I completed my last semester of college in Florence, Italy and underwent the most valuable changes of my entire life. I faced my fears of being alone, away from family and friends, away from my home and the only life I’d ever known, and I have learned the value of living for myself instead of trying to please everyone else. I gained confidence, and realized that communication is much more about your actions than the language that you speak.
Coming back from Florence, I was put right back into my old life—full of friends and family, love, and very much missed In n Out grilled cheese sandwiches. Questions about what my favorite part of Europe was, and inquiries about how cute the Italian men were seemed to float around me for the first couple days until after a couple weeks, it died down. People went back to their normal lives, and I was left awake at night wondering whether or not it was real, whether or not I could have dreamt the whole thing.
My best friend warned me this would happen, and so I prepared, purchasing a small bracelet the week before I left. Every time I feel a bit lost, and wonder whether the changes I have made within myself are really there and will stick around, I look down at my wrist and I remember.
I remember the time we started talking to a girl sitting by herself at breakfast, and how she turned into one of the best friends I’ve had. I remember claiming that if I didn’t see a river rat in person by the time I left Florence that I didn’t believe they existed…and how on my last night in Florence, sitting on a bridge over the Arno River, eating a handmade pizza I looked down and there one was swimming through the water. I remember making homemade pasta, rolling and rolling and rolling the dough out until my arms were sore and my stomach was grumbling. The sweet homemade tomato sauce deliciously complimenting the thick, slippery pasta—hard work very well rewarded.
Whenever my eyes catch sight of the leather bracelet, I feel myself smile as the memories of my time abroad come flooding back. I know that my amazing adventure in Florence wasn’t just a dream, and that the experiences I had, taught me the most important lesson of all: to finally love myself.