I have always thought of life as a book, each with its own author, its unique characters, and its distinct settings. Some books are old, some are massive, some are classic fairytales while others live on forever. Each moment of your life contributes to your book, and every few years or even months a new chapter begins.
It’s always sad when a chapter in your life comes to an end, sometimes it’s obvious, like graduation day when you’re saying your final goodbyes to classmates you will never see again and sometimes its less obvious, like the slow and steady drifting and shifting of friendships but the book must always go on…
Soon this chapter in my life will end, the Italian chapter, and nothing has ever felt, and tasted oh so bittersweet. Everything… from the moment I received my acceptance letter, to the moment I got off the plane has been a moment I will cherish forever.
This chapter would not have been complete without the characters in it. The second I met another Jenna-Emily duo at orientation day I knew I had embarked on something magical…it’s not often that two friends named Jenna and Emily meet two friends named…Jenna and Emily half way across the world. From then on the characters that came and went added a bit of themselves to my crazy chapter. “Paki” the Pakistani man that owns the alimentari just below our apartment who we run to at 1 in the morning to grab a box of Ringos, the three Italian men that own il Principe the Pizzeria on the corner who always tap the window wildly when we pass by “Ciao Ragazzi!!!”, and the old man at La Carraia who give us a helpful amount of gelato samples when he knows we go there every single day. How could I leave out the men of Italy, dressed to the nine on a daily basis...hats, scarves, the most expensive jeans…outfits that have inspired and ignited my love for menswear and of course my instructors who have opened my eyes and showed me a different take on school. The list of characters goes on forever but to all I met on this whirlwind experience, thanks for the many laughs, kisses, hugs, shots, talks, chats, lessons and moments that I will always hold close to my heart.
A chapter is never complete without a distinct setting and although Florence, Italy was the location my favorite part of the whole city was Via Ghibellina…my apartment and the home Jenna and I built in these past four months. Struggling to carry 6 suitcases up 3 flights of stairs in the dead of the night is the first memory I will have of the apartment but not the last. Nothing is as raw, honest, and true as those moments spent in our tiny kitchen, in our messy-make-up-everywhere family room, in our own rooms with our twin size beds. After every mini- trip we took we could not wait to get back to our apartment, climbing the 67 stairs and collapsing on our beds. The times spent laying, snacking, laughing, storytelling on Via Ghibellina 76…just a few doors down from where Michelangelo grew up are times I will never forget.
For a chapter to have any significance in your book it must have a moral, a reason for being. Most chapters are small... they start and end quickly and the reason is clear. But there is no one lesson I could dedicate to my Italian chapter, four months, 6,187.17 miles, and living on my own for the first time in a foreign country is pure insanity and a lesson on its own. What I can say is that I came from a sheltered world, and I’m leaving with the world at my fingertips. I’ve learned to slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. I’ve learned that petty problems are so insignificant in a world so big, I’ve learned to appreciate all that I have back home and I’ve learned to never be afraid to love. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be alone for awhile because no matter what those who love you never really left your side. I’ve learned to appreciate the finer things in life, and I’ve learned to just be free.
The Characters, The settings, The morals - they all come together to begin and end your chapter, but there always needs to be something special that sets it apart from the rest and in my Italian chapter that special something was a 5 foot blue eyed girl named Jenna Dee D'argenzio who is the sole reason for this journey. On January 26th at 12:30 pm Swiss time I wrote in my journal…“I guess everything does happen for a reason and Jenna and I are living proof of that, who would’ve thought working at Gilly Hicks in the summer of ’08 would’ve led to flying half way across the world together.” And that is something I will always believe in…everything…no matter what it may be good or bad happens for a reason. Living with Jenna has taught me so much about myself and has helped me grow. I have never seen someone’s face day in and day out as much as I have seen hers…I could probably draw the freckles on her face from memory. She has taught me how to truly, wholeheartedly take care of someone in times of need; she has taught me what it’s like to laugh from the pit of my stomach and how to share my everything. I have learned compassion, I have learned to feel, I have learned that secrets don’t keep friends…all from her. The Sitters, The Storytellers, Taped out, The Duchess and The Wizard, Moon Unit Zappa and Diva Muffin Zappa no one will understand these moments but us and I have never felt so happy and blessed to have shared them with the little girl I used to crump with in the fitting rooms of Gilly Hicks.
I will be back one day, I know it, maybe on a honeymoon, maybe because I snatched a job of a life time, so this is not a goodbye to Florence,Italy…with your cobblestone streets, and your foul smelling sewers, your freezing cold weather, or your always buzzing streets. Il Duomo, Santa Croce, Michelangelo Square, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, Santo Spirito, Arno River, Piazza Republica, San Miniato I love you all.
The Italian Chapter has now come to an end…what’s left is to embrace the memories and keep on writing the book…