Throughout this process – in thinking it through on my own, in asking for advice, and even in receiving unsolicited advice – the fear of judgment from the outside has been an omni-present stressor. I’ve questioned myself and my decisions, afraid that my potential mistakes would prove everyone else right. If I took a wrong turn, or if I ended up floundering, jobless, and alone – that ubiquitous fear of “I told you so” was always looming. And to some extent it’s still present somewhere in my brain, even as I live through my first days in the city of lilies.
A place to rest your weary legs
But if my initial set of fears was centered around other people’s expectations of me, a new, more singularly focused set has begun to form as I’ve started my life here – based namely on disappointing myself. There’s a certain amount of pressure associated with the belief that you must make every moment count, especially considering all I’ve mortgaged just to be here. Before I left, every time someone asked me what my plan was, which I had very little idea of, I imagined touching down in Florence, looking around, and thinking…what the hell am I doing here?
A quiet side street on the Oltrarno
Even now, as I wake up in my quaint Italian apartment to the bell of the campanile tolling, I must admit that I still feel that question mark inhabiting the space where my decisive clarity should be. I still have no set plan. I’m still not completely sure why I’ve come here or what I’ll be doing, or more accurately what I ought to be doing. But even so, in the midst of this ambiguity, I’ve experienced these moments of intense clarity, moments in which my eyes well up with tears of pure amazement and bemusement and gratitude. Upon seeing two swans sunning themselves on the banks of the Arno. Upon smelling the sweet perfumed wisteria blooms that spill over old city walls on quiet residential streets. Upon hearing the sounds of a violin playing in Piazza Santa Trinita, carried weightlessly by the cool morning breeze. Or even right now, as I lounge on a cool stone bench in the shade of the pergola at the Boboli Gardens.
The stage is set in Piazza Santa Trinita
The Italians have a philosophy called il bel far niente, or il dolce far niente, which translates to the beauty or sweetness of doing nothing. It’s about finding pleasure in sweet idleness. For this uber-planner, it’s a tough concept to grasp. But I’m starting to understand it. I can visit every church and museum, study every statue and painting, but it’s the moments in which I’m not trying to accomplish anything that I find the most moving. Perhaps I haven’t figured it all out. Perhaps I won’t anytime soon. But I’m learning that perhaps these are the moments I’m living for. And that can get me by for now.