Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
So I made it to Venice. And you know what? I was less than enchanted. The city was beautiful. The canals were amazing. The concept was fascinating. But it wasn’t how I imagined it to be. I cannot pinpoint the exact way in which the Venice of reality differed from the Venice of my “Thief Lord” dreams, but it did. This is not to say that I was entirely disappointed, however the experience was missing the magic I had expected. But is the experience of study abroad ever about the expected? Is the magic ever in the extraordinary? Do you find yourself while riding in a gondola or at the Trevi Fountain or on a beach in Spain?
The answer to all of these is no.
As for expectations, at this point I cannot even remember what I expected upon boarding my plane to Italy, other than an adventure. But I can say that my life here has certainly gone above and beyond anything I could have thought it would be.
Over the course of the past three months I’ve travelled to many places, both in and out of Italy, from Cinque Terre to Vienna and everything in between. I’ve seen things I’ve dreamt about seeing for my entire life. It has been extraordinary. But that isn’t where I found the magic. The most magical night of my experience thus far was not in Rome or Paris or Florence. It was in my little home city of Parma. It was not a night filled with clubs or bars or any sort of notable adventures. It was simply the first night we had our bicycles. Riding during the day had been one thing, but that night, as we rode to one of the other apartment buildings from our home on the west side of the city, there was a sense of joy and freedom I hadn’t experienced yet. We arrived at our destination, but we didn’t - we couldn’t - stop there. Wordlessly we continued to the park down the street and rode faster and faster with no cars or people to stop us - around and around, laughing and pedaling until we were tired and breathless. There is nothing more ordinary than riding a bike. But in that moment, it was magical.
Similarly, many people go abroad to see the world and “find themselves.” I used to think that was a bit cliche but over the course of the semester my way of thinking has changed. The concept isn’t as instantaneous as the verb “find” implies. It is a process so gradual that you don’t realize it is happening. It is something that can only be realized in retrospect. You look back and think: I’m not the same as I was before, I am more me than I have ever been.
We didn’t find ourselves while watching the sun set from the Eiffel Tower. Or listening to Christmas music and drinking punsch at the Austrian Christmas Markets. Or spending a night drinking wine on the Spanish Steps in Rome. We found ourselves in the little things. In sitting around the dinner table drinking Lambrusco for hours, just being together. In Monday night bowling. In sleeping on each other on trains. And planes. And buses. In riding our bikes in the rain, just trying to make it to class alive, let alone on time. In not having ovens. Or dryers. Or microwaves. In sunrises.
The bottom line? We found ourselves in Parma, but mostly in each other - people we’ve gone to school with for two years. Yet it couldn’t have happened in Boston. There is an irreplicable bond in the memories made. In the things as simple as getting lost. And cooking dinner together. And eating Nutella late at night.
Maybe this comes from the happiness. Or the experiences shared. But for so many of us it is there and there are even concerns that we won’t fit into the lives we left behind. We have changed, and it is as simple as that.
So the reason I went abroad ended up not living up to my ten-year-old expectations. Venice was not my favorite. But I found so many other reasons that make me never want to leave. We have 15 days left in the best three months of our lives and I know we’ll make them count. We’ll laugh and cry and eat more than we should. We’ll ride or die and never look back. And when we finally return home to the States, we’ll do so beyond exhausted but also beyond happy. And we’ll be okay molding to the life we left behind, because we’ll still have each other - a new 30 person family that I wouldn’t trade for all of the magic in Venice.
Things I never posted but should have:
“I’m so excited!” For the past few months these words have crossed my lips more than I could have ever imagined. It has been my default response to any and every conversation about my impending trip across the Atlantic. It was something I could say to everyone and it seemed to please them all. Of course I was excited, they were excited for me, but “excited” doesn’t really begin to cover it. I’m exhilarated and nervous and ecstatic and terrified all rolled into one. It’s so strange to be leaving my BC family for an entire semester. But I’m ready. Ready and excited to live out some dreams.
You see, ten years ago I received Cornelia Funke’s “The Thief Lord” as a Christmas present from my aunt. After I read it once, I proceeded to read it about six more times. As a result, at ten years old, I decided that I was going to learn Italian and I was going to go to Italy.
While the Italian language is still very much a work in progress, the second part of my resolution has very much become a reality. In a few short hours I will be boarding a plan to Milan, Italy. Once there I will take a train to Florence to study art history for three weeks and then a bus to Parma to spend the semester as a student at the University of Parma. While I won’t be staying in Prosper and Bo’s world among the canals of Venice, I know I’ll get there eventually and have all sorts of adventures along the way.
I used to live by advice given to me in 7th grade: Writers write what they know. While I don’t necessarily consider myself a writer just yet, more and more so lately I have come around to the school of thinking that it is infinitely more satisfying to write beyond what you know. So I’m going to Italy, going beyond what I know, and I’m going to write about it. Here, in a journal given to me by one of my best friend’s mothers, in emails to my friends, it depends what strikes my fancy on a given day. I can’t promise that this will be updated regularly. I can’t promise that you’ll find it interesting. I can’t promise that it will make sense. I’m writing for me, but you’re more than welcome to come along for the ride.
Writers are too neurotic to ever be happy. - Connie Willis
One of the rare things I disagree with the brilliant Connie Willis on, though I do take her point.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s true! I hope not, though. I was on the phone to a writer friend, and we were talking about goals, and I said I wanted to be happy, and I felt startled and a little awed by the idea.
It was me! I was the writer friend she was on the phone with. “Happy?” I believe I said, as though I’d misheard her. “I didn’t know you wanted to be happy.”
When I was in my early 20s and drowning in pretension, I remember my girlfriend at the time asking me why I didn’t even seem to WANT to be happy, and I told her that I didn’t find happiness a compelling goal for life.
I’m still not really motivated by a desire to be happy, and I may well be too neurotic ever to be happy. But I have come to believe now that happy is one of the most noble and heroic things that people can be. I undervalued happiness because I associated it with simplicity and inattention. In fact, I suspect that happiness almost always results from being both attentive and accepting.
Maybe that is what writers as a rule cannot do? I don’t know. I can be accepting until I have to be attentive, and I can be attentive until I have to be accepting, but when asked to do both, I always retreat into fiction, where I make the damned rules.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Because Valentine's Day is coming up soon
- A: Who do you like and Why?
- B: Have you ever been in love? If yes, how many times, and how do you know it was love?
- C: Longest relationship you've ever been in, and why did it end?
- D: Have you ever changed for someone, if yes, how?
- E: Pretend I'm you ex, what do you want to say to me?
- F: Have you ever been cheated on?
- G: Have you ever cheated?
- H: Would you date someone who's know for cheating, if yes why?
- I: What's the most important part of a relationship?
- J: Do you like to be in serious relationships or just flings?
- K: When you are dating someone do you believe in going on "breaks"?
- L: How many people have you ever hooked up with?
- M: What's one thing you regret saying or not saying, doing or not doing in a previous relationship?
- N: What age do you think is appropriate for kids to start having sex?
- O: Do you believe in the phrase, "Age is just a number?" Why or why not?
- P: What about "Love at first sight"? Why or why not?
- Q: Turn on's?
- R: Turn off's?
- S: What do you consider a deal breaker?
- T: How do you know it's time to end a relationship?
- U: Are you currently in a relationship? If yes, for how long? If no, how long have you been single?
- V: Do you think people who have dated can stay friends?
- W: Do you think people should date their friends?
- X: How many relationships have you had?
- Y: Do you think love can last forever?
- Z: Do you believe love can conquer all things?
- 1: Would you break up with someone your parents didn't approve of?
- 2: If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice about dating what would it be?
- 3: Do you think long distance relationships can work? Why or why not?
- 4: What do you notice first about another person?
- 5: Do gay, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people bother you?