Making It

I passed the evening with a friend in a small vineria, where we shared a carafe of red wine and “snack” plates consisting of carciofi sott’olio, frittata di zucchine e zafferano, polpettine di carne e pepperoni piccanti ripieni etc. etc.. Having just returned from three weeks in the U.S. and Canada, let’s just say that it’s a nice change from french fries and chicken wings with beer.  We lingered for a couple hours on the tiny patio out front, shivering a bit in the evening cool and warming ourselves with wine and thick soup.  The conversation was excellent.

This friend Kelly and I have a lot in common – both of us expats, both of us not long out of college (eek, can I still say that if it’s been 4 years?), both of us interested in the field of international education and justifying the lives that we are making in Italy as relevant to this interest (because how might we otherwise justify moving to a foreign country with no real plan or prospects, but simply a passion for a culture and a language that are astonishingly easy to love?).  Kelly and I haven’t known each other for very long and we saw each other tonight to say our goodbyes, as she has accepted a job in a different city and will be leaving the day after tomorrow.  Despite having known her for only a couple of months, I like Kelly and I’m sad to see her go.

Tonight she talked a lot about a feeling that to me is very familiar.  She has been in Italy for a shorter period of time than I and the position she has just accepted is the first steady job that she has held here; justifiably, she is ecstatic, apprehensive and expectant.  As she put it to me, she feels that she’s finally “made it.”  The experience of living in Italy, she says, is at times so surreal, precisely because it is becoming so normal, so every day; we are no longer tourists or study abroad students, we have had the good fortune of being able to distinguish ourselves from the majority of those who come here, and indeed, I think that we have “made it.”

But regardless of the country or the job, don’t we all have moments like that in our 20’s?  Getting your first real job is no less than thrilling (regardless of whether or not your duties actually turn out to be quite banal, as I suspect they do in many entry level positions).  Suddenly, going to the grocery store, making dinner, paying your bills, calling the plumber, dragging yourself out of bed at 6:45 when you’re still more than capable of sleeping past noon – these become small, every day pleasures, because it’s your food, your bills, your potential career, your adult life and you’ve taken it all into your own hands.  And all the more so in this age of relative uncertainty, when even those with the best educations, the most tenacity and the best intentions simply do not have many options at hand; everything should be falling into place, as you’ve spent your whole life making sure that it would, yet nothing is a guarantee. A full time job has become something of a prize that we should be so lucky to win; certainly not something that any one of us should presume to be entitled to.

So, I’m happy to see Kelly in the glory of this moment; I’m happy that she’s found a feasible way to prolong her stay in Italy and I hope she keeps moving forward here for as long as she wants to.  Of course, neither one of us has “made it” – at least not all the way – but as for tonight, we’re where we need to be.


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