I wrote this/got home a week ago but things have been absolutely crazy so I haven’t had a chance to post… mi dispiace.
Sitting in the Florence airport awaiting my flight to go back home to New York, I can honestly say I thought this day would never come. I don’t have the tears streaming down my face as I thought I would. My stomach is churning in a weird sort of excitement and longing. I’m thrilled to see my parents today but that pull in my gut, which is clearly homesickness, is not for New York. On the way here, the bus carrying me and my near one hundred and fifty pounds of luggage drove down winding roads sprinkled with vespas, newspaper stands beckoning “La Nazione,” and road signs indicating which Italian city was where. I couldn’t help but think of how I’ll miss the rows and rows of motorbikes parked neatly on the cobblestones or the foreign signage that, at first, seemed alien but now is a more comforting familiarity than the McDonald’s golden arches.
Even parked on this laptop, across from an Italian couplet conversing fluidly and fast, I feel as if I should run out the front door of the airport and go back to my apartment. Back to my little twin bed in my own little corner of Florence. Back to Mostodolce so I can eat Chef’s crostonis. Back to the central market to have a conversation with the girl at the cheese counter one last time. These routines that have become second nature, these areas of Florentine life that have been parts of my stomping ground for the past four months are gone in a metaphorical flash.
And I can’t forget the people. My friends. My best friends. I left home anxious and deeply saddened to say goodbye to my nearest and dearest. Terrified of what I’d miss. Birthdays. Parties. Precious time. I never thought I’d meet the people I met. I never thought that I’d find solace in a group of Hawaiians – people from halfway across the world – that, I somehow, bonded with and loved like my own family. And really, that’s what we were: family. These strangers, whose lives were so completely opposite from my own, became intertwined in my life irrevocably. Tethered to this experience forever, I can’t comprehend the idea that it’s probably unlikely that I’ll ever see them again. How can someone fit so perfectly in your life for such a significant amount of time, just to disappear from it entirely when it’s over? Perhaps it’s because this experience wasn’t a significant amount of time. Maybe four months is not the allotted time for a friend to stick yet the only way to quell that doubt is to see them again; and who knows when life will allow me to go to Hawaii? I can’t help but have these piercing fears yet there’s a small grain of hope within me that feels like my connection with them is far from over and that our paths will cross again.
It seems terribly cliché and predictable to say I left a piece of my heart in Florence but it’s the only string of words that seems moderately appropriate to describe this feeling. Study abroad is such a bizarre slice of college that it really shouldn’t even be lumped in with the “college experience.” This wasn’t college – it was life. My roommate and I playfully called this whole thing “fake life” repeatedly, ad nauseam to our friends. I only now realize the extremity of these words. We took a four month sojourn from all responsibilities at home and established a life elsewhere. We built this new home and never admitted that it was contrived – we embraced Florence and, for the time, Florence embraced us. What we didn’t realize was that Florence never had plans to keep us forever – it couldn’t. The ties to our real homes were still too strong and the reality of this having to come to an end at sometime was unavoidable. Perhaps the strangest part of this entire finale is that I’m not wholly sure that I would stay if given the chance. I say this because that home, that family that I cultivated is gone. That life that I began is gone. I would be starting from scratch again if I stayed and truthfully, I have to wake up from this dream at some point. It might as well be now.