Ah Rome… like NY we have a love hate relationship. I love it, I hate it, I adore it, I want to punch it in the face. Massive, historical, cultural, majestical, and congested. Expensive, evasive, full of hidden gems. I love strolling down the narrow streets and endless piazzas even if I want to push everyone out of the way and into fountains to do so. It’s a second home. It’s an ex-boyfriend you keep going back to and each time he reminds you of why you broke up with him in the first place. Ironically, Rome reminds me of the reason why I was so desperate to leave NY and how far of come in the process.
A few months ago, when the company I worked for was acquired and downsized, I found myself unemployed for the first time in my short professional life. I managed to retain hope as I knocked out interview after interview. I’d get through challenging 3rd rounds before receiving a superficial and generic “we decided to go another way” email… that is if I heard from them at all. New York then became for me an endless cycle of trial & error, of cut throat “fuck you it’s business” mindset, increasing expenses, and a dwindling bank account, on top of the mundanity that came with living in the same place for most of my life.
The day that I decided to come back to Italy was the day I got three job rejections. It goes without saying that it was a discouraging day, but it wasn’t so much the feeling of failure that made me give up on my search, but the relief I felt once the initial anxiety of failure subsided. I was relieved because now no one could say that I didn’t try, or that I didn’t do the responsible thing by looking for a job first before saying “No fuck you, I’m going to Italy”. And most importantly the relief that I wasn’t sucked into yet another job I’d inevitably grow to resent because I haven’t taken the time to do what I’ve wanted to do since the first time I stepped foot in Rome eight years ago…returning to Italy.
I came back to Italy, not to find happiness or closure, but to be restored. I wanted to jog my senses with culture, food, language, and awkward conversations that fell and oscillated on a spectrum of pleasurable, satisfactory, uncomfortable, and challenging. I wanted an experience that made me appreciate what I have back home while simultaneously cherishing the present.
To say that I came to Italy to travel and learn Italian is true, but doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Yes, both are a huge part of it and both make me feel amazing. They make me feel like I’m apart of an unparalleled and universally adored culture and that makes me feel apart of something bigger. However, this adventure is, in all it’s cliched glory, about self – discovery. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you’re able to calmly and charmingly convince an Italian train conductor to let you use the same train ticket even though it’s for the train you just missed. Or when you impress the new fellow travelers you just met at the hostel with your Italian language skills. It’s like drop-kicking unfamiliarity on it’s anxious ass. In Italy, I don’t just get to be, I HAVE to be the cool and confident person I know I’m capable of to make my trips as smooth and enjoyable as possible. To me, it justifies why I’m on an adventure that I can’t afford, but desperately needed.
So when I found myself in Rome again this past week, frustrated by it’s overwhelming yet familiar energy and how much it reminded me of the NY I left behind, I took a moment to recognize what I’ll be returning to NY with… the scars, wisdom, and tenacity of a true traveler and restored sense of self.