When I announced to my friends that I was moving to Italy they pretty much thought I was a rock star. For several months I received comments like, “That is so cool!” or “You’re my idol,” or “Oh my god, I would never have the guts to do that!”
Friends and acquaintances went out of their way to provide me with opportunities or advice to make my dream come true.
All of the excitement was a bit surprising at first, but I loved that people were interested, and I loved the positive attention. I started thinking, “Wow, maybe this is a big deal,” and I started to feel a little special, like perhaps I wasn’t like everyone else.
After a brief stint in Rome I moved to Florence in December of 2009. A week after moving to Florence my roommate took me to a holiday party hosted by a group called YAWN, short for Young Anglo Women’s Network. YAWN is made of up mostly native English speaking women living in Florence.
What was supposed to be a casual holiday party turned out to be a defining moment for me because I met several women at this party who changed the course of my time in Italy, and possibly, as time may reveal the course of my life.
These women had similar stories to mine. They too longed for something different. They too sold or gave away everything they owned to move here. They too left family and friends for something unknown. These women understood the benefits and sacrifices involved in living in a country that was not their own.
Being surrounded by women with similar experiences was such a comfort to me. I was relieved to meet new people and make new friends. But after hearing the same answer to the question, “So what’s your story? Why are you in Florence?” over and over again, I realized I was a dime a dozen here. Everyone had done what I had done. I was not special at all.
At first this realization took the wind out of my sails. But now, as I reflect on my 10 months here I realize, no, I’m not special, but “we” all are. We, the ex-patriot women living in Florence who left all that we knew to experience something different; we who believed in ourselves enough to take a leap into the unknown; we who made the most of our lives here no matter how short or how long a stay. “We” are special.
For some of us Italy was our destiny; for others a break from our lives; for others a chance for love; and for others still a launching ground for the next big adventure. Yes, we may have similar stories, but these similarities in no way diminish the challenges we have overcome. They in no way diminish our bravery, our tenacity, and our strength. We took action. We did it, and absolutely yes, we are all special.