I will fake it until I make it!

All about the escapades and thoughts of a girl who thinks WAY too much for her own good!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reflection on my first two months in Italy

Today marks two months that I have been in Italy. About a month and a half of this time was spent in Rome. The other time was spent traveling to Florence or other towns throughout the Tuscany Region.

My days in Rome were filled with productive and non-productive activities. I slept 9 to 11 hours a day. I worked out when I could. I checked my email constantly. I explored Rome and took pictures when something moved me. I did quite a lot of nothing in particular. Sometimes I didn't even leave my apartment. I generally had things to do throughout the day, but nothing with any significance.

This was new for me. It’s not easy doing nothing when your last 18 years have been filled with almost constant activity. I like being alone, I honestly do. But alone in a different country is different from alone at home where you’re surrounded by your own things; when you can understand what everyone around you is saying; and when your friends are only 20 minutes away. For me, Rome was more about feeling isolated than feeling liberated.

I’ve always wanted to travel to Italy. I’ve only met one person in my life who didn’t always want to travel to Italy. The art; the architecture; the food; the wine; the pace and passion of the people all seemed so charming. Movies and books help promulgate this myth of course, and I wanted in. I wanted to live here; to experience the culture here; and maybe to start a new life here. Anything was possible in my mind. I wanted no restrictions and no safety net.

I had no expectations of Italy or what it might be. Actually, I never planned anything less in my life than this trip. I just wanted to get here. I felt that I needed to shake things up in my life. I wanted to have an incredible experience. I was not okay with having the typical Washington, DC life that is dedicated to work and the pursuit of career success.

Of course the time before my move was stressful. C'mon, I had to do a lot to get here. I sold my car. I gave away or sold most of my things. I rented my condo and moved in to a friend’s basement. I hired and trained my replacement at work. I moved away from the great guy I thought I could fall in love with.

To any normal person, these are big things. I put my entire life on hold to move to a country I had never even visited and where I didn’t speak the language.  As soon as the plane landed, I regretted my decision. I truly wanted to vomit. I immediately thought to myself, “What have I done? Why did I do this? Why do I always have to push? Why can’t good be good enough?”

I talk a lot with my friends about following gut instincts. I have said repeatedly that whenever I ignore my instinct, things don't work out. When I listen, they do. I came to Italy because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to test the strength of the woman I had become. I was not prepared to be so sad the moment we landed. I hated Rome almost immediately, and was never able to fully recover from my bad first impression of the city. Instantly my “strength” was tested.

Luckily, I understand that strength comes in many ways. Sometimes strength means reaching out when you need help. And, of course, a few of my good friends from home were able to give me encouragement when I was afraid; to make me laugh when I was sad; and to help me work things out in my own mind when the “great guy” I was dating before I left turned out to be the “not so great guy” I was no longer dating when I was here.

What I have realized over these last two months is that I had become so accustomed to moving my life forward and creating the life I wanted, I didn’t realize it was the life I already had. In the months leading up to my departure for Italy, I knew I was the happiest I had ever been, but I attributed much of the happiness to my upcoming adventure. In reality, I was happy because I actually love my life in Washington, DC. It's the life I’ve always wanted and I worked very hard to get. I have a beautiful condo. I have a wonderful and supportive circle of friends. I have the career balance I sacrificed quite a bit to obtain.

I have also learned to accept more things about myself. I always push and move myself forward because that is who I am.  It’s just the way I am made. Luckily, I also frequently do pulse checks to make sure where I am moving is where I want to be!  I don't settle. I don't accept things if they don’t feel right in my core. “Know thy self” my friend Mike always says to me, and then he usually adds, “And then accept it ‘cuz you’re pretty great!”

Yeah, I told you I had great friends.

I’m in Florence now for the next few months. As soon as I walked out of the train station here on December 5th I was reminded Florence is where I want to be. Although I love my life in Washington, DC and I do miss my friends, I’m not ready to come home yet. I still have a lot to do and a lot to discover.  And I’m really, really, REALLY looking forward to what my future brings. I’ll keep you posted!


  1. Val - what you are doing is so exciting and brave. Although you really are a planner at heart, you are also always going to be the kind of person who will dive in head first, ready for whatever you will find in the water. Sometimes it's really scary! But you will never know just by dipping your toe in and then running away because it's unexpectedly cold.

    Keep being that brave girl, and have fun exploring things in yourself that you never knew were there. It's only going to make you an even better, more fabulous woman than you already are. I miss you!!

  2. Sam says all the time, "I was gonna do it, but I saw something shiny." Ruby huffs, droops her shoulders, looks at the ground and mumbles, "I got distraaaacted."

    Pushing toward a goal leaves little room for anything else. Sometimes that is good. It's hard to get to the important stuff if there are too many intermediary things. Sometimes... not so much.

    I've surely not lived up to my potential in many, many ways. I could push more. I've often felt like if I could just focus and work a bit harder I would feel more fulfilled--more self-actualized. Even when I get what I want or arrive where I want to be, I often feel unfulfilled because I could have been faster, could have made less mistakes, could have used more salt. Whatever.

    Only in the last few years have I realized that often (maybe even usually) the distractions turn out to be more fun and more satisfying than the original goal. That's right, more satisfying.

    It sounds trite. Perhaps it is. Perhaps everyone else knows this already. My kids seem to know it: they almost never move in a straight line. They're happy.

    Give yourself permission to just walk with your head up. Allow yourself to see the periphery and take some turns. Forgive yourself for the turns that lead you 'astray'. If you can do that, I think you'll find that less and less of your turns turn out to be wrong ones.

    You've accomplished a lot: be proud. You have a lot of living to do: be strong. Even if you're not sure what it is, what you want is out there: be alert

    Walk your path.

    I'm proud to be your brother.