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Finding Balance

 June 17, 2020 at 9:00 AM PDT

Andrew Bracken (00:05): Where our passions come from originally, it can be hard to identify. And that's the case for Irene Predazzi. Irene Predazzi (00:12): I really cannot remember any part of my life in which I didn't want to ride horses. I can't really give it an origin. I just remember always wanting to do it. Andrew Bracken (00:24): Welcome to my first day telling stories of those. Who've come to San Diego from elsewhere and now call it home. My name is Andrew Bracken. Some people choose to focus their lives on one singular passion to drive them to success and fulfillment. But for others like Irene Predazzi finding the right balance can be more important. Irene story. After the break here's Irene Predazzi with her story of Irene Predazzi (01:04): my first day, surprisingly, I was actually born in Bloomington, Indiana, which is not exactly something that everybody knows about me because I grew up in Italy. Uh, most of my life I was in ATD. My parents are both Italians, but they were also academics. And as academics, they traveled a lot and they were in the United States for a long time. And that's when I was born. However, I was brought back to Italy when I was about one year old and, um, there growing up there was really nice. Uh, I, we had a lot of time to go out-side, play outside. We would periodically go either for months up in the Alps where it was kind of nice be-cause my parents would kind of forget about us for a few days and we would be able to go around and have fun. There were no cars, no, not too many people there. So that was part of my childhood. I will nev-er forget. I was about six years old when we went there the first time, that's where I started also writing because we had dunk he's up there and I, my parents didn't really want me to ride horses. So in my spare time, when they wouldn't be seeing, which was most of the day, we would just climb on these, on these donkeys backs and just ride around the forest. The woods, there weren't really any forests, but the woods Irene Predazzi (02:41): I would climb on the back of cows. If I had, if I could, uh, whatever was available, I, that was an animal that had four legs and a back that was horizontal. I would probably try to climb on. And that's when my parents realized that, well, maybe she has a, maybe she really wants to do this. And they finally got con-vinced that I could get on a horse. They, they did it as an educational thing. If that's her passion, then she needs to learn to have commitments, even if that's the way to get her, to learn how to have commitments and, um, you know, be responsible, where are you going to allow her to do what she wants to do? So they led me finally, uh, start ride in a school in a real school in Northern Italy, which has at the time was one of the top schools in riding. Irene Predazzi (03:30): And, um, and I was 14 when I started there and it was different. It was hard because all of a sudden some-thing that was a pleasure and something fun to do became something that in which I was supposed to quote, deliver in, you know, the, basically my, my trainer was expecting me to ride in a certain way to learn certain things. And up until then it had been pleasure. So that was a change and it was a good change, but that finally became a moment where I got to do what I wanted to do and what my, I had this big luck of having a big passion. And I don't think everybody has it. And I knew that that's what I wanted to do. And I finally got the opportunity and that was also big luck, the opportunity of actually doing what I wanted Andrew Bracken (04:22): During her time at the school. Irene did enjoy competitions, but soon realized she was wired a little differ-ently than some of the other writers Irene Predazzi (04:30): As a student. I didn't really, all I cared was about riding my horse and seeing my friends in the sport. I didn't have expectations of me going to European championships or doing really competitive things. Those came afterwards. Those were brought by my trainer. He was the one who put that, you know, not stress that ambition in me at the time. Uh, in reality, my, uh, passion was my horse and spending time with him. I did-n't have an easy horse. I picked a very opinionated, young horse, which for a young girl is not the best choice. And in my case, I have to admit that dealing with a young horse taught me a lot about empathy and patience and, uh, and, and a lot of human skills having to deal with an animal such as a young horse that has a lot of opinions can taught me also how to deal with people that might not necessarily think like I do. Andrew Bracken (05:54): Though her first passion was riding horses. There was another side to Irene that would shape her life. Irene Predazzi (06:00): I grew up in a family of scientists. So both my parents were a scientists. So I grew up in a family where they would be talking physics at breakfast, at lunch at dinner. So I that's kind of like the horses. I don't remem-ber being introduced to science. I just knew that that was a very important thing for us. I knew I wanted to have a career that was related to science, but I didn't necessarily think I wanted to be a scientist for all my life. I mean, I would see my parents work incredible long days and 24 seven, they were related. They, what they did was their job. I wasn't really necessarily thinking that that's what, that was what I wanted to do, but the tub, the subject to topic, that was definitely something I wanted to be close to. Andrew Bracken (06:55): What is it about science that drew you in? Irene Predazzi (07:00): I think it's the scientific method that really drew me in the fact that Irene Predazzi (07:09): you have a protocol to follow and you have appropriate controls to add in your whatever process you're going. And I like that break here. I love the fact that you should be able to repeat the same thing and get the same results. Irene Predazzi (07:33): So that was part of it. On the other side, I am exceptional at failing. And if you think of it is a life of failure, like you fail every single day, multiple times until you finally find a combinations of things that need to be done to overcome that failure when you do, sometimes you even don't. Uh, and I think that really was what drew me in is that constant thinking that's constant. All right. I failed. I accepted, um, let's think about what I did and what I could change. Andrew Bracken (08:11): Irene's scientific focus was further cemented after she read an article from a human geneticist that par-ticularly caught her interest Irene Predazzi (08:19): By reading that article, I just decided I wanted to work with this person. I was like, he's incredible. He's just, he was just so good at transmitting passion for what he did. And the topic was so fascinating, but I read this article and I decided I want to meet this person. I wish I could talk to this person. And then I learned that that was going to be my human genetics professor. So on the very first day in which I had class with him, and that was my third year of college, I walked up to him and I said, I want to work with you. And he said, okay, fine. Then come to my lab, this, and from there on, I was in his lab every day. For most of the day, I was just so absorbed and passionate about what I was doing, that I just, that's all I thought I wanted to do at that time. I thought I was done with my passion. I was like, okay, ready to move on. It's time to find what I'm supposed to do. It's finding time to find my own job. And I went from one extreme to the other. I went from one of the extreme in which a, for a few years, all I did was writing to an extreme where for about 10 to 12 years, all I did was science. So it was a pretty dramatic shift. Irene Predazzi (09:39): It took awhile to find that balance. Back Andrew Bracken (09:44): When we come back, Irene Predazzi, comes to San Diego in search of balance after throwing herself into her scientific endeavors wholeheartedly for a time and bringing her to Nashville, Irene, his original passion started to reemerge. Irene Predazzi (10:07): I think I started realizing that I needed to have that balance when I was still in Nashville. And I was figuring out what our, whether I wanted to go to medical school or not after a whole PhD, after a postdoc, I was still thinking maybe I want to do med school now. Or I remember I had my little office with a window then. And so it was kind of daydreaming. And I just looked outside of the windows like, or maybe I could find something else to do that is not only studying and focusing on taking tests or delivering on anything that is science related or medically related. So I just started looking online for places where to go have lessons, horse riding lessons. So that's where it started. Uh, but it didn't become a thing until I was in San Diego Andrew Bracken (10:57): After academic stops and Nashville and Portland, Oregon, Irene eventually got a job in the biotech industry in San Diego. The city she'd heard was a great place for riding horses. She was put in touch in advance with another horse, riding enthusiast and lined up a day of riding for when she arrived. Irene Predazzi (11:16): I drove from Portland to San Diego. I barely saw my apartment on Saturday night because I arrived pretty late, slept on the floor. I had like a, one of those inflatable mats and a few sheets and blankets, and I was perfectly happy. I would, for me, that was just a detail that needed to be fixed. But all of the important things were the day after Irene Predazzi (11:45): the day after I had like a whole day set with somebody I had never met before, but was a friend of the girl that for the first time had put me back on a horse when I was back in Nashville. And it was pretty early in the morning, she was getting off a horse and then we drove even further, um, up towards Julian where we literally spent the whole day writing. And it was a fantastic day. And all I remember was just having the best time. And it was the sun after a years in Nashville and a years in Portland, Oregon, you definitely appreci-ate the beautiful light that comes when you're in San Diego. There was this nice arena that is in the middle of these beautiful fields and finding fields in San Diego with a lot of green is really not that easy. We start-ed writing, we started warming up and then there were some jumps set up there and that's pretty much what we did. And then after that, we went for a walk in the greenfields and it was pretty stunning. Irene Predazzi (12:56): All I can remember is this like, feeling of like, just complete happiness and just like, when you feel like you're living your life to the fullest, they're like, ah, that's such a wonderful feeling. And the sun, I would say that helps a lot that first day. I think that light was part of what made it very special. If I am dealing with a problem and I don't do anything else, but think about that problem, problem. I will get in a loop from which I can't get out. I will just have this. I don't do well with tunnel vision. I just get exhausted by the issue. And I end up not seeing the bigger picture. And sometimes you just need to, unzoom a little bit to figure out, Oh, there was this little thing I could have changed and the problem would have been gone. So that is where doing something else helps me a lot because it just takes me out of a context, gives me the time to breathe. Irene Predazzi (13:59): And then when I get back into that problem, I come with a fresh mind. I am lucky. That's why our San Diego is very fantastic because San Diego is a city that is not too big. It's not like Rome, where I lived for 10 years. Where if you want to go from one side to the other of the city, you are going to be in traffic pretty much all day. It makes it all hard. San Diego is good because it gives you the right size to go from one thing to the other in the same day. So you don't have, you, you have that time to devote a little bit of your ener-gies to your passion and not only to your job, but every time I talk to my friends that are riding on a profes-sional level, I realized that I never really wanted to be a professional writer. Even from the very beginning. I just wanted to have that side of Irene Predazzi (14:52): my life present. I've always wanted to have a job that is scientific, that is related to something else. That is what I'm good at. That's, that's what I do. Uh, I've always wanted to have that side of me, but I've always also seen the horses as my little part of my life that keeps my balance and does pretty much what it is. Right. Andrew Bracken (15:35): My first day is produced by me, Andrew Bracken, along with help from us to Sienna Garcia. Our email is my first day You can find us on Instagram at my first day stories. You can also find music by Jason Begin, theme music by Chris Curtis for KPBS, Emily Jankowalski's technical director, Kinsee Morelan's podcast coordinator, Lisa Jane Morissette operations manager, and John Decker is director of programming. This programming is made possible in part by the KPBS. Explore content. Thanks again for listening. See you next time.

Irene Predazzi arrives in San Diego seeking balance between her scientific career and her love of horseback riding. About the show: My First Day is a KPBS Explore series that explores these important days through people who came to San Diego from elsewhere, and now call it home. About the producer: Andrew Bracken is a documentary mediamaker working with audio, video, and interactive media. He is the creator, producer, and host of the KPBS podcast My First Day. Follow the show: Instagram: Contact: