As I write today’s blog, my birthday is almost over, at least in Italy. Today I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of my friends and loved ones. I awoke to find countless birthday wishes on my Facebook account as well as emails in my inbox. These messages come on top of the recent influx of cards and letters I have received in the mail and of course the phone calls from those closest to me. Let me tell you there is nothing like spending your birthday in a foreign country to help you take stock, not only of the year that has passed, but of what is important in life. The best gifts I could have received are exactly those that I got; good thoughts and well wishes from all over the United States and Europe.
Today it was easy to spend time reflecting on the past year and also on the last birthday I celebrated in Florence, four years ago. Boy, I was a completely different person then than I am now, and very thankful for it. At the time, I had just left the theatre, which let’s be honest, had been my security blanket for so many years. In Florence, I started over again. I was living in a new place, learning about a new culture, and struggling with a new language, but somehow in that year, I blossomed. It was during that time that I started on the path that led me to the University of Chapel Hill and oddly enough, back to Florence.
When I arrived in Italy four years ago, the only people I knew in this town were the other Americans from my Middlebury program and that is exactly who I spent my birthday with in 2005.
Things are much much different this time around. I arrived here with a confidence that I could not have imagined. I was homesick for a bit, but after just two months, I’m pretty much over it and settling in to my temporary home in Florence. I will mark my 38th birthday tomorrow night at a little restaurant where I have become a regular and I will celebrate, not in the company of other Americans, but surrounded by Italian friends…the same people I first met in 2005-06. I never could have imagined during that year that I would maintain any of these friendships, because I had always heard that Italians have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. I have found that idea to be completely untrue, at least regarding my friends here.
The beauty of my arrival in Florence this year was that I knew I already had established friendships here.
While these friendships have made the transition this year easier and they will certainly make my birthday party quite fun, I do miss those friends and family from home.
On my birthday, it is hard not to wish for you all to be here with me, but being here, on my own this year is what I need to do. Today, that is clear to me. I know from all your words, thoughts, calls, cards, and letters how much I am loved and that is really all I need.
Of course, today I am reflecting on this past year as well and in that regard, I really do consider myself one of the luckiest people on earth. In the last year, I began graduate school; I met Tim, who continues to be one of the most important people in my life; I presented at my first conference; I introduced several new students to Italian and got them to really love it; and I realized without a doubt that I am meant to be a teacher and that I am now, exactly where I am supposed to be.
I do wonder if this year will result in another big change in me. My Italian IS already getting better! Well it will be fun to ponder that in another four years!
My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. Yes, there are things that I do not have, but I have so much to be happy about that I have no reason to complain about turning 38 or being away from home, as I do so! Distance and age are all relative right? All that matters is that you all are a part of my life and I am so happy for that. So, I say Happy Birthday to me!!! And many more…with you all by my side! I love you all!