In two days, it’ll be a week since I left what was my home in Florence, Italy. And it’s still bittersweet.
My time in Florence marks a new me: a me I’ve been working toward for the past year. It wasn’t until the summer after my sophomore year in college that I began to really work on myself. And here I am, the summer after my junior year and I can start to see how far I’ve come. Of course I take steps back. Of course I have bad days. Of course I do things I’m not proud of. But I am proud of who I’m becoming. I’m becoming a woman who loves more than she fears, who feels more than she numbs, and who moves more than she second-guesses. I wasn’t always that woman. And I’m not always that woman. But it’s who I’m becoming. Italy taught me strength is not found in the number of strong days you have, but in the number of weak days you push through.
While I was in Italy, I found myself in a culture that allowed me the headspace I needed to work on myself. Italians aren’t looking to rush through each day, eager to cross off the next thing on their schedule. Instead, they value being in a moment and experiencing it to its fullest before moving to the next. Florence forced me to slow down and it taught me that a day sitting on the Arno beach, taking in the sun and chatting with friends was just as valuable as a day of productivity. I was able to see incredible things, do incredible things, experience this incredible culture, and grow.
More than just the place was the people. I couldn’t have been luckier than to have found the people I did while abroad. The cliché of making relationships that will last a lifetime holds true. How a group of strangers became such a close-knit family in four short months is beyond me, but I am so grateful it happened as it did. I ended up with two mothers, a best friend, a person to shake me from my stubbornness, a person to challenge me to love, a person to love me when I’m crazy, a person to believe in me again, a person to share in my love of Bueno bars, a person to show me the beauty of the occasional kebab, and many other people who came to mean the world to me.
These people and the experiences I had grew me. So here I am, stronger and happier. And thankful that my time in Italy helped me get here.