It’s amazing how the mind, body, and spirit will kind of shut down in an attempt to tell you what you are doing with your life is all wrong. I remember moments in the last few years where I didn’t want to leave the couch, where I woke up in the morning, one after the other, feeling like it was Groundhog Day. Where I looked around me and thought, “This is it? This can’t be it . . .”
I thought back to the old me, the 21 year old adventurer, slightly scatterbrained, super creative, very philosophical, and a dreamer open to the world. Ok, I overstuffed my backpack and on a train, hostlers said, “Do you have a kayak in there?” And I made many other mistakes along the way during my travels: missed trains, missed flights, hitchhiking with bus drivers, medicines left at home, and lots of lost rambling. But somewhere within all of that, there was adventure. My mind was ripped open and challenged — like lifting weights for the brain and spirit. I dunno, something about the soul too.
I missed that girl. When many people lose that side of themselves, they blame age. I knew better. I am gonna quote two travel chick flicks because, well, as cheesy as they may be, they are also right on about a few things. And since I’m a woman who up and left her life, shook it to the core for a chance at something new — they resonate with me.
In Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances is offered an opportunity to go to Italy. Under the cloak of depression after a divorce, she says “Thanks but no thanks.” Her friend says:
“You know when you come across those empty shell people? And you think, what the hell happened to you? Well, there came a time in each one of those lives, where they are standing at a cross-roads, someplace where they had to decide to turn left or right. This is no time to be a chicken-shit Francis.”
Frances, a writer, laughs at the Oprah cliche of the statement, yet at the same time, she ends up taking the advice and quoting it back to her friend after she buys a villa in Tuscany. She was comfortable in her misery at home. It would be so easy, so comfortable for me to stay in New York. When I got the job offer, I almost said “No.” Yeah, no to Italy, to my dream. Then I realized all the excuses in my head were purely fear talking. And I had to logically rise above the fear, reach for a dream, even when I didn’t think I had any, and take the LEAP. If I stayed, I envisioned withering. The negativity in my work environment was killing me, kind of literally. Parts of myself had already disappeared. I used to laugh easily. I used to seek fun. I didn’t feel witty or creative anymore. When I looked up at the clouds, all I saw were . . .well, clouds. But in the past, I used to see shapes and figures, dancing in their imaginary yet oh so real to me sky world. Puff the Magic Dragon, a dolphin jumping up into the air, two teddy bears hugging, the Michelin Man. But nope, I just saw clouds. I’d go to write, and . . .BLOCKED. My whole life was in survival mode. Get through the day, calm down, don’t let the chaos get to you.
The positivity here is amazing. I am so appreciated, even revered at times — I feel. And in addition to always asking “Are you happy?” coworkers are always thanking us for our work, praising our efforts, and providing support for our goals as well as invitations for drinks. It’s amazing. Plus, the beauty of Genoa and the proximity to so many fabulous destinations is — just perfecto.
I miss friends and family at home. I miss the variety of NYC food and entertainment. But overall, I am absolutely elated to be here. From the minute I said “Yes,” my spirit started to return. I started seeing shapes in the clouds, laughed through life, started writing again, started dreaming and living in the moment. “I saved my soul,” I said to one of my best friends before departure. There is nothing to regret.
In My Life in Ruins, a woman moves to Greece for a teaching job at the university, yet with budget cuts she lost it and became a travel guide. She is about to go back to the US when she realizes, she can get her kefi back — her mojo. It comes out in full force, of course, and she stays in Athens, elated and glowing.
I’m not saying I’m going to stay forever, but it is thrilling to know I have two years here — two years to continue growing, trying new things, and cultivating my mind, body and spirit. A friend said, “seeds as well as tilling” — planting the future me.
I just got back from a sunset swim in the sea, one of my favorite rituals here in Genoa as I’ve begun to seek new comforts. I don’t have cable tv. I open my terrace door and breathe the mountain air. The salty water drips from my hair down my neck. I am filled with gratitude and peace on this late summer Sunday.