I’ve been back in Florence for about six weeks. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment and it’s nothing like what I was expecting. I had a great summer last year – working as an expatriate, traveling around Italy and making friends from across the world. Perhaps naively, I was thinking that this secondary expat section of my life would be the same.
I don’t mean to gloss over the difficult parts of last summer, but the overall feeling left in my mouth when I moved home was of a fantastic ten weeks in which I met some of my now closest friends. This time, I feel like I’m fighting to fit in. I showed up a month later than the rest of my coworkers/roommates and it shows in my daily routine. I often feel like an afterthought to people who bonded so deeply while I was still in the States. Simply comparing pictures from last summer to this fall, the difference shows.
I’m still smiling, posing with friends and presenting a person overall happy to be in Europe. But there’s an undeniable shift to more individual photographs, whereas those were rare last year. It’s been difficult to deal with adulthood, graduation, and learning to be on my own all at once. I can’t stress enough how many times I’ve felt so lonely that I almost moved back home. But I’m slowly learning how to fill my days on my own. I’m learning to travel solo. And I’m learning that sometimes my quiet time can be in a piazza absolutely packed with people. It isn’t easy to be on your own. But it can surely be worth it. While I know when this experience will end, which is sooner than I originally planned, I’ll never regret coming here. The only way to learn about yourself and grow as an adult is to put yourself in difficult situations, to encourage less-than-ideal experiences and to do it with a smile on your face.