The Birthday Edition: Careful What You Wish For

Last week I celebrated yet another birthday. This past trip around the sun has been a whirlwind, providing me with many things to reflect upon: a marriage, a life abroad, and time out of work. Typically, in anticipation of my birthday, I take special care of myself: I plan healthy meals, kick my workouts up a notch, and select a good book for quiet evenings. Sometimes, I’ll plan a trip (Siberia!) or sign up for a class and learn a new skill – anything from painting to pole dancing. A perfectly prescribed balance of activities designed to put me in a state of unearthly calm as I begin another year. In short, October becomes a month that is truly a “Song of Myself.”  But this year, dear Reader, the month just didn’t unfold that way…

Feeling Displaced
The month started out strong with a few magical days in Matera followed by a week with friends in Barcelona, one of my favorite cities. When we returned from Barcelona, however, I was struck by a wave of restlessness. An unexpected anxiety had seeped into my life here in Napoli. While Billy reassumed his routine at the office, I was left to contemplate what, in the absence of my own job, my purpose here in Napoli might be. The state of Italy’s economy is pitiful and the few available jobs are located way up north or are, simply put, uninspiring. For this reason, I – and many of my übertalented friends – are struggling to adjust to the casalinga (housewife) lifestyle.

Despite the fact that I love my life with Billy and our home here, I can’t help but feel a bit displaced. And, hell, aren’t I? Living in a strange country, learning a strange language, and “working in the home” – it’s the antithesis of my life in Boston or any life I have known up until now. **Cue the guilt**  But then I think, isn’t this the kind of intellectually stimulating life I saw myself leading? Traveling, making friends from all over the world, having hours upon hours (maybe too many hours) at my disposal to write and study? Isn’t this what I dreamed about while stuck at my desk job for years? Of course it is! It is indeed and yet… I suppose I didn’t expect my “ideal life,” full as it is of new stimulus and fresh challenges, to be so… (ahem)… challenging.

Arguably, this time abroad is an opportunity. An opportunity to indulge in my passions, to acquire new skills, to step back from the career path I was on to contemplate whether it truly suits me. And so this time, if used wisely, must also be a period of tough questions: at what do I excel and what kind of work is meaningful to me? How do I prepare myself to explore new career paths? Sigh. Complete freedom is daunting is it not, dear Reader?

Speaking of challenges and birthday goals…. with Billy’s encouragement, I signed up for a race on the insanely steep Mount Vesuvius.

The Vesuvius Race – A Stream of Consciousness Retelling
Ugh. Why did I agree to this? Come on, it’s only a 5K. I’ve run tons of 5Ks! Not at a complete incline but…. Stretching feels good. Maybe we should just stretch instead. We’re starting! Fire up the playlist! Slow and steady, don’t be a hero…. Yay! There are my friends! Running is fun! See, this isn’t so ba – Jesus, this is steep. It’s pretty bad. This is really bad. I hate this. I wonder if Billy will be up for pizza afterwards. If I even make it. My chest feels tight. Maybe I’m dying. Hellz yeah! I love this song! Is it even cool to like Will Smith’s “Miami”? Probably not. Whatevs. Bienvenido a Miami! Water stop. Next year I’m passing out water.

Ugh. I can’t believe this is still happening. My half marathon was easier than this! Cheering spectators. Must be getting close… I hate cheering spectators. Try running next year, jerks! Why am I so negative? I should be positive. You got this! Yeeeeah, get it girl! Christ, that’s annoying. Didn’t even help. Is it possible to think totally neutral thoughts? An apple is red. Still not helping. Apples actually come in several colors. Steep, steep, steep. No straightaways. None. Un-fucking-believable. Oooh! Look at the view! I want a full pizza. Billy needs to get his own. Finish Line up ahead. Better straighten up. Pizza and a nap. Definitely a nap. Wave to camera. Back to bitch-face. Annnnnnd…..DONE! Hashtag for this race? #neveragain

Final Thoughts (For Now)
Obviously, it’s tempting to wrap up this post by saying my restlessness has passed – that I’ve got some things figured out. But, rather unsurprisingly, it hasn’t and I don’t. That’s okay. It’s okay that, in four short months, a plan for my future life’s work has yet to crystallize. It’s okay not to commit to something – any old thing! – just to avoid some soul-searching.

And most importantly, this uncertainty is definitely no reason not to celebrate my birthday! Remember my übertalented friends? They were kind enough to host a Mexican dinner in honor of my special day, no small feat in Southern Italy where it’s all-Italian-all-the-time. Though my brain may be a bit scrambly this year, I’m still incredibly grateful – for my William, for this experience and the challenges that come along with it (excluding that nasty Vesuvius race!), and for the love and support I’m receiving from both sides of the pond. Buon compleanno a mi!

Leave a Reply