Ciao a tutti! Hello everyone!
I know, I know. It’s been a while, but I’ve finally managed to get my act together long enough to write another post. I wish I could say I’ve been super busy, but as you know, I just love to procrastinate (See: For Real This Time…). Here in Italy, the winter cold is far behind us and Easter is just around the corner. Spring is, and always has been, my favorite season. I’ll admit, I’m even more thrilled to be spending it in Angiari, where I don’t have to worry about surprise blizzards in May. Regardless of where you live, there’s something so beautiful about this time of change and new beginnings. There are the obvious changes, like the snow melting, flowers blooming, students graduating, and of course, baseball starting up again (sorry, had to “toss” that in somewhere). There are also changes that aren’t as easy to see, changes that occur within ourselves.
I have experienced a lot of these more personal changes during my time abroad. Some of them I’m very happy about: gaining the confidence to travel on my own, learning a new language, and relying on my family less. I mean, don’t get too excited, there is still plenty of room for improvement in all these areas, but I definitely have made some progress. There have also been changes that I’m not exactly thrilled about, and I’m not just talking about six hour time changes or changes in my pant size (lol, thank you, pasta). The hardest change I’ve had to overcome is the change of traditions. Out with the old, in with the new.
Right now, back in the Midwest, my family is making plans for Easter–who’s hosting it, what kind of potatoes to make (cheesy, duh)–and placing bets on whether or not Nick will make it through lunch without taking his shirt off (you’re welcome for that shout out, big bro). If I were at home, I would be making arrangements to sing in church or I’d be picking out the perfect Easter dress, preferably one that hides my inevitable food-baby. Of course, this year, my Easter will be a lot different. Furthermore, as spring speeds past us and summer arrives, my friends will hang out more.
There will be music festivals, baseball games, and days spent on the lake. They’ll have new inside jokes and they’ll make new memories. Though I am incredibly happy and blessed to be living in Italy, I can’t help but think about these “new memories” and how I won’t be apart of them. While I am living my life here, everything is still going on back home. I have a severe case of F.O.M.O.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, FOMO is the fear of missing out. It’s something you’ll inevitably experience when you live 5,000 miles from home. For me, it’s the hardest thing about living overseas and this is probably due to my ADHD. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to be in the current moment, it’s constantly interrupted by an explosion of thoughts about what’s going on back home. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I would get homesick, but I didn’t know I would miss so many things. It’s as if my homesickness is amplified by my ADHD.
Now I don’t mean to be *that person* and complain about living in Italy, but as I read more and more blogs about other people’s experiences as au pairs, I’ve noticed that this is something that is often ignored. We all try to create this illusion that we are perfectly happy living abroad and being away from our family and friends, but the truth is, we think about it everyday. Well, I do at least.
That being said, the point of this post isn’t just to tell you how much I’ve missed my mom’s baked corn and my brother’s wacky sense of humor. It’s also meant to show you how I’ve learned to enjoy new traditions and experiences, even though I’m missing out on the old ones. To explain, I’ll have to take you back in time a few months, to where my FOMO was the strongest: the holiday season.
I could write an entire blog post purely devoted to the Klug Family Thanksgiving. I usually look forward to it all year, but this year, I was dreading it. I wasn’t going to be able to watch the parade with my grandma or eat the amazing meal prepared by my mother (seriously, this latter part is very important. I know everyone thinks their mom, or maybe their grandma, is the world’s best cook, but I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: my mom is better. Especially on Thanksgiving). Besides missing out on the amazing food, I also wouldn’t be able to participate in our post-dinner traditions, like playing “Up and Down the River” while watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
While I am sad to have missed out on these traditions this year, I really can’t complain too much. As always, my host family had my back! Francesca and her teacher invited me to come to the school and teach the third grade classes about Thanksgiving in America. I had to review a few things before hand (American history has never really been my area of expertise), but this experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, in a good way; I never thought I would be standing in front of a room full of Italian eight year olds, talking about turkeys and the pilgrims. It also allowed me to reflect on what this holiday is really about. This year, I was reminded that it’s not about where I celebrate or who I celebrate with, but to be grateful for what I’ve been given and the opportunities that lay before me. The weekend after Thanksgiving, Elisabetta and I spent the day making (or attempting to make) my mom’s usual recipes. There were a few ingredients we couldn’t find and neither of us had cooked a turkey before, but I wouldn’t change a single thing if I could. Elisabetta festively decorated the dining room table and Francesca and I displayed the paper cornucopias we had made earlier that week. It was the perfect meal and it was spent with my favorite Italian family. We even watched Home Alone, a more kid-friendly movie favorite of the Klug family. I might have missed out on a few things back home, but I will forever have a new Thanksgiving memory and my host family might even have a few new traditions of their own.
**EDIT: While visiting home this March, my mom was wonderful enough to throw a second Thanksgiving dinner. I guess I got the best of both worlds!
I honestly thought being away from home during Christmas time would be harder than it was. There were a few things I definitely missed: the snow, singing in church on Christmas Eve, and of course, my family’s holiday traditions. For the most part, however, I was just excited to experience Christmas in a different part of the world. Each Italian city I visited was perfectly decorated with hanging lights and giant Christmas trees. It didn’t matter if I was in Florence, Milan, Venice, Verona, or even small town Angiari, each was as beautiful as the one before it.
I was able to experience some of my favorite holiday traditions while also enjoying new ones. I watched my Christmas movies with Francesca (she may or may not be afraid of the Grinch now). I drank hot chocolate after a day spent ice skating or shopping. I taught Francesca and her classmates the words to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I even got to hear a recording of this year’s Christmas at Luther (shameless plug for my Alma Mater), something I was worried I would miss out on. We celebrated the arrival of not only Santa Claus, but also Santa Lucia and Befana. I even saw Sinterklaas during a weekend trip to Amsterdam!
However, the distractions could only last for so long. My FOMO eventually came back. Christmas Eve had its ups and downs. I loved celebrating with my host family and exchanging gifts by the Christmas tree, but it felt strange to not be getting ready for church or eating oyster stew with my family. Instead of dwelling on this, I decided to spend part of my night rereading the story of Jesus’s birth and listening to my favorite hymns. The rest of my night was spent with my friends in a nearby town, celebrating in the streets and cheering when the clock finally struck midnight. On Christmas day, FOMO hit me once again. My dad sent me a text wishing me a “Merry Christmas!” followed by photo of my brothers and cousins. Again, I refused to worry too much about what I was missing back home and decided to instead have a little fun. Refusing to be left out of any family photo, I sent my dad a series of new ones, with me photoshopped into them. My family had a good laugh and I was able to be (somewhat) a part of their Christmas celebration.
The holiday season was definitely a little rough at times. I cried more than I’m willing to admit. Easter and the summer months will bring along their share of challenges as well. However, I’m learning that I can’t let FOMO interfere with what’s going on right in front of me. I also can’t allow myself to feel guilty about not being able to physically be there for my family and friends. Italy is where I’m meant to be right now and I hope they understand that. In the spirit of springtime, I refuse to be sad about what might be different here or what I am missing out on back home. This is the time to celebrate every new beginning and cherish all the little changes, whether they are big changes, like searching for my first “big girl” job; or small, like celebrating Easter with a new friend.
I’m excited for whatever comes my way this primavera. Sometimes, it’ll be hard. Sometimes calling my best friend or FaceTiming my mom (and dog) won’t be enough. I’ll dread seeing Facebook posts and Instagram photos shared by my friends. I’ll want to go home; but FOMO will be there no matter where I go, it’s a part of life. Our happiness depends on how we decide to deal with it.
I hope you all have a blessed Easter, full of change and new life!
“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come…” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12).