I apparently made it home just in time on Sunday because the snow started to come down pretty hard, hard enough that flights and trains were delayed. Kim and Abby had yet to come back so I was home alone with Nice, and spent the day finishing up my research for medieval history paper and for my European politics paper. Now, as much as I love learning and as much as I love Nice, leaving Bolzano to come back to Parma, though beautiful in the snow, where I would have to write two papers within the next week and continue to attend classes did not appeal to me. Sitting inside all day, scouring through poorly written articles for bits and pieces of information with which I could formulate my paper the day after seeing some of the most awe-inspiring vistas of my life did not improve my mood. I got a lot done, and actually finished, nearly, the research for both of my papers, but I couldn’t shake the funk that had been hovering around me while in Parma for the better par of the last couple of weeks. I was lonely, again, after leaving behind my family in Bolzano. Luckily I had the work to distract me somewhat, but I sat there in a dull mood all day. When Nice and I had dinner together she asked me about it, but I just shook it off as a result of exhaustion, when in reality the thoughts of home weighed heavily on my mind. Even when everyone arrived from Cairo in the evening and I sat with them I could not wipe away my gray mood. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I wanted to go to sleep and count away the days until I would board that flight home.
Maybe some of it was from the stress of writing papers. I had not done much work throughout the semester, but the sudden onslaught of doing the research, planning and writing necessary (at least in my crazy mind) to write a good paper, certainly stressed me. These papers had to be done by Monday, but this would be my last weekend in Parma and I wanted to enjoy it fully and freely. I wanted to be done with these papers early enough that I had only my two exams about which to worry. Per normal, I put a hefty amount of stress and expectations on myself without even considering it. My relentless work paid off, however, as I had finished both outlines of the papers by Wednesday evening which for me means that the rough drafts of the papers had been written. And for that I felt freed and happy.
Still, aside from the papers and also due to isolating myself for days to write the papers quickly, I continued the loneliness. I was not getting along with my roommates well because I was quite miserable and it showed. I barely talked to anyone all day and instead sat in front of my computer all day trying to finish these papers, but searching to talk to anybody from outside of my group. I needed to talk to somebody from home and it needed to happen soon. My homesickness and distress at how I had let myself come to not enjoy my time in Parma sickened me. Maybe it was just the papers. Maybe it was the underlying stress of missing Courtney or maybe it was pent up frustration with how I had approached the abroad experience, but whatever the reason the time had come for me to finally NEED to admit my unhappiness to somehow at home and look for some comfort through the magic of modern communications. I emailed Dad and asked him to talk Tuesday night.
I will not go into the details of my nearly 2 hour conversation with Dad, but needless to say it was one about life, specifically my life and how I approach it. We looked to dissect my reasoning behind the unhappiness, behind my constant anxiety towards this situation, among many other topics. I needed the talk. I needed to explore my own feelings outside of the confines of my head or my journal. I needed some outside perspective and some outside influence about how to go about life and what to expect from it. Introspection does do wonders but more often than not other peoples input will help. I won’t say that my conversation with Dad fixed my emotional state, because that would take some time yet.
By the time we had finished talking it was nearly 2 in the morning but I felt to antsy to go to bed. I tried to do some more work on my papers, but in reality I was waiting to have another conversation with Courtney, which we did. And again, no details, but I felt slightly better the next morning (even with the lack of sleep) as I went to Storia di Parma, but by the time I got home, around 12, and once again started to work without break, alone, in front of my computer I started to lose it. I was nowhere near over my anxieties and fears and disillusions. Abroad was not working for me which made me worry. Why wasn’t I enjoying this? Why couldn’t I let go of home for a bit or throw myself in? Why was I barricaded in a room writing papers? Why couldn’t I hop out of this funk? I needed to talk to somebody and Linda, Courtney’s mom, happened to be online. I Skype-chatted her and we ended up talking for two hours as she tried to help me through my emotional state. Still, I couldn’t breakthrough and continued to feel lost until my computer rang with a surprise call from Courtney. We talked for two hours and finally, finally I began to feel better as I launched through a long over due discussion about what I had been going through. It was so needed and made me feel so good that, for the first time all semester, I was late for a Nice dinner.
What has this experience taught me? Well it reiterated the importance of having some sort of conversation partners. Life cannot be spent entirely within one’s head. It’s beyond necessary to express your feelings and look for help with others regardless of how personal a problem might be. In my case I literally needed to escape myself in order for other people to help me along. But because of their talks and their advice and their ability to bear and deal with me expressing myself I came out of my hole. Parma and Italy suddenly seemed as they had weeks before. My room wasn’t a holding cell, it was my cute room overlooking a beautiful park with a beautiful homestay family in a marvelous little city filled with awesome food and people. I was in the country in which I had envisioned myself staying since my parents first told me about the existence of study abroad and since, for some reason, I decided to study Italian in middle school. I guess I just needed to talk to somebody about it.
I went up to dinner late, but with a smile on my face for the first time in weeks. I excused myself for being late, but neither Nice nor the girls minded because they could all tell some sort of change had come over me. I carried myself, once again, with the energy, happiness and amazement at being in Italy that I had in my first couple of weeks in Parma. It felt wonderful and liberating. And we began to talk over dinner when somehow the topic of departure came up, probably because it was December 1. Nice started to tell us the stories of the criers in the past who had such a hard time leaving. She shared stories of the Spring semester and explained how it was longer so more could get done and the students could come to be more integrated into Parma. She talked about how Kim would get to know this next semester and suddenly it hit me; I don’t want to leave at all. Why would I want to leave when there’s so much in front of me that I have yet to fully experience? Who would ever in his/her right mind willingly depart from Nice’s house? There was so much to do and so many people to get to know. Why was I leaving? And, yet, these sad thoughts didn’t sadden me, but instead reinforced my new energy because I knew that I once again loved Italy and loved Parma. The only sad part is that the end had begun and we were in our last two weeks of studying abroad.
Excuse that the pictures have nothing to do with this post