At the end of my last post – which I wrote during my final days in Florence and posted all the way back in July – I wrote at length about the piece of myself that I was leaving behind. You remember, that little bit of me that I parted with at will, as a tribute to the great city that I love and all of the people and things in it. It’s clear in re-reading that post that I felt (and still feel today) deeply indebted to the place where I once dreamt of living, and that had turned my life into a dream. But much time has passed since I wrote that last post.
Coming back from my trip was harder than I had anticipated. I felt fulfilled and awakened in so many ways, but the reality of what I was coming back to didn’t necessarily match my new attitude. Outside of seeing my friends and family, I felt there was very little for me to look forward to upon my return. I’d built this amazing sub-life outside of the one I was used to, and coming back slowly and steadily threw me completely off balance. I started to feel a sense of panic, like I was losing my grasp on all of the amazing things I had just discovered. I was petrified of forgetting the language that I had so diligently studied, but was simultaneously too paralyzed with anxiety to practice it. Even speaking it alone in my apartment awoke feelings of severe sadness and polarizing isolation. I routinely looked right past my favorite Florentine-made soups and spreads that I had stocked my cupboard with, for fear that eating them would be in vain because I wasn’t there, or worse – once they were gone, would signify the absolute end to my journey.
And so it went on this way for quite some time. If I’m being honest, it worsened over time and has only gotten better in the very recent past. If it was hard at first, at least there was the constant excuse to talk about it with each new person I reconnected with. As more time passed, I stopped talking as much about it, stayed silent as I watched the slideshow of memories play in a loop in my mind. Over the past months, I’ve written post after post, most about my struggles readjusting to my life here, some about the damning admission of feeling a bit lost in life. I never felt any of them were worthy of publishing – they were too unfocused, too depressing. I just couldn’t seem to find my way.
Which is what brings me back to my last post. I wish I’d had the strength to read back through this post – to read through all of my posts – as I struggled to keep my memories alive while settling back into life here. If I had, I would have been reminded of all of the greatest feelings and revelations that filled me with love and life. I’d been avoiding looking back on my words all this time for fear that it would trigger even more sadness and longing. What I failed to realize is that each post that I clicked into, each word that I read, would instantly transport me back to the moment that I wrote it and felt it, the moment that it happened to me. I was treating my memories so delicately, keeping them so guarded, that I didn’t realize the power they still might have if I just let them blossom.
It’s almost like a dream. Like when you have a really amazing dream, and you wake up and you’ve got some sort of feeling that you don’t want to lose, and if you think or talk too much about the dream, it starts to kind of melt away. Things start to go out of focus; details get lost. So instead you keep it in your mind. You hold it there, cupped in your hands; you cherish it, you love it. But you don’t go back to it again and again, you don’t try to relive it. You let it exist as it is, and relish in the knowing that it’s there.
I think and write a lot about dreams. About real dreams, the kind you have when you’re sleeping. About dreams that are aspirations – goals you set for yourself or scenarios that you wish and pray will come true. I named my blog I Dream of Florence because of this preoccupation with dreams. Because I would go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning thinking of Florence, because I always wanted a life for myself in Florence, because as a writer I loved the idea of being able to say “I dream of Florence” paired with “I dream in Florence.” I love the symbolism that a dream can have. I love that you can dream of just about anything, and it can mean just about anything. Or, it can mean exactly what it seems. I started this blog dreaming of the place I wanted to be. I dreamt of the life I would have, the friends I would make, the things I would do. Now, after having lived that life, having met those friends, having done it all, I still dream of Florence. But now I dream of the life that I lived there. At night, I walk through the streets of my city. I see my friends, I visit the gardens. I dreamt a life that came true, and now I dream of it all over again.
So the point of this rambling is this – don’t let your memories slip away, don’t let them stay stagnant – not if it’s because you’re too afraid or too sad to revisit them. They won’t tarnish each time you take them out and handle them, they won’t fade and wear the edges like an old photograph. They will make you feel love and hope and happiness, they will transport you and remind you of things you didn’t even know you were missing.
And the reason I’m able to see things clearly today – the reason I’ve finally been able to come back to my rambling thoughts on my experience in Florence – is because today is the day that I return to the great city of Florence. Exactly one year to the day I left last year, and you know I’m a sucker for symbolism. I’m excited and anxious and all of the things you feel before a trip, but most of all I’m relieved. It turns out all it took to ease that pain and trepidation was an acknowledgement that it is still there for the taking. So I’m off to Florence with my memories in tow, and I’ve even packed an extra bag to bring back all the new ones. Arrivederci!