Lisbon | 2018

S U S A N A 

City  Lisbon
Age  42
Love life — Divorced, son of 21
Profession — Human Resource Manager

Years in Lisbon All her life
Location — The Saldanha area, where she loves to meet friends

T H E  L I S B O N  S T O R I E S





  • What makes you really happy? “As a mother, that my son is ok, that he gets things done. A sense of accomplishment makes me happy for myself as well. I want to grow and develop, while feeling stable and calm at the same time. I feel lucky that I’ve accomplished a lot already, I have a nice job and my son is a good student and a good kid. But my biggest accomplishment is the knowledge about myself I gained over the years. I feel that I have some control over my life now, because I know how to evaluate myself and change direction when things are not going so well.”
  • What is your best personality trait? “I’m courageous. I’ve always been like that. For example, I always speak up in the company I work for, even in difficult situations and even to the vice president. If we stay silent because we are afraid, we’ll all lose. All opinions count if you present them in the right manner. It’s important that people speak up, in politics, in relationships, everywhere! But In Portugal this isn’t really costumary. Another good trait is that I’m resourceful. Every day I stumble upon a new problem I need to solve. I like analysing issues and finding a creative solution. My father used to say: need is the mother of invention. That really is my mode. People always come to me with their issues, they know I can help them find the resources they need, within themselves or around them. After my divorce, I needed to reinvent my whole life, so I was a good example. But sometimes my emotional intelligence is needed more than any analytical skill. So I always imagine myself in other people’s shoes to help them.”
  • What makes you different than other people? “That I am resourceful and courageous as a woman. Some people consider me bossy because of this, but they will never say that about a man! Not that they say this to my face, but I notice in nonverbal ways. I was lucky enough to be raised by a father who is a feminist and a mother who had her own career as a doctor. My brother and I had to learn the exact same things, so he knows how to do things that are more linked to the feminine role in society and I know how to do things that are more linked to the masculine role. I know this isn’t the case everywhere, it can be hard to be a woman in Portugal. Over here it’s easier for men to achieve certain things, especially at work. Portuguese women want to be good professionals, but still have to do all the work at home as well. There are a lot of excellent female students, but when you examine the top tiers of companies, they are dominated by men. Because girls are taught not to be bossy or courageous, but patient and quiet. Even toys for boys are often more creative than toys for girls! My parents had to go to my school all the time because I was running around and talking back to people. But my parents were okay with it if I didn’t disrespect anyone. We all need some luck in life. I have worked hard, but I was also very lucky that I was born into my family and met the right people.”

  • What is your biggest struggle?
    “To get everything right. I want to be a good mother, create a good ambiance at home, be supportive of my family and stand out at work. It’s a challenge to deal with everything, but it is also what makes life interesting. I have to accept that I cannot excel in every area, so I need to decide what is most important. For me, my family is number one. But my role as a professional is also very important to me.”
  • What is your biggest life lesson?
    “That you’re more resourceful than you think. Life will give you what you need. Sometimes people have a sense of despair, but you can almost always find a solution for your problems. This is factual, I am not talking about destiny or anything like that. I had to deal with a lot of big challenges in my life myself – death, divorce… And I found the resources to face those challenges. We have so much around us that can help us survive difficult periods in our life. But a lot of women don’t feel or know that. They stay married to someone they don’t like, because they think that they cannot face the challenges when they are alone. But that’s not true. It will be difficult, but you will find the tools within yourself and around you to fight certain situations.”
  • What is your biggest disappointment?
    “That society wants us to believe in a Cinderella story. When you’re raised like that, you might think that your happiness is depending on a scenario with a super handsome husband and a lot of children. Even when you’d be happier in a different situation, it can be hard to really feel it, because society wants us to believe in a different story. When I got divorced at 24, it was not well received and I think that today it would be the same. People want women to behave in a certain way, so when you’re not with a partner, you have a problem. This way of thinking is so disappointing to me.”
  • Is there something you regret?
    “No. Life has its challenges, but if you analyse and understand what has happened, it gets easier. If you regret certain things, you probably didn’t learn from it or didn’t accept things as they occurred. Sometimes we have to face a situation with the tools we have at that moment.”
  • What is you biggest fear?
    “As a mother, that my son won’t be happy. For myself, losing the capacity to think, analyse and make decisions. Sometimes when I look at people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, I get a bit scared that it might happen to me one day. Losing your sense of reality is worse than losing your mobility, I think, because your mind is what defines you, how you see things and how you deal with them.”
  • What is your biggest dream or ultimate goal?
    “I would like to make the people around me – co-workers, family, friends – happier and help them grow. I don’t have the tools to change the entire world, but at least I can try to help the people around me with little changes. You’ll leave some part of yourself with that person and people will remember you for it. It’s not easy, because sometimes you’re not in the mood, or you’re angry, so you have to transform yourself, but I think it’s a good mission.”
  • What are you insecure about?
    “My insecurity is mostly linked to my son’s upbringing. I’m always wondering if I’m doing it right. Should I be more or less understanding, harder or more resilient? I think mothers have a lot of responsibility in the way we educate our sons. Although sometimes I notice him talking about women in a certain way and that definitely doesn’t come from me! Society and friends shape you as well, I’m afraid.”
  • What does Lisbon mean to you?
    “It’s home, it’s my city. And it’s magnificent. I think the special quality of light influences your mood, everyone talks about it. There is a good spirit here. When you have a chat with a friend, it’s common to say to each other, ‘You know what, I really have a good life.’ We like to eat well and have a strong link to family, even if our family is not here in Lisbon. The quality of life is high here, although it’s changing because it is getting too crowded, because of the tourists who started to come here some years ago. I have nothing against them, because they brought us the development we needed. Fortunately, us locals still know places to go to that are not crowded with tourists…”

Photos by Luís Luz


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