A little over a year and a half ago, I made the big move to Italy and officially became an expat. I had this image in my head of what it would be like; pasta every day (which is actually quite accurate), sweet Sunday afternoon walks with gelato in hand, and a slowness that could calm my inner, always hyped-up core. I had this idea that life would suddenly change, that I would find an inner peace that had been absent for as long as I can remember. It turns out that moving abroad can’t actually fix a lack of inner peace (crazy, right?!)
The first few months were easy, more than easy!
I slept in late, ate almost orgasm-inducing food, studied here and there, and enjoyed every second of living with my boyfriend after being long distance for about a year and a half. It was like a fairytale, and I figured the little kinks in the road would work themselves out with time.
I was so completely and utterly wrong. After those first few months, there was still a language barrier. There was still a growing realization of the vast cultural differences, and there was still a lack of comfort at all times.
It all came down to comfort; there was never a moment when I felt the ease of being “home” in this new country that I’d taken up residence in.
I was always waiting for the next person to stare at me as they observed my obviously non-Italian ways. I was always waiting for my professors to ask me a question that I didn’t understand. I was always waiting for someone to make fun of my accent as I tried to wrap my fingers around the language that I so desperately wanted to acquire. It was like constantly waiting to fail.
Within that first year, I passed two classes and failed three. What was I doing here? Why did I ever think I could do this? I started believing all the people who had told me that I was crazy for doing this, that I was insane for leaving my high paying job and degree I had been working on. Their words had seeped into my brain and were clouding my confidence with doubt and insecurity.
My confidence again took a hit when a professor asked me “why I was here if I couldn’t even speak the language”. It felt like a confirmation to my self doubt that had been festering inside me for far too long. She verbalized the very thing that had encompassed my very thoughts; who was I kidding when I thought this was something I was capable of conquering?
I began to confront the feelings that had been bringing me so much darkness.
I wanted to change the negative thoughts that made their way to my conscious the moment I opened my eyes to scour at the brightness of the day. My mental health had been swept aside as I ignored the inevitable; I was different. I was different than all the people I passed on the street, and I was different from all the people I now surrounded myself with on a daily basis.
We as humans thrive on the connection we experience with others, and I couldn’t find those connections. I couldn’t have those deep conversations with others like I was used to because there wasn’t a mutual language to communicate with. Worse yet, the differences in culture made me feels worlds apart from anyone I actually managed to talk to. I was alone in a world where I had tons of people around me each and every day that were just beyond my reach.
I had always been an independent person, so it was difficult admitting to myself that I needed others for my happiness.
The truth behind it is that we all do. It’s not easy making friends and new connections, and a whole new level of difficulty is added to that when you have to do it in a country where you don’t speak the language fluently and don’t share the same culture. It puts you in the most vulnerable of state, and we have to depend on the kindness of others to get through.
I recently began to shed my fear that paralyzed my linguistic abilities for as long as I can remember. I now speak more and face those encounters that my fear of speaking Italian tore me away from previously. It’s still a work in progress, and I still have a lot of mental growth to go through before I gain back the confidence that I had previously lost. I’m confronting things head on, and it’s working! I’m passing my classes, my relationships with others are flourishing, and my Italian language knowledge is growing.
Being an expat has it’s benefits, no doubt. However, far too often the negatives aren’t talked about. We sweep aside the very problems that need to be acknowledged the most. It is by doing this that we cause the most damage to ourselves as we continue on this road less traveled.
If being an expat has taught me anything, it’s that we alone can solve our inner-most quarrels that drag us away from the peace we all deserve to feel.
We alone can face the demons that have hidden within us, waiting for the opportunity to show their fury. We manifest fears within us and often only face them when there is no other choice. Your choice is here, and your choice is now, go get ‘em tiger!It's true, being an expat can be really damn hard! #expat #expatlife #lifeabroad #travel… Click To Tweet