Love Letters to Europe: Florence

Ah Firenze. I’ve probably been putting off this post for some time because the memory of Florence is still too much at times. Just thinking back to eating fresh pesto on the steps of San Lorenzo brings tears to my eyes.

And you would think I’m just employing typical emotional rhetoric to illustrate a point, but trust me I’m not exaggerating by any stretch of the imagination. Florence was my home for four months that were constantly full of adventure, beauty, laughter, exploration, fashion, food, and fun. But most of all Firenze was mia amore. There’s not a day that goes by where a part of me wishes I could go back to my apartment at Via Ricasoli 51 and venture out onto the street where hundreds of tourists line up to see Micheangelo’s David, but turn the other way and grab a caffe con panna from Alex, my favorite barista, or go to Un Caffe where I was given a free shot on my first visit and a shot of limoncello on my last.

Via Ricasoli 51

What I miss about my love is how I felt when I lived there. Free to explore. Uninhibited. Gorgeous, inside and out.

I don’t miss the language barrier. Although for the most part it’s never a problem in Florence because their tourism ensures that most shopkeepers know English enough to haggle their way through a deal on a leather bag in the market. But I miss the people who I had to communicate with hand gestures and my limited amount of Italian. The sense of unknowing when I explored dell’Arno for the first time on my own. Discovering what I felt like were hidden gems, but were probably still tourist traps waiting to happen. The times where I would take a day to myself and go anywhere and every where. My favorite day spent going to the different museums across the city, big and small, well known and obscure. Feeling cultured just for walking across a bridge that wasn’t the Ponte Vecchio. Meeting people and making connections with strangers that will always impact me when I look back over my time there.

Every time I look back at photos, it’s like emotional cutting. Reminiscent Russian roulette. It takes me back to all the little things I don’t have the chance to experience in good ole’ Fort Worth, Texas. Going to the Boboli Gardens for an afternoon. Shopping at a fresh food market where the produce hasn’t been doused heavily in pesticides – and not having to pay extra for that organic guarantee. Apertivo. Writing in my journal or reading a book in sunny Piazza Santo Spirito. Catching the bus in Piazza San Marco to Monica’s lovely apartment with her stolen Wifi. Drinking coffee in between classes at News Cafe. Being called bella on a daily basis by strangers. Walking across the city with Somebody I Used to Know blaring on repeat as my soundtrack to my footsteps. Going out with Stephanie and always waking up the next morning with a hangover and a good story. Throwing up from too much wine (actually this still happens quite often). Going out with the girls and laughing my ass off at literally anything we did. Every weekend a new festival, something new to try and do and see and people to meet.

It makes me heart literally hurt when I think about you Florence. You will always hold a special place within me, even though it was only for a short time, you’ll always be there.

Firenze, there’s something else you committed when you stole my heart, you murdered by American dream. As I’ve detailed extensively throughout this semester, you killed my ambitions that America had so lovingly instilled in me since birth. I’ve seen you. I’ve seen what’s out there. There’s so much more to life than getting a job title you can boast about or living in a big house with nice furniture. When you’ve seen your beauty, you set your sights past things like that. The smell of espresso and the thumping bass of your bars fog my senses when I think about post-grad plans. The throngs of people flooding your cobble stone streets. Staring up at the Duomo every single day. Seeing works of art day in and day out, just on the streets of the city. Gagging when I saw a pair of Nike shorts.

My professors. Noel, Paolo, and even Roberto who hated the way I attempted to speak Italian. Their encouragement, their humor, their knowledge, their understanding of Americans and the issues we face as study abroad students. I grew as a student, despite my lack of focus on my classes. I learned that graphic design may not be for me, but that if I wanted to pursue it – I have what it takes. I delved into how fashion corresponds to a culture and functions as both an indicator and a product of society. I learned so much about Catholicism and was forced to reflect on my upbringing in a church that’s had (and still has) a tremendous impact on the lives of Catholics everywhere, especially Italians.

THERE IS SO MUCH I WANT TO SAY. There’s so much I miss every day here. I wonder how others adjust after studying abroad. If they become the same as they were before, with just an added dash of Italian seasoning to their typical lives? Do they simply have an increased affinity for wine? Or do they still lust after the cultural immersion as I do?

Florence, you will always be missed. The sheer joy that filled my heart each and every day will be missed. Little things can satisfy me here – like my Italian coffee maker, my leather jacket, bottles of Chianti from Kroger – but ultimately my memories will have to suffice.

And that’s possibly the saddest thing I’ve realized this semester.

Expectations are the Enemy

Watch the clip below to understand the topic I will be discussing:

Expectations ruin any good thing you thought could happen and all you end up with is disappointment and negativity.

I’m still learning this now that I’m home. Expecting that cute shirt to look good when you try it on or thinking you are going to have a legendary night out are harmful and detrimental thoughts to actual reality.

When you let go of expectations and let life just happen, you will be a lot more satisfied by the outcome, because you aren’t comparing it to what could have happened.

Expectations are human constructs. We manufacture them for ourselves as humans to set boundaries and ideals for our lives. Religion, culture, fashion, etc are all perceptions of what society expects of us. Life is what actually happens. It’s uncontrollable, and the more you try to tightly hold on and constrain it, the more out of control you actually begin to feel.

In case you aren’t understanding what I’m saying, here is a graph to help.

My friend gave me this advice about guys, “Don’t wish for anything. Don’t imagine anything. Because as soon as you do, whatever you wanted to happen will never, ever, in a million years, happen.”

So being single I’ve learned that I should have no hopes or dreams when it comes to men.

Which as negative as that sounds – it’s just a more realistic way to look at life. Dating isn’t a romantic comedy staring [insert beautiful, witty, and charmingly awkward actress] and [insert hunky male star with gorgeous smile that makes you forgive them at the end of the film for being an asshole]. Life is about making the best of any situation because you are living life, not acting out a contrived plot. We won’t ever be able to guess the ending of our lives, and that’s one of the perks of living.

Stories from abroad: 

One thing I learned abroad was not to expect anything amazing, incredible, life-changing, or memorable to happen, because as soon as you expected it to happen – you would inevitably be disappointed when it didn’t happen.

The best example I have to champion the destruction of your expectations happened on a Wednesday night in Florence with my friend Stephanie.

We honestly wanted one drink. One simple drink. We went to our favorite student bar, Naima, and it was a slow night. The night was young and so were we, so we stopped by another bar called Lion’s Fountain. As we were perusing the crowd, we were approached by these guys who offered to buy us drinks. After talking for a while we went with them to a club, 21, and proceeded to get more free drinks. From there we went to a nearby pub, and following suit, more free drinks. Hell, Stephanie even got a bouquet of flowers. Then we went to another club, YAB. After that, the night is pretty much black. However, the next morning I woke up to this note in my phone:

No, I never saw Adam again, but that’s not really the point.

The point is, NONE of that would have happened if we had been planning on having some epic night out. We went out, not expecting anything and we ended up having a blast…albeit a black out…but a blast nonetheless.

So my advice to everyone on this Thirsty Thursday: screw expectations.