Today was supposed to be my great adventure to Milan. It’s fashion week in the fashion capital. I was so excited to shop! Shopping isn’t typically something I enjoy doing, but I desperately need some clothes. I seriously under-packed for three months in Italy!
(Side story: I once met a guy working at Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles. For some reason, we got on the subject of shopping, and I told him I don’t actually like it. The spending money on things, the crowds of people, the amount of energy and time it makes just are not my thing. He told me he had never met a woman who does not like shopping. Well, we exist!)
Today’s great shopping and travel adventure came to a great screeching halt. This weekend’s weather forecast was rain, ice, and snow. So not the most conducive travel conditions, but I already purchased my train ticket to Milan. (And I don’t believe in wasting money!) I woke up at 5:30 to catch the 6:30 train, only to discover that my train never showed. It didn’t read “Cancellato” on the train schedule. It just literally did not show up at all.
Luckily, there was a woman waiting for the same train who spoke English. We concluded the train never passed by, and she asked a station worker in Italian what happened. My interpretation of his body language was that he had no clue either. I came back to the station to try again for the 8:30 a.m. train (remember, ticket already purchased!), and the same thing happened. Some trains read “Cancellato,” and others just weren’t coming at all.
A couple hours later, my host dad had to pick me up from a cold (non-insulated) train station at Cavallermaggiore. (I did not get very far on my adventure.) We found out later the train workers are on strike today and tomorrow, and finally, all my travel dilemmas made sense.
Today was frustrating. And that’s okay, completely and 100 percent okay.
It wasn’t my best day. That’s life though. We have good days and bad days. They each bring different emotions with them.
Honesty moment: I have a tendency to stuff emotions. The emotions I deem good, i.e. courage, love, excitement, happiness, I love to share, talk about and express. Then, there are other emotions, like fear, anger, frustration and sadness, that my head automatically labels as bad. You should not feel that! You have to hide that emotion. Today, I was frustrated as I stood in a cold train station for a few hours waiting for a train that would never come. I was cold. I was hungry. I was confused. My inability to speak the language only added to my frustration. And that’s just fine. I was frustrated.
It is important to let emotions run their course. Instead of labeling them as good or bad and trying to curb them based on that label, maybe it’s good to just let them be. Maybe by allowing emotions to breathe, we give ourselves room to process them and respond to them in a healthy way.
When we started our teaching program, several of the World Education Program (WEP) coordinators explained to us teacher assistants that we would experience culture shock throughout our time in Italy. I have had lots of ebbs and flows of this emotion in the last week or two. I realize that culture shock is not necessarily good or bad. It just is. It’s a fact of life and a part of travel and being in a different culture.
Today, I experienced culture shock as I could not communicate with the people working at the station nor quite understand why my train wasn’t coming. I have experienced it when trying to process cultural differences, like whether to smile or not smile at strangers (like I do in America), the different meal times, and the structure of family life.
Identifying an emotion and just calling it what it is helps to process it. I knew traveling abroad would bring its own set of curve balls. I did not know what they would be, but I was up for the challenge. I’m currently just trying to have the courage to not hide under my covers and watch Netflix all day (but even days like these are probably normal and necessary.) A bad day back home in L.A. usually means workout, make a good meal and watch a movie. So perhaps in Italy, I just need to find my own tools to respond to hard days.
Also, I’d like to add my entire weekend wasn’t terrible. I got to explore a small town called Saluzzo, and I went to a bookstore (my favorite place!) with a friend. I had my first Italian hot chocolate (they’re different from America’s- just trust me!), and we sat and looked at kids’ books. I am trying to work on my Italian as much as possible. I bought Finding Nemo in Italian!
Here’s to calling out emotions when you experience them and not labeling them as good or bad. As a twenty-something, one of the most important parts of adulting I have found is knowing how to be authentic and owning one’s emotions. Call a spade a spade. Call a thing a thing. Today was just a reminder in that.