And so it goes, the final blog post. As most of you know, I am back in America, and my status of “exotic Italian world traveler who obnoxiously posts pictures” has been downgraded to “that one girl who won’t shut up about her life in Italy and still obnoxiously posts pictures.” I have been putting this one off partly because I am enjoying being in the comforts of home, and partly because I don’t want to accept that this semester is over and say my final goodbye.
My best friend Cara made me a book before I left full of sweet and astoundingly witty pages and pictures. I was rereading it last night, and came upon the statement,” Kaitlin’s not actually going to Italy, she’s just going to hibernate for a while because she’s so over it all.”
While it contains the perfect tinge of college girl exaggeration and sarcasm, I don’t think I realized how true this was until I returned home. Before I experienced Italy, I was in a rut. In my faith, in my friendships, in my school work, in everything. Cue Elizabeth Gilbert’s, “I just wanted to marvel at something.” But I did, and was ready to experience every cliche in the book. And I marveled, and marveled, and marveled.
And now that I’m home, I marvel even more. Did I really drink champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower? Did I really walk across the Ponte Vecchio daily? Did I really live that cool, casual, capuccino-filled life? There’s so much about the past 4 months I will always miss and treasure.
Pomodoro, Mozzarella e Rucola paninos from Cafe Santa Trinita. Dried fruit from the fruit stand. Museum Wednesdays. Aperitivo. Family dinners on the rooftop terrace. Chianti wine. Street musicians. African monkey sellers. “Ciao, bella!”. Not tipping. Cobblestone streets. Speaking broken Italian to those who speak broken English. The Duomo bells. The carousel in Piazza Della Repubblica. Cooking classes. Long meals.The piazza in front of Santa Croce. La Carraia. Secret bakeries. Late night trip planning. Cioccolata calda. Taking trains. Taking planes. Ringos. Il Teatro. Afternoons in Boboli Gardens. Piazza Michelangelo at night. Or any time.
And my friends. I guess I figured I would make friends while abroad, but I didn’t know I would meet my life-changing, best friends. You all showed me how to speak up, explore, love, and always look for the next great adventure. Thank you for bringing out a little more of the version of myself I strive to be, and for loving me when I was not. Like when I was hangry. (Angry out of hunger) And let’s be honest, that’s a lot. I love you all, and while I am sorry our goodbye was a panicked and desperate run for my life in the London airport, it just adds to the collection of memories we will never be able to explain to those at home, thus always connecting us to one another.
To those at home, I owe so much thanks to you as well. Thank you for your Skype calls, endless Facebook messages and emails, travel money, blog feedback, letters, support, and love. Thank you for listening to my stories even when I ramble and receiving me upon my return as if nothing ever changed. It was the peace and reassurance I had from home that gave me the confidence to explore the world, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.
I’m convinced that travel can warp time like no other. It convinces you that you have all the time in the world that is your oyster, that time is standing perfectly still at home, yet jam-packs years’ worth of personal growth into a scrawny semester. At the beginning of this journey, I promised myself I would seize each and every opportunity presented to me in pursuit of feeling alive and amazed. And I feel I stayed true to that. No, not all of these things turned out perfectly and many mistakes were made along the way, but these are the memories I’ve learned to love most. While I was in Florence, I honestly was terrified that my happiness had peaked- how silly that was! Regardless, I wrote myself a little note so that I would always remember how I felt while there:
I can’t believe I only have a few days left in Florence. I have never been more happy or free in my life. With my friends here, I feel like I am completely myself and I haven’t felt that way in a long time. Florence has changed my heart in ways I didn’t know were possible. Everything in my life was just put on hold and God decided to give me a very evident and amazing breath of fresh air through this city to realize His grace. I don’t have to settle! I don’t have to be passive! There IS an abundant life to be had and it is here and now and extends into the future! God created me at just the right time with the right passions and looks and strengths to fulfill His perfect plan. If He can take me to another country and show me things I didn’t even know I would or could love, what else does He have planned?!
And with that, I’m ready for what’s next, knowing that I will always have a piece of Florence within myself to keep me wondering, marveling, and never again over it all. This summer, I will be interning with my favorite ministry in a new city, and I just can’t wait to see what this great adventure has in store! Thank you all for following this blog and baring with me through the past few months. And hey, maybe look out for another blog in the future! Xoxo