My first summer in Italy I survived. By the second summer I was adapting and by the third summer, last year, I finally felt stabilized. Now, for my fourth summer here in Italy, I’m ready to achieve.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot going on during that time besides gauging my mental state. We had parents visits, house construction, moves, and wedding and honeymoon planning. In that first summer I found a job teaching at an elementary school. It was tough and lovely and exhausting. It also meant I now had summers free. Not “freer”, not “a couple weeks off” but as free as an elementary school child. It was great! And difficult.
I didn’t expect it, but it took some time to get used to the idea of a free summer.
I had to separate my self-worth from my work, from busyness. I had to fall into the rhythms of Italy and accept them. I’m not complaining – with a beautiful garden, hammock and swimming pool any summer is complete – but I am saying that I wasn’t used to the luxury of extended free time, and it brought with it a change in mentality.
After three summers here I officially call Italy my home and mean it. I know my way around and speak the language more-or-less fluently. I’ve found a mechanic and tailor and hairstylist and I’ve fallen into a rhythm teaching elementary school with a much better employer in the meantime. This summer, the work isn’t for my external foundations. This summer it’s about me.
I’m dedicating the summer to my side hustle. To that tiny dream still nurtured in me despite four years of journalism school’s best efforts to persuade me otherwise. I want to write, and I want to be good at it too. (Note that I said good. Not award-winning, not jaw-dropping, not 100-books-a-year. Just solidly, legibly good.) Writing is what I do for me. The pain and difficulty of it make me feel good in that masochistic way that writers know well. I’m not a famous journalist, hell, I’m barely a “writer” if you consider a writer only one who’s paid – I just really freaking like it.
So, after a bumpy and unexpected start to my summer I’m back on track. I’ve signed up for an online creative nonfiction course with Gotham Writers Workshop to push me to write more often. I’ve started a journal, something I haven’t had since middle school. I’ve signed up for TBEX, the “Largest Gathering of Travel Writers & Industry Professionals” where I’ll finally get to meet the many people I work with at Walks of Italy – and hopefully many more in the travel industry!
Flying to Stockholm for a conference on my own is an entirely new experience for me, but necessary. This summer isn’t about hiding out in my studio or counting shopping trips as successes (which they of course are when you first move to a place). It’s about pushing myself to be better and to try something that scares the shit out of me.
This isn’t just about me. We can all benefit from a mid-year check-in of our personal lives. As the weather warms and the days get longer we’re taken back, however briefly, to the summers of our childhoods. To the longest days of our lives and the least filled. To the days when anything was possible and we viewed the world as elastic, big enough to accept whatever we create.
What are your summer plans? What do you want to accomplish this summer? What do you want to do or see? Where do you want to go? How do you want to grow?
It could be that you’re ready to make your side hustle something bigger. It could also be that you want to do less. Despite my current goals, I’m well aware that summer is a perfect time to just be. Whatever the case, tap into that childlike wonder at the face of summer. Enjoy the warmth, the strawberries, the smell of fresh cut grass toasting under the sun.
“You do not have to be fearless, just don’t let fear stop you.” –Charlie Day
Gone are the long days of chasing ice cream men and running barefoot, but even as adults strapped with offices, bills and struggles, we can still feel the possibility that summer holds. After four summers trying to find my way in Italy I finally feel like I’m not stuck desperately holding down the fort. Now I’m ready to build it up even stronger. I feel the possibility of summer and I want to take advantage. And with the entire summer free I can’t help but feel that I’d be a damn fool not to try!
Love the possibilities of summer? Read how to escape the daily grind with microadventures, “something different, something exciting—but cheap, simple, short, and on your doorstep.” Perfect for summer!