The Difference a (half) Decade Makes

calabria italy

Five years ago today I embarked on an adventure that would change the course of my life. Dramatic any? Oh yea. But it is also true. Five years ago today-on April 18, 2006-I bid a tearful goodbye to my mom, dad, sister, nephew and a culmination of 30 years of life as I’d known it.

I was torn, albeit willingly, from the safety net that had cradled me most of my adult life-no, let’s be honest here, most of my life-and I was on the cusp of adulthood. (Yes, the observant reader will notice I gave away my age up there and that yes, most Americans are considered adults by the time they reach that ripe old age, however, I was subconsciously preparing myself for this southern Italian life that allows 30 year olds to be cared for and groomed into their 40s.)

But that wasn’t the only thing I should have prepared for.

I’ve lived abroad,” I thought … “I’ve done the expat thing. How hard can this be?”

Cute, huh?

I look back on these naive thoughts with a smile and just a twinge of sadness for the girl who thought them.

That girl didn’t realize how hard it would be to be an ocean away from her favorite family traditions. She didn’t realize she’d yearn for her little nephew as if he were her own and she never thought of what it would be like to become a mother 6,000 miles away from her own.

That girl had a dad who was alive. A 95 year old great-great-grandfather who played the harmonica and went fishing. An otherwise healthy grandmother and cousins.

She had it all.

As I sit here tonight-the sing-song cry of a 4-month-old baby buzzing in the background-I think about these last five years, about sacrifices and gains … a new language, a new culture, a new family.

I look at my husband, a wee bit grayer than he was five years ago, as he struggles with the swaddle blanket, then rhythmically rocks and coos our now-bellowing baby in his arms. He marches up and down the hall and the cries become muffled whimpers as our sweet, normally mild-tempered bambino gives up the fight.

He gives me a “thank-God-that’s-over” grin … the same side-grin his son has inherited, as he sits on the edge of the bed and closes his eyes.

In this moment, I think not only of my sacrifices-although they were indeed immense and life-altering, but I am reminded of all that is good about this new path. My mind fills with images of how my life has been enriched by this Calabrian experience. How I’ve had the opportunity to start my own travel business and work side-by-side with my husband and best friend.

I think of the people I’ve met, my virtual and new real-life friends and I realize I had no choice.

Life is a nothing but a culmination of the choices we make, the paths we choose and the decisions on which we act and no, there is no turning back. So, if I could say one thing to that naive, starry-eyed Texan who boarded that Continental Airlines flight to Rome five years ago today, I’d say this …

Embrace your new Italian life …

Tell your parents how much you miss them …

and for God’s sake, girl, don’t eat the airplane pasta. There’s much more of that to be had, on the other side of the pond.

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Photo: Thumbnail photo by Calabria Mia Show

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Comments

  1. Nice memories of your five years! Ironic that the gift would be paper, for a blogger πŸ™‚

    I especially like the advice about not eating the pasta on the plane – I avoid the pasta and pizza on the plane for now and forever πŸ™‚

  2. Perhaps at 30 you were much smarter than you might have realized, because from what I see you are one of the lucky ones or should I say smart ones who has made a good life for yourself and formed a good solid family with an Italian man who really cares for you. So many young women move to Italy with stars in their eyes thinking they will have a great life with that cute Italian guy they met on vacation only to find out that things are much different than they had imagined. Good for you, I mean it. Congratulations on your 5th year anniversary. I’m please to see that you love your life in Italy.

    For me it will be 6 in September but then we were together and married for 10 years before the move so there weren’t any big surprises and no major sacrifices other than the obvious of missing family left behind.

  3. Lovely essay. And the baby is adorable. Did you ever get the card and picture frame I sent?
    Tanti Auguri!

  4. As we are about to embark on our return to Italy (this time for good) you bought tears to my eyes. I know how much our parents will miss us, miss seeing the grandchildren each weekend, and can only imagine how hard it is to let your children go. One day I am sure I will find out, our daughter is only 8 and has the spirit of a gypsy.

    As you say, it’s not about “sticking it out” but about accepting and becoming part of your life wherever you may be.

    all the best of life for the next five years, enjoy
    ciao lisa

  5. I’m sorry to say I didn’t realize you had a baby. I have to visit your blog more often. Congratulations. this was a lovely post with a lot of sweet thoughts for your family – in Italy and in the U.S. Buona Pasqua e auguroni.

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DKTravel1Michelin