Home has become being comfortable with being uncomfortable, with being different than everyone around you, but loving and accepting and embracing it.
Home has become yearning for challenges that make you better for it in the end.
Rome has made me enjoy being uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable means that you’re learning and growing. Comfort zones are boring. Your true self comes out when you’re being challenged; when you have to find your way out of something; when you have to problem-solve your way through a maze of languages and cultural differences and assumptions.
I’ve been thinking about why I haven’t been posting a ton on my blog (because I really do love to write and my intention was to post a lot), and I think it’s because I have become so adjusted that I don’t really have anything that sticks out enough to write about it. Of course I have constant thoughts and reflections about my experience. And I have run-ins with cool things everyday. But nothing seems to warrant a blog post.
Life goes on–in a different country, but it still goes on. Challenges have become part of my life here, and I just roll with it. It’s just life.
And magic has turned into my daily backdrop–passing by the Colosseum, the Vatican, and Castel Sant’ Angelo have become ingrained into my daily routine. I’ve become used to magic. And I’m so lucky to be able to say that.
I have a hard time putting into words how grateful I am for this semester and the opportunities I have been afforded. Studying abroad comes with a lot of privilege and it’s so important to reflect upon that and work to make this kind of opportunity accessible to everyone who wants to pursue it.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like getting to the point of feeling so comfortable in a starkly different place like Rome, but also never being able to bridge the gap between being an American and an Italian. Italian culture is not my own and I’m never going to try to claim it as my own. No matter how comfortable I feel in Rome, I’ll always be an American in their space. I can appreciate and respect it, but it isn’t mine.
I’ve said before that I wanted to make a huge effort to cross the threshold from tourist to non-tourist (although I’ll never be a local-local, it’s important to take off the tourist blinders and get to know Rome for what it is apart from what is shown on postcards). The progress I’ve made towards this goal throughout the semester has been really cool to see.
Recently, I woke up on a Sunday morning and decided I wanted to go across the city to a non-touristy part of Rome to a modern art gallery. I put on a cute dress and started to make the trek across tourists and photo cameras to a more residential part of the city. Of course, I got hopelessly lost. I eventually made it there to find out that the gallery wasn’t really a gallery, but more of an art school. It was the first place I went to in which I didn’t see a single tourist and it made me so happy.
I still walked around to check out the art, and various people talked to me in Italian. I tried my best to answer them in Italian, but of course I couldn’t get out the words, which revealed myself to be an American. Still, I was so pleased that people thought I spoke Italian and made an effort to talk to me.
One of the weirdest things about being an American in Rome has been the dissonance between how I feel about the city, and how people view me in the city. No matter how comfortable I feel, people always see and treat me as an American tourist in Rome. It felt so good to not be treated differently based upon my Americanness (which I completely understand, but struggle with) while at the art gallery. I felt part of it all. My interactions outside finally matched up with how I feel about Rome on the inside.
In recent months, people have stopped me to ask for directions, thinking I look like I know what I’m doing. It’s something that’s so little, but it means so much. When people see my home as my home, it validates my place in Rome.
Rome has taught me that my experience is my experience. People will always assume things about American tourists, but that just means that we have to do better and work to break that stereotype (because it does have truth to it). No matter how many times that pizza guy calls out to me and my friend asking us to have lunch at his restaurant, and we reply that we’re heading to class but he doesn’t believe us, or that guy selling art on the street says that we must be having a very long vacation since he sees us walk by every day instead of believing that we live here, I remind myself about how I feel about Rome. I have lived here for a few months, enough to develop a personal relationship with the city. It’s given me so much. And that’s all that matters.
Rome has taught me to focus on me and my experience when necessary and appropriate. There are times that you need and want to give to others, but there are also times in which you need to prioritize your happiness and focus on yourself. And that’s okay. That’s something I really needed after coming off of a job in Residence Life (which I loved) in which I focused on the needs of an entire hall full of people above myself.
Rome has taught me to take risks. If I wanted to go somewhere or see something, I just did it. I went for it. Living in this wonderful city for such a short period of time really taught me to take advantage of the moment and seize the day, because who knows when I’ll be back? Going for things and fully embracing them has become a theme this semester.
Most importantly, the way Italians live is something I’ll always keep very near and dear to my heart. I hope I’ll carry it with me back to the U.S. and into my crazy, hectic life back home. Italians are known to have one of the best work-life balances in the world. They focus on happiness, relationships and food. That’s something we need more of in the U.S. The U.S. is so go, go, go that people forget to live. We shouldn’t live to work. That’s a waste. We should live to live. That’s something I’ll try to infuse into every single thing I do.
Ciao, Roma. Grazie a mille per tutto. Io ti amerò sempre.