There’s a well-known saying that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. At 20 years old, I conquered the city that never sleeps. I navigated the subway system successfully. I worked under some of the biggest editors in the magazine world (and I only cried once!) I didn’t let the rats, trash, chaos of the city or brashness of the people shake me.
Yet, even with all its bright lights and movie glamour, New York wasn’t for me. I left proud of what I had accomplished there and so glad I took the risk of following my dream of living in the Empire State.
Fast forward to 2017 and I ran my first half-marathon. For me, training for a half-marathon trumped moving to NYC. It was hard. It was sweaty. It was painful. It took discipline, hard work, dedication, and commitment. Oh, and my poor knees! (My bad running form hurt my knees.) I was always sore, but eventually the soreness got easier to cope with, and I pushed past the pain. The moment I crossed the finish line of the Hollywood Half Marathon was my proudest moment.
Fast forward a year later, and I am now living in Italy. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would live in a foreign country, but lo and behold, here I am! Living in Italy is, by far, thee absolute hardest thing I have ever done. I didn’t think anything could be harder than that half marathon, but I was wrong.
Harder than the challenge of moving to New York. Harder than the physical and mental challenge of running a race. Moving to a foreign country has challenged me in every way possible. To be 100% candid, there have been a number of moments along my journey when I have wanted to give up. Then, I stop, pause, and there is always something good around me to remind that I am no quitter and that there is goodness here even when it’s hard to see.
This past week was tough, from being sick to challenges in communication and cultural barriers. So I thought it’d be good to take a moment to count my blessings and to remember what I have to be grateful for in this moment.
Here are a few things I am grateful for in the midst of the ups and downs of life abroad:
1- Good friends and family
I am grateful for all the friends and family back home who have reached out to me to check in and make sure I am OK week to week and keep me updated on life in America. One friend in particular, my very own Kelsie Lee, helped me get in touch with my parents when my phone was stolen my first week here. If I ever fall off the face of the Earth, it is safe to say Kelsie will always come looking for me. Everyone should have a Kelsie in their life.
2- The freedom and the ability to travel
Even though it’s not easy, I know that traveling abroad is such a gift. Not everyone gets to experience this. For me, I was at a place in my career and life where I was able to pack up and go. The opportunity to live and work in a foreign country is such a blessing. I get to see Italy as more than just a tourist or someone on a business trip. I actually live here. That’s pretty dope. I am also physically and financially able to travel. What a gift!
3- Good home-training
Whenever I encounter an obstacle, I think to myself, “Momma didn’t raise no quitter.” Sometimes, I imagine my grandma whispering in my ear, “Keep your head up baby.” I know that I am a mosaic of all the beautiful people who have helped raise me, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, teachers and mentors. These people have instilled in me that I can do anything I set my mind to. It is because of them that I am so stubborn and unwilling to quit.
4- Italian food
OK, so yea, it’s pretty good. My absolute favorite thing is to hear my students tell me how Italian food is the absolute best in the world. They are so very confident in this. It makes me laugh. Lets just stay my stomach has never gone hungry since living here.
5- New friends
The greatest gift someone can give you is friendship. One person showed me a wine vineyard in one of my first weeks here. My host family took me to the Alps for a weekend. Another person took me to a book store and drank hot chocolate with me as we sat and read Italian children’s books. One of the teachers invited me into her home for lunch (twice!) with her family, and the food was so delicious! I went to the fair in my town, and I got to be a big kid and ride on the ferris wheel and the bumper cars. (I was very happy!) I am really grateful for the English speakers I have met here, who help me learn Italian and who also speak English to me (Praise God!)
6- The good ‘ol USA
OK, so America definitely gets a lot of things wrong, but it also does a lot of things well, like democracy, freedom of press, and the push to break gender barriers. I most certainly do love my country more after time away.
7- Good Music = Good Vibes
Music really is a universal language. Music has been one thing that has allowed me to connect with my students and my host family. A lot of Italian people listen to American music, which makes for really good conversation. It has also been fun to listen to Italian music my students ask me to try.
8- The Internet
Oh my goodness, do I love the World Wide Web! It allows me to continue with my journalism work back in the states, listen to the latest music, and keep up with the latest news in America.
9- My host family and the teachers at my school
I think it must be difficult to allow a stranger into your home. I don’t take for granted that my host family allowing me to stay here is a big deal. Also, the teachers at my school who have taken me under their wings and given me a number of pep talks on my hard days, they are life savers.
My faith helps me to have hope on my worst days. Believing in something and someone bigger than me gives me strength of heart to not quit.
I am counting my blessings to remind myself that even when things get hard, there’s always some good to hold onto. If you are having a hard time in this chapter of your life, I challenge to find the good, the blessings, the silver-linings, on even your worst days.