It’s been ages since I’ve posted a vlog on YouTube. Today, I decided to change that. 🙂
Many things seem so small, especially problems.
Every couple of months, I find myself standing on top of a mountain somewhere in Japan. Each step upwards feels like torture…and an accomplishment. I look toward my fellow climbers in awe, at their speed and the seeming ease with which they climb. Of course, I don’t know what their experiences are–they could be suffering as much as I am. The climbing could be a testimony for each one of us that we are alive and still trying.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the past decade of my life. At this moment in 2008, I was planning a wedding and preparing for a future that certainly isn’t the one I’m living now. By this time in 2009, I was dreaming of living in the house that I would eventually call home before the year’s end. In 2010, I had lost 80 pounds, was trying to save my dying marriage, and by Thanksgiving, was mourning the death of my beloved pet.
The end of March 2011 found me preparing for my third visit to Rome, trying to figure out how to live life as a single and mostly jobless person. I was still dreaming–this time, of living in Rome. By 2012, I was a full-time undergraduate, living, studying and working in Rome. The following 4 years were marked by a series of avoidable and unavoidable events, all of which left me pretty broken but with a good deal of insight.
By the end of March 2016, I had been living in the U.S. full-time for 6 months. I had gained back half the weight that I’d lost, was in the throes of a serious depression, and living in a highly psychologically toxic environment. Something had to give–I had fallen to my lowest point.
When you’re at the bottom, seeing or even imagining the top can be difficult.
I couldn’t see up or even imagine what life could be like beyond what I was experiencing at that time. However, I knew that there had to be some other kind of life for me.
Where I was, how I was, who I was, and what I was doing…was not my final destination.
I didn’t know if I could ever be happy. I didn’t know where I could go or even what I would be capable of doing. I just knew that I no longer wanted to be a participant in prolonging my circumstances.
I had to take a step forward and upward, even the smallest one. And so I did.
On Friday, March 17, 2017, I began a new journey. I boarded a flight to Japan, a country I’d never been to before. I didn’t speak the language and knew very little about the culture. Still, I knew that I had to take the chance, to give myself the opportunity to change, to begin climbing out of the deepest hole that I’d ever stumbled into.
When you’re climbing a mountain, you have to use both your hands and feet.
Now, it’s Friday, March 30, 2018, and I’m sitting in a Starbucks somewhere north of Tokyo. My partner is working on her laptop, and I’m listening to The War on Drug’s “Pain.” I haven’t reached the top of my mountain. Still, I am no longer at the very bottom. It’s a start, and that’s always the hardest part when you’re climbing–at least, for me. There are times when it feels like I can’t catch my breath, like my feet won’t take another step, like my hands won’t support me as I reach upwards. Still, I try.
That’s what I’ve learned over the past decade. All you can do is try and never give up. Every problem is a mountain. Tackling each one means getting to the top. Getting there, however, means looking ahead, taking each step carefully, being prepared to use whatever means necessary to secure yourself…and definitely having those who care about you by your side.
Until Next Time,
Another grey summer day in Japan and life continues on. I wake up to a wall of clouds outside my window, the sounds of money being earned with each passing car, and the hazy whispers of my partner. It’s barely 6 AM.
I consider 24 hours earlier: I was standing in her apartment, face unwashed, clothes disheveled, emergency backpack straddling one shoulder, and wondering if this was our last moment together–North Korea had launched a missile towards the north of Japan.
A few months earlier, I arrived in Japan with a baseline plan of refocusing myself, laying the groundwork for accomplishing future goals, surviving earthquakes, and embracing the unknown.
This morning I am content with waking to a winter-like sky, watching my partner eat leftovers for breakfast while taking pleasurable sips of a Starbucks’ soy green tea (matcha) latte, smelling burning sandalwood incense, listening to passing cars and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on YouTube, and wondering and planning what else the future holds.
I am moving forward with writing, with loving, with being loved, with enjoying the simplest aspects of life while appreciating how complex life can be. For now, I’ll return to daily blogging, sharing my thoughts about life in Japan, how I’m managing my fibromyalgia, and whatever else that comes my way.
Until Next Time,
Join us tomorrow for the Institute of Creative Writing and Literary Translation‘s faculty reading and welcome party. Hear the latest works from our professors: Elizabeth Geoghegan (pictured above), George Minot, Michael Carroll, Elena Buia Rutt, Mike Traenor and David Keplinger. The event will be held on the Secchia Terrace in JCU’s Guarini Campus from 6:30 PM […]
Join us on Monday, May 30th (Memorial Day), in celebrating the life and work of author Lucia Berlin (1936-2004). This event will feature JCU professor Elizabeth Geoghegan, Italian screen and fiction writers Chiara Barzini and Francesca Marciano. Event will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Room G.G.1 in JCU’s Guarini Gampus. Click here […]
I don’t know where in the world you are, but where I am
90 degrees (Fahrenheit),
and boring as all heck.
I’m trying to console myself because my Words with Friends-designated laptop is in the remote hands of some person very far away in some office belonging to Microsoft, who is trying to fix my operating system.
It’s no good, this.
I’ve not had much else but peanut butter and ginger ale today, and I keep thinking I should eat something, but my laptop being remotely controlled is keeping me fixed to one spot.
Life ought not to be this boring:
watching a “Downloading installation file: Feel free to keep using your PC.”
Twirl-twirl-circularly moving dotted thingy…
I’m at 15% complete with an
Estimated time: 2 hr 27 min 12 sec
2 hr 25 min 7 sec
away from being able to move from this spot.
Every now and again, I pretend to be “with it” (do people still use with it?) and “slide” the “buttons” the phone my mom made me get because she was embarrassed by my Verizon flip-phone from 2013. Now, I’m Boost Mobilin’ and tweetin’ (not really).
19% complete and
I’m wondering if using my other laptop means that I’m having an affair.
At 24%, I feel almost a quarter way decent about my position in life,
sitting on a bed,
sweat collecting to drip,
my wanderlust has taken control of my mind and prompting my feet to move.
How far do I want to go in
2 hr 11 min 30 sec?
Maybe Newark International Airport,
but then I wouldn’t come back here for a while.
That’s the thing about being nomadic, you see.
Opening the front door means that there’s another
awaiting you somewhere.
But at 30%,
I’m not even a third way complete.
How fast, I wonder.
How much faster must I travel within
to have the freedom to live without
the burden of time and place.
1 hr 56 min 17 sec.
A young friend of mine sent her passport renewal paperwork yesterday. While that, in itself, is interesting, what interested me most was she said afterwards: “I wish I could move that quickly about everything that I want to accomplish.”
And, indeed, she had moved quickly. In fact, it took her only a day, from the time we first spoke about renewing her passport, to complete the paperwork, acquire the $100 renewal fee, and to mail it all.
You see, she wants to travel. Her desire to travel to accomplish what can be seen as a rather tedious task.
Although travel is appealing in many ways, it was not the key factor in her choosing to act quickly. The key factor was her desire. Her feeling of wanting something caused her to take the steps towards achieving it. It’s a no-brainer, right?
Well, maybe not.
Many of us live our lives doing what we believe is expected of us and never question why we are doing what we do. As we get older, we begin to cast aside dreams, disregard opportunities for change and play into the notion that whatever we are, that is what we were meant to be. In essence, we lose our desire for living outside the confines of societal and familial expectations. Whatever curiosity and passion we held in our childhood, adolescence and young adulthood become seemingly spent, used up by the rationality of being a grown-up. Then we spend our time lecturing those who are younger on how not to end up like us, but to make sure that they live within societal norms while giving up on fantasies (a.k.a dreams).
Of course, this is not applicable to everyone. However, a good number of us seem to operate in this manner. We seem to work to cancel out possibilities of younger people living extraordinary lives.
“I wish I could move that quickly about everything that I want to accomplish.” In this one statement, my friend revealed that
- 1) there are things she wants to accomplish, but has little motivation so to do, and
- 2) when there is something she really wants to do, she accomplishes it quickly.
Well, the answer to her problem becomes simple: she must figure out the things she really wants to do in her life, rather than trying to accomplish what she believes she should.
Knowing what you really want out of life, what you are truly passionate about (even if it is challenging or lacks impressive financial rewards), what moves you to positive action (not reaction), what moves you to constantly evolve can only lead you to live a life full of meaning.
So, what was my response to my young friend’s statement? “Well, just do as you did with your passport.”
- Acknowledge what you want,
- Research the steps you need to take to accomplish it, and
- Take the first step, and then the second, and the third, etc., until you get to where you want to go.
Living a meaningful life is truly a work of ART.
So, start painting your dreams into reality.
Until Next Time,
(From article “‘Italy Reads’ Program Holds 2015 Student Video Contest Award Ceremony” on JohnCabot.edu) Now in its 7th edition, Italy Reads is John Cabot University’s community-based reading and cultural exchange program. Each year, high-school teachers and their students read a work of American literature and engage in discussions and activities surrounding the themes, in English. […]
I’m lucky–I’ve always dated people whose birthdays were close to Valentine’s Day. Even better, I married someone whose birthday was on Valentine’s Day itself.
Of course, I didn’t always realize my luck.
But first, let’s have a Sophia Petrillo moment, and “picture it”:
Valentine’s Day, 2014, a not-so-little Indian restaurant in the heart of Rome’s Monti district, a solitary woman dressed in bright colours walks in and asks for a table–alone. Already the front room is crowded with couples, but there is one table tucked away in a corner where the woman can sit…completely observed. It’s perhaps not the strangest sight that the diners will see for the night, but it’s definitely contrary to what’s expected. Where’s her date? or Is she waiting for someone? or Has she been stood up? they might wonder. Nope. She’s there on her own, taking herself out for Valentine’s Day.
Of course, I’m not the only one who does this. I’m sure many people do, regardless of gender/sex. It’s just not what others apparently expect. What they seem to expect is that you ought to be at home, complaining to fellow single friends about your single status, drinking your sad singleness away, pining after an old lover or unrequited love, shoving a ton of chocolate down your throat, and then chasing it with a tub of your favourite Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream (or gelato if you’re in Italy). What they don’t seem to expect is that you can celebrate Valentine’s Day all on your own and love doing it. If you’re single, then help me to disspell that misguided notion.
After all, let’s consider what Valentine’s Day really is: a day dedicated to Saint Valentine of Rome, who was executed just outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269 for refusing to renounce his belief in Christianity. His feast day is February 14th, hence we celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Moreover, he’s not just about candies and hearts. Saint Valentine is the patron saint of “affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.” (Catholic.org)
So, this brings me back to being lucky. I’ve been lucky because I’ve never really had the thought that Valentine’s Day was something do with my receiving anything (be it candy or flowers). It was always a day about my remembering someone special to me and showing them my gratitude for their existence. Being single doesn’t change that. Valentine’s Day continues to be a day that I remember someone special and that I show gratitude for their existence…it just happens to be me. 😉
This Valentine’s Day, try to remember that it’s a day to:
- honour your faith (if you are Christian)
- remember a saint (if you are Catholic),
- thank the universe for the existence of bees (if you are bee keeper),
- ask for relief from suffering (if you have epilepsy or fainting spells or the plague),
- pray for a safe journey (if you are a traveller),
- embrace your youth (if you consider yourself young),
- say hello to people around you (if you are not alone, and if you are, then go find someone to say hi to),
- remember that someone has decided to put up with your crap (if you are engaged),
- remember that someone has been putting up with your crap for some time now (if you are married),
- work on having great sex (if you have a lover),
- and love yourself and those around you (if you aren’t already doing it).
So, what will you do this Valentine’s Day? I know I’m looking forward to going to church (since it falls on a Sunday–lucky!) and thanking the universe for all that I have. To top it off, I’ll likely have a piece of chocolate, give my mom a hug, make plans to travel in the near future, and wonder about the beauty of bees.
In the meanwhile, check out this video 🙂
Are you studying abroad in Rome and thinking about working there afterwards? Well, the video below may be useful for you. Prior to graduating from John Cabot University, I decided that I wanted to give myself the option of remaining in Rome to work, which meant changing my residency permit type, from study to work.
With much help from friends (thank you, Dario and Sylvia), my university, and the Garbatella patronato, I was able to get through the process successfully. Still, I found the experience quite stressful, especially going to the renewal appointment alone.
In this video, I show you where you need to go to renew/change your Permit to Stay (Permesso di Soggiorno), and explain the basics of what you need to do before you go.
Hope you’ll find it useful!
Have specific questions? Feel free to ask.