Admitting Defeat in the Sidewalk War

I have to admit that I have been feeling a bit weird these past few weeks. There are a number of reasons I have been excusing myself for these feelings, including; the weather, lack of travel with work and dwindling funds, among other things that I’ll spare my readers. Everything seems to be getting to me and the muscles in my back are killing me with tension. It seems so silly, it’s not like my life is hard or anything. I live in Florence, I have a job (finally), I travel for my job, I write, I go out sometimes. But for some reason, I can’t really relax.

Walking through the streets of Florence has always been a tough task for me, I hate crowds and I walk at a fairly fast pace. These two qualities do not equal success on the small sidewalks and the crowded squares of Florence. I’ve tried everything to relax. I listen to Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews on my way into town, I bundle up to avoid the cold, I try to see the smiles of the people around me. But I just can’t seem to see them, maybe they are not there, but something tells me it’s not the case.

People that live in Italy like to bitch. They bitch about the system, they bitch about the Italians, they bitch about the language and they bitch about the lack of variety and change that they find here. In college, I had friends that studied in Italy and they came home praising their Coca-Cola and speedy internet connections. I vowed to myself to see the good in the difference. Then I stayed here for longer than six months, and I saw all the things that everyone bitched about. I had to deal with the system and it sucks, I felt rushed drinking my coffee after class, I didn’t know where to settle in. I got angry at the cashier when he argued with me in Italian and then when it was solved he said simply Thank you”, the only English word he knew, after an entire conversation of us both speaking in Italian. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just see that I was trying and appreciate that.

I just read a post of over on Bacon is Magic where Ayngelina had to deal with the South American police, who instantly softened up when they found out she spoke Spanish. She said that this is her reason for learning the language in the first place, so that people would be more welcoming. But no matter how many new vocabulary words I add or new tenses I learn after almost five months of studying Italian, the same people will treat me like a stupid tourist, while others will be happy to see me regardless. Sometimes I just feel like I can’t win. I misunderstand one word and they can’t bother to try speaking Italian with me anymore.

A conversation I had recently with a particular couple of people that always have an opinion and who are the kind of people who believe humanity is the downfall, made me stop and see that I’m just joining the ranks. I see a difference in the expats in Florence. They are hard to get to know, they walk around with a certain arrogance, and it’s one I want to avoid. But as I am throwing evil glances left and right at the people who just can’t seem to walk considerately down the sidewalk, I have allowed myself to fall right into the crack I was trying to avoid.

There are things I miss from home but they are not things that I blame Italy for not having, I wouldn’t complain if they were here and I’m not complaining to Italy that they are not just because I’m homesick. Instead of walking through the city center everyday tense and just waiting for some idiot to step in my path, I have to relax. I have to appreciate it because sooner than later it will be gone, then there will be things that I’ll miss.

People are people, all over the world. They have their own culture and their own way of integrating with the rest of the world. And who is anyone to say any of it is wrong. Instead, just see it and be happy you were there to see it. Having an unwavering opinion of the way things should be just sets you up for defeat because there will always be someone that doesn’t see it the same way. Be thankful that you have an open enough ear to just hear what others have to say and try to understand, and if it doesn’t change how you feel then move on.