The last 4 days have been unlike anything I have experienced before. The sorrow of saying goodbye mixed with the joy and excitement of a grand adventure. As most of the richest experiences in life are, things have been great but hard. Incredible and incredibly difficult.
Saying goodbye was calm. Which is exactly what it needed to be. In any case, it was more of a see you later, rather than a goodbye. More of a goodbye to life as we have known it to be. A new way is here and the old way came to an end with a calm goodbye. Transition to my new home has been a bit less tranquil.
When I arrived in Italy a few things became clear. 1. My new home is in the perfect location for me. 2. Instead of living with a girl I had been in contact with on Air bnb I'm living in her room at the apartment with two guys. And finally, 3. I know nothing about living in Milan Italy.
1. First of all, my house is situated about a 30 min walk from the Art School where I attend language classes every day. More on that in a later post. The apartment is in a lovely part of the city with plenty of trees, cafes and stores. It is near the Navigli (rivers) which make for pleasant scenery. Along side the rivers are plenty of delicious restaurants to try. My house has a traditional Milanese garden, marble staircases and statues, stained glass windows, an old timey elevator, french doors and a tiny little kitchen.
2. Aside from growing up with brothers, I have never lived with guys before. I don't think it will make much of a difference. In fact, I think I have won some sort of roommate jackpot. They are hospitable, inviting, clean (clean enough anyway) and fun. Here is to hoping I am not jinxing this whole thing, and they end up being the worst human beings on earth, or that they somehow read this blog and think I am a total creep for writing about them. Our interactions have thus far included early morning/late night 'hellos' and 'goodbyes' and a glass of wine with friends. I can tell you the important things about them like, the first cartoons they ever had crushes on as kids... Please tell me you agree with me on Demetri from Anastasia.
I can also tell you one roommate is in an Italian Indie Pop band. I am sure they are great. But it doesn't really matter because what I am about to show/tell you is everything.
L'orso (The Bear) wanted to write a song about growing up in the 90s. The subject of said song? Their desire to be none other than James Van Der Beek. What?! I am sorry. This is one of the best things I have ever heard. The song is basically a list of who James was to them in the 90s and then them saying they want to be like him. Rough translation "I wish I dressed out of style, just like James Van Der Beek." The phrase "como James Van Der Beek" (AKA 'just like JVB') has become my favorite Italian phrase. Hence forth anytime someone uses an adjective I add, "como James Van Der Beek" in my very best Italian accent. Please take one moment to imagine Italians saying James Van Der Beek. It is kind of like this... Jayems ahvandare Beekah... It's amazing. You know what else is amazing? The James Van Der Beek mask hanging in my house and the music video from the James Van Der Beek song. Please, do yourself a favor and watch it...
3. The third and final thing. I basically know nothing about living in Italy. While it is true I have been visiting often and getting to know Milan, I haven't had to really live here. The first day was completely overwhelming. I was lost in the rain for an hour and half with no phone or internet... Who does that anymore!? I was a completely soaking wet, fish out of water. I felt myself transform from a brave independent woman to a damsel in distress in moments.
Besides the obvious things one learns in a new city, there are both big and small differences to living in Milan that can add up to a major first day break down. The usual city nuances to learn include things like, public transportation and the good/bad areas to go. Then there are things about living in Milan, like not understanding what anyone is saying and trying to navigate a city that on the map looks like a big bowl full of Spaghetti. Finally, we have the seemingly little things. Lots of them. Things that can add up to a major first day meltdown. For instance, Italians separate their trash into three bins Every time I throw something in the trash, it is a little life pop quiz.
Having melt downs in grocery stores seems to be becoming my 'thing'. The first happened when I returned from living in Bolivia. Disgusted by the number of cheese options in the grocery store lead to The Grocery Meltdown of 2007. I knew that that much cheese would never sell before it went bad and was likely to be thrown away, while not so far away, babies were starving. Melt. Down. This time I was overwhelmed by my inability to do anything familiar... from pick out the right olive oil to buy my produce. No familiar brands, no familiar process, lots of dumb questions. Christopher took me isle by isle helping me decipher what I wanted.
I tried pretty hard to keep my tears bottled up, but jet lag, a lack of sleep and an overwhelming day can made my resolve rather weak. Christopher's presence gave me a safe place and so… enter my tears. Imagine his surprise when the grocery store brought on my silent water works. Crying in your finance's car in the middle of a parking garage really is the perfect way to say, “Thank you for driving in traffic to buy me groceries and take me to dinner!”
Christopher is kind and patient and tells me it is good to cry because it is a healthy stress reliever. I agree, but the tears and the snot… not a good look. I once read an article that said men are actually biologically repelled by a woman’s tears. I think that there is a strong possibility Christopher is immune to this because… I cry… like a lot. Like when I am sad, or happy or angry or frustrated or when I see a cute commercial with puppies. I am grateful for someone who allows me to mourn with them and not feel embarrassed or silly, but instead be validated and encouraged. Which in turn makes me grateful for his mother and three sisters who have paved the way for me.
I realize that moving to Italy and having a bad day because you were lost in the rain and didn’t recognize anything in a grocery store full of food are total #firstworldproblems. So, I am sorry about that, but of course the feelings are deeper than the triggers on the surface. Now, I have a bit more understanding and compassion for others who will be in similar situations. People in new unfamiliar places, away from those they love who know them best. People learning a new normal, trying to figure out the little things. That is where I am at in these first few days, trying to figure out the little things.
The little things make a big difference, like dinners with soon to be family, a glass of wine with new roommates, James Van Der Beek, cuddling puppies, making a new friend, and finding things that seem to have been made just for me… like these little guys.