Thursday, June 13, 2013

Farewell, Florence



As my time in Florence has reached its end and I begin to pack my belongings, I cannot believe a year has come and gone. The time has flown by, yet it feels as though my life in the states has become a receding memory in my rear view mirror.  

A year ago at this time I was saying goodbye to friends and family, bursting with anticipation to start my life abroad. Now, a year later, I am once again saying sad goodbyes to friends but bursting with excitement for my upcoming adventures.

As I gently close the door on Florence, I am opening another that leads me the next part of my journey. I am returning to Croatia to spend another summer with sun kissed skin and sea salt in my hair. I will spend another three months by the water, seeing old friends, making new ones, and sharing the beauty of our paradise with children from all over the world.

I am excited to return to a place that’s memories are only good ones – filled with warmth, fun, and love. However, I have spent the past nine months in a beautiful city, in a beautiful country, surrounded by incredible souls, so this goodbye will be quite bittersweet and Florence deserves a proper farewell.

After an adventurous backpacking journey through the Balkans, I arrived in Florence with no other plan but to begin Italian lessons and hope to find a job teaching English. My decision to move to Florence was based more on a whim than determination. I studied Italian history, art, and culture throughout my education, I taught children about the Roman Empire and Renaissance in my classroom, my father’s family comes from Guarcino – Florence just seemed fitting. As fate would have it, my path to Florence revealed itself with little complication or planning. If it is meant to be, it will be – so I found myself in Florence, Italy creating a life and home.

Looking back on the past nine months I know why I was meant to be in Florence. It wasn’t to party, to become an artist, or to find love – it was to test what I have learned about myself thus far and to continue to learn from the people I have met.
 
After I left the States, I landed in an untainted world, far enough away to recognize the cancerous social mentality that I was drowning in.   I spent a summer in a bubble without worries.  I was disconnected and free. So clearly I had the time and was in the ideal location to cleanse and restore my soul. I rediscovered myself in the gentle waves of the Adriatic, in the smiles and laughter of friends, and in the breathtaking views that surrounded me. So my time in Florence has been a trial to see how deeply those seeds were planted. 

 
When you return to routine, work, and errands after a vacation it is easy to leave the serenity and peace you just embraced behind. There were times during my stay in Florence where I found myself just going through the motions and in the sticky rut of routine. However, God graciously surrounded me with a wonderful support system that helped break old habits and weaken the dominance of my mind over my heart. 


 
Some may think it is all by chance or proximity – but I believe we cross paths with others for a reason. While in Florence I have met people that have taught, directed, listened, and supported me on this spiritual journey. Some of them I met on my first day of Italian lessons, others through friends of friends, at work, and some were even my students. I have learned more about faith, our life on this earth, struggle and growth, and following your heart from every precious moment I shared with these people than I did back in the States.  So I must thank Carolyn, Tash, and Silvia for imparting your wisdom, offering your friendship, and fostering my spiritual growth.

I am secure of my identity and confident of my values and beliefs. I know what I want from life, from love, and from myself. I know what I have patience for and what I cannot tolerate. If I do not enjoy or learn from something, I do not partake in it. I am too old and have lived too many lives to fake happiness or friendships.  We manifest our own fulfillment and happiness. We have every power to walk towards or walk away from something that does not serve us or help us grow.
Part of our existence on this planet is to experiment with free will. I believe there is a plan for each one of us; we have a purpose in this world and a path to travel. With free will we can veer off course from this path and create new experiences and obstacles; however the outcome will not change. We just create detours, but eventually we will get back on course and continue on.  Every experience, challenge, and person is part of my journey and it is vital to reflect on why they are part of it.

As I have said before, every person has a story and one is no grander or more important than another. We all have battles to face, skeletons to hide, and sins to forgive. Over time, I have begun to learn from mine and allowed this wisdom to direct me. Over time, I have realized that I must not only learn from my own journey, but from others’ as well.
 
I have constantly found myself in situations where people effortlessly reveal their life story to me.  Friends, family, colleagues, students, and strangers alike sit across from me and spill their heartache, fears, or troubles. I return these honest confessions with advice if wanted and reassurance if needed.  I know I am not a life coach – I know I may not be as knowledgeable, wise, or experienced as one should be to offer advice – but I am a good listener and genuinely want to ease the burden of others. With each encounter and each exchange, I learn from the other’s experience. We sit, expose our souls, grow, and heal together. Luckily enough I have not had to endure some troubles that people I met have. However, I am able to learn, grow, and recognize the type of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague I wish to be.

I lived in city that defines an era of rebirth. Florence is the epicenter for culture, art, humanism and discovery. Ironically, I have been able to live in this Renaissance city for my own rebirth. With Italy’s prime location and the help of others I have continued my journey of travel and soul-searching. 

A job is to be fulfilling, not endured. A lifestyle is to be enjoyed, not regretted. A love is to be whole-hearted, not indifferent. Little by little, I am piecing the lessons of my life together and slowly becoming the best version of myself. I will continue to love fiercely and live fearlessly, wherever that will take me in this crazy, beautiful world of ours.




 So as I bid farewell to Florence, I must pay tribute to the city that was my home.

I will truly miss….

The sunset from Ponte Santa Trinita
The way dining is seen as an artwork and the base of social activity
The busy cobbled streets that lead to quiet passageways
The allegiance to tradition and history
The breathtaking grandness of the Duomo – and all of the city’s architecture
The constant opportunity to hop on a train or plane for a getaway
The comfort of church bells
The way the sun battles the shade in alleys and piazzas
The melodies from street music that saturate the air
The conversations communicated through gestures, not words
The richness of true gelato
The playful innocence in young Italian children’s eyes
The way jasmine and fresh pastries perfume the air
The steadfast loyalty to family
All of the tempting and delicious food
The way a rainy morning opens up to abundant sunshine
The custom of Aperitivo
The Italian siesta and with that, the appreciation for living over working
My run along the Arno and up Piazzale Michelangelo
Quelo Café and the welcoming home they created
The way Claudia sings from her heart
My wonderful apartment – truly a lucky find
 
…and most importantly, I will miss all the friends I have made in this Tuscan town who have kept me smiling and have shaped my journey

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