Italy changed my life.
These are four words I never thought would come out of my mouth; they taste like honey, like the pure, natural sweetness of fresh air. Moreover, I never expected to experience a human metamorphosis.
It’s impossible to live abroad and not come home forever changed. I feel like I can do anything now. I resided in Italy all by myself! Now I’m so tough I ride lions through flame hoops! True story.
1. Food is not just about eating. I eat more slowly. Restaurants are for people and conversation. I am the US’s worst nightmare. I fully expect to sit at a table for at least a few hours. If my food comes too fast, I get stressed out. The dining experience is much more important now than it used to be. The idea of plopping down at a table, shoveling food in, and leaving immediately totally weirds me out.
2. I don’t care what people think anymore. My skin is a lot thicker. I’m so used to being stared at when I go into public in Italy.
3. I gesture even more when I talk now. Words, wave like a maniac, words, wave like a maniac, words.
4. I’ve become a major food snob foodie. If something isn’t delicious, I won’t want to eat it. I’ve started cooking a lot and have practiced the art of making food entirely from scratch. I care about the quality of my food and I no longer have the tastebuds for processed foods.
5. Another food-related change, of course. I find great joy in cooking for people and I am overcome with joy when someone bites into something I’ve made and think it’s delicious. I also channel my inner Italian nonna (grandma) and nag my friends about their eating habits. “Take more! Eat more!” “Have you eaten today? Make sure you eat today.” “You didn’t eat breakfast? Oh dear, let me bring you food.”
6. As I mentioned before, I’m more confident. I walk with my shoulders back and head high. I strut in high heels without wary. I voice my opinion courageously. I don’t hide my emotions. I can start and hold a conversation with everyone!
7. I’m more family-oriented. I call and text my family every single day. I actually deeply miss them. I am excited for Thanksgiving break not because I get a few days off from school, but because I am truly excited to spend time with my family! ….and food, duh.
8. I dress better than I used to. No, I will never dress as perfect as an Italian, but I treat every day as a special occasion. I did not have to buy new clothes to achieve this; all I did was start accessorizing. Shirt and jeans? Add a leather jacket, bracelet, and heeled booties. Bam. Instantly better. When I dress nice, I feel nice and am treated with more respect.
9. My priorities have changed. Italians are much less materialistic than Americans and that’s something that has really rubbed off on me. I care about friends, food, going outside, exploring, and traveling, but I don’t care about stuff. For example, if I had to choose between going on a walk with my friends through the city and getting a new pair of shoes, I’ll choose the experience over the item. It’s made me a much happier person.
10. I can speak another language, a language that I still get ridiculously excited about!
11. I wear much less makeup and let my hair do it’s own thing. The natural look is more popular in Italy, which has encouraged me to love who I am just as I am.
12. I feel more a part of something. In Italy, there is an idea that everyone is an extension of each other and individualism just doesn’t make sense.
13. Culture and peoples’ lives are tremendously important to me. I want to get to know people on a very deep level. What do they do what they do? What is unique about the way they experience things? Tell me stories. Take me into your home. Let me share a meal with your family. Tell me about who you are.
14. The most transformation happened in regards to my personal goals and daily routine. As I mentioned in my post How a Meal Changed my Life, before Italy, I didn’t give myself a break. I said yes to everything. I thought the best kind of life was an active life and I justified my glorification of busy by referring to it as seizing the day.
Now, I live life much slower. I have self-care at the top of my priority list. I say no. I don’t get ridiculously stressed out anymore. Coming from someone who ended up in the hospital from an overabundant presence of stress in her life, this is a huge deal. It seems that stress is now very visual to me. When I experience it, I envision it as a tangible negative ball of energy in my hands that slowly disintegrates into nothing because I purposefully do not let it control me anymore. “Take a deep breath” has become my mantra. I feel a sense of calmness deep within me at all times.
My goals changed. I’ve decided what truly make me happy, and I try to fill my life with as much of them as possible, and shoo away the rest that doesn’t lift me up.
My dear friend Angel, who studied abroad in The Netherlands, said it best: “I’ve become obsessed with love and traveling and laughing. I’ve become an idealist obsessed with love, loving people and places and myself and feeling emotions and anything that makes me feel infinite.”
That’s it. Italy has made me content, which Dictionary.com defines as. “a state of peaceful happiness” or “a state of satisfaction.”
Things are, life is, and I am. No adjectives are needed.
I fell in love with you, Italy, because of the people you gave to me. I fell in love with you because you stripped me down to the bone and marrow of who I am. You made me cry at the dinner table I shared with 10 others, Italy, but I fell in love with you because they held me. I love you because you’re a feast for the eyes and soul. I love you for your cadence and your sidewalk lovers, for your idiosyncratic lives and your skin-deep steadfastness.
My dear Italia, you showed me how to get in touch with my innermost essence of being. She is someone full of magic and wonder, and she watches the world with glittering eyes.
I will find my way back to you. I won’t say arrivederci or ciao; those are too permanent. Florence has given me too much to bid farewell. So a presto will do nicely because, Italy, I know I’ll see you soon. Next time, with a one-way ticket in one hand, and a nutella-filled cornetto in the other.