home I need to be a bit more cautious, because in Portugal it isn’t always common to do what you say or say what you do. I do get tired of it, so from time to time I need to go out and just relax. Also because family and friends keep asking me when I’ll get married and have kids. But I don’t know! They’re thinking there must be something wrong with me, but I am just single! What’s wrong with that? When I’m abroad, no one cares about those things and that really sets me free. I try to travel at least five times a year, I need to breathe. I’m totally happy when I’m at an airport on my way somewhere.”
  • What is your best personality trait? “I know what I want and I go after it. I’m a believer. In possibilities, in society, in a better world. I believe that things can happen if you want them deep down inside. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but I don’t give up, I’m always positive. When my ex and I broke up, it would have been so much easier to just go back to my mother’s house and live a protected life as a mama’s girl instead of living all by myself. But in the end, I loved it. Sometimes I get scared that I like living on my own too much and will never be able to live with someone else again.”
  • What is your biggest struggle? “Finding someone who understands that I need my space and freedom and that I have a career. It is difficult to be with someone who needs me all the time, like a kid. Society is quite traditional, but I am not the kind of woman who’ll spend the weekend cooking for you, or call or text you all day. No, I have work to do! It’s hard to find someone in Portugal who is ok with me being so independent. My perception is that men run away from women who know what they want, but I don’t understand why. Maybe I seem too demanding or distant or they think I am not a family person, I don’t know. I really can’t figure it out. But I would love to share great experiences with someone, enjoy the little things and make nice memories together.”
  • What is your biggest life lesson? “Time is the greatest advisor. I like to have the answers to my questions immediately, but sometimes you just need to breathe and relax and the answers will come naturally. You will get the right answers at the right time.”

  • What is your biggest disappointment?
    “When my relationship ended after ten years, I felt like I had failed completely. And I don’t like to fail. For a long time I honestly believed that I had found the man of my life and we would spend our lives together. But after ten years it felt like a big flop, I realised that I believed in something that wasn’t real. We were completely different people. I enjoy trying new food, meeting new people, getting to know different cultures, being exposed to different experiences. But my ex was a conservative person and not interested in any of those things. It wasn’t easy to end the relationship, because he was my best friend and everyone kept telling me, this is the one for you, you’re done looking, you’re all set. I’m really glad I didn’t allow myself to be led by my environment, because breaking up with him was one of the best decisions I ever made, for both of us.”
  • What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
    “My trip to Istanbul, three years ago. At the airport I was scared to death, they talked so loud and I didn’t understand a thing they were saying. I thought, I must be damn crazy that I’m here by myself for five days. What if a bomb goes off? I don’t know, at the time I didn’t have faith in humanity. I decided to just stay at the hotel and I asked my mother to call me every three hours to save my life, haha. At the end, she got worried when I didn’t pick up my phone anymore, because I was having so much fun! I even changed my flight to stay for two more days. It was so, so, so good. The people there were so helpful and lovely, they really wanted me to enjoy their city. Unexpectedly I fell in love with a guy who noticed how freaked out I was. He took me by the hand, brought me to the bus station, gave me his card and said that he would pick me up whenever I needed.”
  • What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
    “Say yes, free yourself and let it go. It was actually the guy from Turkey who said it to me. It means when you make up your mind, you’ll be free. I used to overthink everything before I made a decision. I always had too many questions in my head and he said, ‘You know what? You’re just consumed with all this thinking, it will get you nowhere. Just decide on something and move on. You’ll find out later whether it was a bad or a good decision, but then at least you took one.’ Now whenever I am stressed, I still say to myself, ‘Make a decision, go ahead and don’t look back.”
  • What advice would you give to other women in Europe?
    “Enjoy your life and the current moment. It’s tempting, wishing to be somewhere else with someone else and do something else. Live your life the way you really want to live it, and stop looking at your phone all the time. I’m scared to death that I’ll look back on my life and realise I wasn’t living the moment, because I was worried about the future. It’s not easy to be happy with yourself and the present moment all the time. But when you’re really living it, you’re free.”
  • What can really hurt you?
    “When people judge me for who I’m not. I’m not the kind of person who will call you every day to ask you how you are, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you. I really do care, but people are quick to assume I’m too arrogant or too distant. I think there’s this invisible wall in between me and other people, and people can get the impression that I am cold. But I’m not. It’s just really hard for me to show my emotions to people I don’t know that well. I guess I create this distance to protect myself. I think I got hurt in the past, because so often people don’t follow up on their promise and don’t mean what they say. When I promise something, I mean it. And if I don’t like something, I will speak out. Society is not prepared for someone as direct as me, you need to cover it up a bit. Sometimes it’s exhausting, because I have to weigh every word to make sure I am not hurting someone. I am trying to avoid people getting the wrong impression of me, so I stay in the shadows and try to be more discreet.”
  • What does Lisbon mean to you?
    “Sunshine, good food, family – I’m safe and comfortable here. It’s cosy, small and dynamic, with plenty of things to do. The traditional small streets are a real challenge, because they really prevent me from walking in high heels and I love them! But the people here really make the city. A city can be super pretty, but when the locals aren’t welcoming, it doesn’t matter. That’s why I can’t connect with Paris, the people there don’t care if I am ok or not. The people in Lisbon do like to connect with other people. Having a house full of people with a big table full of food, is how we like to have fun in Lisbon.”

Photos by Luís Luz

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