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Working it out in the world, and sometimes writing about it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Soccer, Wine, Writing...I know, I know.

Life is pretty hard as I sit in an Italian pub, surrounded by raucous Italians, drinking wine and watching the Inter-Milan v. Roma soccer game. It’s a Sunday night, the Italians are out in droves at local trattorias, and I have made a friend. Things are looking much better than the sun-drenched and lonely day I arrived four days earlier.

Why the sudden change? It’s a valid question you may be asking. And I’d say: four things.

First, I’m Feeling the Love. Thanks to you all lovely people who care about me; I have received quite a bit of support. It has come in many forms and in many different words, but the overwhelming sentiment is “We like you—we may even love you—and it’s ok how you feel. You’ll figure it out and make it happen.” Thank you. You’re totally right.

There's a tradition in Italy to write your name along with your lover's and clip the lock to a chain, fence post, whatever.  Thanks for your love, lovelies. 

Next, the sunshine. Having spent the last year in Seattle, I’ve been quite bramasole, thirsty for the sun. Here, it is atypically sunny this time of year. The sun has tricked me into many piazzas to read a book or write, and teased me onto many bridge rails, my legs dangling over the railing. It’s been quite the trouble-maker, the sun.
And finally, the realization that how I feel is ok. Expected, even. As my wise mother told me, feelings are just feelings. They are rarely permanent, and sometimes they only represent the truth of a moment, a pinprick in the cloth you weave. Instead of dwelling on it, accept it into your cloth, and see what comes next.

The view from Piazzale Michelangelo.
I’ve also drawn on my experience from the last time I was in Florence and the calming familiarity of some things. For a quick recap, I studied abroad here in Florence three years ago (please see the blog posts from 2008 if you’re curious). My boyfriend and I had just broken up and I was shaken—shaken in who I was, what I believed, what I wanted, what I was doing, and where I wanted to go. It seemed that everything was changing and I was like a stubborn horse—legs locked and being dragged along against my will. Then, too, I was feeling so phenomenally terrible. I woke up crying, I went to bed crying, I threw pottery crying. This went on for weeks. Just like this time, I wanted these feelings to end.

This time, I realized that I was having many of the same emotions just like the last time. I handily took a course when I studied abroad called The Psychology of Culture Shock (I thought I was just fulfilling a graduation requirement—how small of me). Finally—it hadn’t just been a bad break up those years ago. It had been a relocation and forced integration into a new society, and new way of things, and a new language. Just like this time (sans breakup). Got it.

Once I realized that I actually did indeed know what was going on, I knew how to mitigate it. I grabbed the sun by the hand and walked with it to the bookstore. I knew I needed people and familiarity, so I found some familiar books and students. I wrote, wrote, wrote. I accepted my feelings. I read. I made myself feel good, and I did those things which were accessible in any language, any city, any time.

With this new acceptance, things have gotten a lot easier. The loneliness has almost completely vanished. The excitement for being here has started to creep out cautiously, stepping into the sun with me. I walk miles every day, I sit and read in piazzas and bookstores, I eat panini with Italians, and I’ve made some friends. I am no longer alone, and once again, I am more of a citizen of the world. This is why I travel.

Today, Kevin, an excellent young guy I met in my hostel, and I walked all around Florence. We made it up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, but went a completely new way that wended us through quiet Florentine streets lined with villas and olive trees. I felt so content in the fact that I was in a city in which I lived and I found myself in a new neighborhood. This is why I travel.

I do realize that I’m in a state of fluctuating comfort, and in a city I can navigate. I know that when I decide to move on that I may have another day much like my first in Florence. I may cry, and I may feel the loneliness, and maybe I’ll go through that process every time. I hope not. Hopefully I get better at traveling and better at being alone.

Now, Kevin and I sit in a pub that grows more crowded by the goal. Details of the game must be making the rounds, and couples and friends must be finishing up their meals. We have a pretty shitty view of the TV, but at least there is a view. The Italians are yelling “Madooooooonaaaa” and “Dai, dai!”, come on, come on! We are not want for stimuli or entertainment.

My glass is empty, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I have vague plans to go with a student from my old school around the city. Maybe to Mercato Centrale with Kevin. Maybe I’ll hideout in this bar tomorrow all day long and only leave when the sun has sunk to its knees, ready for more playing tomorrow.

I feel better. 

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