In the Process of Letting Go

Hi, blog community! I have not written in almost three months. My last blog was July 17. (Yikes!) I hate to go long intervals without writing, but hey, that’s life. Shit happens.

Cutting straight to the point, I’ve been going through some thangs. (Yes, I spelled that how I meant to- thangs.) Adulthood is full of challenges. Job setbacks and disappointments. Car troubles. And one of the most painful of all- dealing with the end of friendships and relationships.

Have you ever lost a best friendship? If you are post-grad age (lets say 22 or 23) or older, then I will assume yes. It’s tough, right?! Long story short, I had a close friendship end in the most drawn out, television drama-esque way earlier this year. Yet, it was not until recently, (actually right after returning to America from Italy in May) that the hurt set in. That the reality of this friendship loss was felt.

So here I am, processing the end of a five-year friendship with someone who I thought would be a forever friend. The person I thought would be standing next to me on my wedding day. It hurts a lot. I rotate between frustration, anger, hurt and sadness but not once do I question that it needed to end. Now, I am left with the process of asking questions on what can I learn from this and how do I let it go.

I know that just because this friendship ended does not make it a failure, and it certainly does not make me a failure. Also, just because a friendship or relationship ends does not mean there was not love on both sides. But sometimes, you have to love people from a distance and always you must love them with open hands.

This friendship, my closest friendship, meant so much to me, but it became unhealthy for both parties. To be more specific, the friendship was no longer life-giving, and it was taking more than it gave. It needed to end. It taught me so much about myself, strengths and weaknesses. It also taught me to let go. I am still in the process of letting it go and learning how to do that exactly, but hey, I am a work in progress. Another thing it taught me- to show grace to myself and others.

So here’s a letter to myself and to anyone struggling to let go of a friendship or relationship that has become unhealthy:

Dear Beloved,

This is how it should be. Here we are, just you and I. Here to do the work of mending this tear in your heart. It’s more than a tear though.

It started as a crack long ago. Left untended, it has splintered in time. Like an unhealed wound, it has festered, and now, we are here to do the work to disinfect it. To rest. To evaluate. To change. To move forward. To unravel. To let go. To grow.

Cry those tears, mama. You deserve the space and room you need to grieve this.

You wonder how we got here, but we know. By wanting a friendship and the validation of another person so much so that you ignored your inner voice, that inner knowing that said time and time again it wasn’t right.

By hoping against all signs of reality. By putting your hope in the shaky ground of another person’s soul.

The best way to love others is with open hands. The only way to love others well is by first loving yourself with grace, dignity, acceptance and forgiveness.

Forgive and forget. It’s time to forgive and forget this friendship. Dare in fact I say, it’s healthy to do so. We can’t stay stuck here, you and I. We must pack our bags with an audacious courage. No more looking back on what was or holding things with closed fists. After all, isn’t surrender the sweet currency from which life flows?

Your heart will heal in time. Repeat- Your heart will heal. You will be OK. This friendship, the death of it, did not kill you.

You lost what you thought was a friend, but in the process, you gained yourself. Your sweet, optimistic, brave, confident, beautiful self. That is a victory. You stumbled but you found your feet, and here you are, as bright as can be. This is not the end sweet girl.

Never be angry for the process because it is your process. This could be the greatest teacher on confidence, on friendship, on identity, on letting go, on life and love that you will ever learn, if you allow it to be.

Keep hoping sweet girl. Your story is not finished yet.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody):

“You get what you deserve when you know how much you are worth.”

To all the people who have dealt with a friendship ending, keep going. Your heart is more resilient than you know.

With hope,

Stevie

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Cliques, Mean Girls and Old Friends: Revisiting High School 10 Years Later

One of my friends said it best. “So much has changed. Yet, so much has stayed the same.”

Last weekend was my 10-year high school reunion. (For my high school in Michigan. I split my high school years between two states- Michigan and Oklahoma). I woke up at 6 a.m., did my hair and make-up, put on a gown, and hopped on a plane at LAX to Detroit. I went straight from the airport to the reunion.

Fresh 6 a.m. makeup did not last!

Can I just say, I had the absolute BEST time. While I have seen all of my closest friends numerous times throughout the last decade (I lived with one of them and another I came home for her Master’s graduation last year), it was nice to be in the same place at the same time with a big group of my peers.

It was nice to see people I grew up with excelling and doing well. To see them happy made me happy. It felt good to just hug a few necks and swap life stories- even if only for a moment.

Lets call it a nice little pit stop on the journey to adulthood.

I laughed so hard this weekend. Friends recounted old stories, some embarrassing and all hilarious. (Most of which, might I add, I do not remember!)

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Maturity is not something that comes with age. Maturity is a journey you choose to embark on.”

The weekend was well spent. The class officers from my grade did a really good job planning a classy event. It was overall a win.

The only downside- when you revisit the past, you find some things and some people stay in the past. After 10 years since graduating high school, there still seemed to be the cliques, the haves and have nots, the popular and not popular, the mean girls.

I was reminded that not everyone grows up just because time passes. I was encouraged by my peers and friends who have grown and who are doing amazing things, who are working toward a purpose.

I was surprised by others who had not changed at all. I am reminded that maturity and wisdom (taking your mistakes and learning from them and choosing to do better) is a choice.

Ten years changes some things, but some people and things don’t change. I think one of the greatest joys of growing older is just not caring. Not caring about what people think, or about the number of likes on a photo, or who is dating whom, or who is wearing what.

If there’s anything I could tell high school me 10 years ago, I’d tell her, “Care less about what other people think and to use your voice to speak up for other people more. Laugh more and enjoy your friends- not all will be here 10 years from now. Mean girls may always be mean girls, but shake off the haters. Don’t be afraid to stand up to them. Other people’s opinions are not your business. You will attract the type of people you are.”

Cheers to revisiting the past from time to time but always, always moving forward!

In loving memory of one of my greatest friends, Felicia Diane Robinson.

With hope,

Stevie

Detroit Women Exemplify Sisterhood and Success

Sisterhood. Community. Tribe. Your people. Best friends.

I pride myself on being a girl’s girl. I love to see women win and to come alongside them and be a cheerleader. Whether it’s the first woman to be the head coach of an NFL team. (Shout out to Jennifer Welter!) Or it’s little girls who tell me they want to be brain surgeons or doctors. (I’m obsessed with hearing about girls pursuing STEM careers.) Or maybe it’s just a friend who has overcome some major adversity, and I’ve gotten to see her battle her demons like a warrior.

I love to see women win.

Yet, for someone who is such a “girl’s girl,” I have certainly had my share of girl drama. I absolutely hate it. Girl drama makes me want to grab my running shoes and throw up the deuces.

You know what I’m talking about it. Those moments when you find yourself with tension with another woman, and you don’t even know why. Even worse, there are the scenarios when you watch a best friendship tether and fall apart.

Actresses Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gabrielle Union recently sat down for a chat on the video series Red Table Talk to talk about women, friendship, cattiness and specifically about their 17-year beef, a feud that neither of them could explain.

As the two women sat down and hashed out the details of their separation, something in my heart healed just watching. In the words of Jada, sometimes women are mad at each other but don’t even know why. Although difficult and uncomfortable, working your way to healthy relationships with other women is one of the most empowering things you can do.

I am not living in a fairytale. I get it. Sometimes, women don’t get along. Personalities clash. Interests conflict. Insecurities cause competition and comparison. Misunderstandings happen. Assumptions are made. Communication falls by the wayside.

I do believe, however, that a woman surrounded by the love and suport of other strong women is nothing short of an unstoppable force. I know five women who embody this idea. Some know them as the “Fab Five.” Others may see them as a clique. I know them as Sharron, Shanelle, Jasmine, Jazzmin and Dajai.

These girls embody sisterhood. Five women with more than two decades worth of friendship under their belts collectively, lots of college degrees and even more ambition.

Their story is inspiring and one worth being told. So often you hear stories of women tearing each other down (especially with women of color.) Stories like their’s, of enduring female friendships, deserve more shine. I am so happy to have grown up with them and watched their stories progress. I am even more excited to share their story and talk about the importance of female friendship.

Shanelle Covington

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Pharmacist
B.S. in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science, University of Michigan; Doctor of Pharmacy, Hampton University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Overachiever
I’ve always strived for perfection and basically if I don’t reach it, the world is over (more specifically when it comes to school and grades) Sometimes, I just never feel like I’m not doing enough in life and always want more. This can be a blessing and a curse lol”

Your friend group in three words:
Loving, loyal, motivating

Sharron Sanders

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Lawyer
B.A. in Psychology and Communication Studies, University of Michigan; Masters of Jurisprudence in Legal doctrine and analysis, Michigan State University; Juris Doctor, Michigan State University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Comedian
“I am definitely the silly/crazy friend in the group. I always aim to make my friends laugh and have a good time.”

Your friend group in three words:
Supportive, loyal, ambitious

Jasmine Spratling

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Mental Health Therapist
B.A. in Psychology, Bowling Green State University; Masters in Clinical Mental Health, Walden University; Currently completing a Ph.D. in Human and Social Services with a focus in Mental Health Facilitation, Walden University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Fashionista/Protector
“Of course one of us has to know how to dress! However, besides that I am also the friend who comes to the rescue when things go wrong.”

Your friend group in three words:
Sweet, funny, encouraging

Jazzmin Taylor

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School Psychologist
B.A. in Psychology, Michigan State University; Ed.S. in School Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The mom
“It’s funny because I’m the youngest in the group, but I’m also the most laid back and responsible (in my opinion.)”

Your friend group in three words:
Ambitious, successful, silly

Dajai Livingston

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Certified Nurse Midwife
B.S. in Nursing, University of Michigan; Master’s of Science in Nursing specializing in midwifery, University of Michigan
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Socialite
“I’m always meeting new people and mingling. They tell me I always know someone. I also make sure that when we all hang out we have a good time. I bring positive energy to the group and always make sure that if something isn’t right I talk to whoever is in charge to resolve the issue. I am the one who will ask for the manager and get us a free meal.”

Your friend group in three words:
Beautiful, ambitious, driven

Tell me about the dynamic of your friend group.
Dajai: Our friend group started at Detroit’s Renaissance High School and evolved freshman year of college. We each have different relationships with one another. Shanelle and Sharron have been best friends since elementary school. Jasmine, Shanelle and Sharron were all “Bates kids” (an elementary/middle school in Detroit). Myself, Jasmine, Jazzmin and Shanelle became close on our high school’s cheer team. Myself, Jasmine and Jazzmin were in midnight golf our senior year and became even closer. We all had times when we hung out during high school, but freshman year of college the five of us had a girls night in Ann Arbor and the annual get together became mandatory.

“We each have different relationships with one another.”

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What has life been since graduating from high school?
Jasmine: Life after high school has been full of ups and downs, but I am continuing to learn from all my experiences for my personal and professional growth. After Renaissance, I headed straight to Bowling Green State University sadly without any of my best friends by my side. I went even further away after college and moved to Chicago for a few months to begin grad school. Then, I moved to Atlanta, which is where I have been since 2013. Living in Atlanta has been an amazing experience and I absolutely love it! However, being away from my family and my girls is the hardest thing. Since the beginning, we have always uplifted one another. Our circle of friendship goes beyond the norm, and at the end of the day, we are family more than anything. I feel that has also been tested since some of us separated after high school, but it’s like no matter how far we are from each other, our friendship continues. I love my girls!

“At the end of the day, we are family more than anything.”

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In society, women are often pitted against one another, especially black women. What does it mean to have a solid group of female friends?
Jazzmin: This group is so full of positive energy and encouragement with anything any one of us decides to pursue. We are all good with providing one another with advice. Believe it or not, having the support from my friends provides me with the confidence I don’t always have in myself. That’s why having friends who are always there to uplift you is so important!

“Having the support from my friends provides me with the confidence I don’t always have in myself.”

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What does it mean to you to be a part of a group of girlfriends who has been friends for so long?

Shanelle: Having these amazing women in my life is truly everything!! It’s sooo important to be able to have people in your life who you can truly trust and know without a doubt will always have your best interest at heart. Seeing them succeed just makes me want to push harder and do more. They are so inspirational in their own individual ways. I never feel alone or like I don’t have anyone to talk to, which is so essential with the way I stress over everything lol. It’s a blessing just to have one person to count on. I don’t know what I did in life to have a whole group of women who I know will always be there for me.

“I never feel alone.”

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How do you guys maintain your lifelong friendship?
Sharron: We don’t always stay in constant communication. We are adult women with our own lives. We all have that understanding, but if one of us needs something, the rest are always there. Also, we have our group chat that we use to communicate. We could go a month without talking, and then, randomly someone will post a meme and the chat is lit again.

“If one of us needs something, the rest are always there.”

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Tell me about how you all deal with rivalry, disagreements and the natural misunderstandings that happen in friendship (particularly with women).
Sharron: I’m really at a loss for words. I can’t really think of a time where this has happened. The personalities in our group really suit each other well. We don’t fight. We don’t compete with each other. If there is a disagreement, then we talk through it. I’ve always seen other “cliques” where girls would act like sisters but then talk about each other behind their backs. Having a tight knit group of friends that I know have my back no matter what, means a lot.

“We don’t fight. We don’t compete with each other.”

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How have your friends impacted you personally and professionally?
Jazzmin: Whenever one of us starts a new project (grad program, job, etc.), there is nothing but love, encouragement and positivity given from the group. When one of us is going through something, we are all their to empathize with that person and be a support system. We all live in different places, but we stay connected via our private group chat and that works for us. Our group chat often turns into therapy sessions. They also turn into random, silly girl talk. We always try to get the full group together at least once a year and every time we do, we pick up exactly where we left off.

“There is nothing but love, encouragement and positivity given from the group.”

I hope you are encouraged to love your sister friends, your tribe, your people. I also hope you are encouraged to reach out to the woman who maybe you have had a falling out or enstrangement with. Because women are powerful, and when we stand alongside one another, we only get stronger. If there’s anything the 20’s has taught me is that life is hard and unpredictable, but it is brighter with true friends doing life with you.

“Real fierce and fearless women celebrate and compliment other women, and we recognize and embrace the notion that their shine in no way diminishes our light and it actually makes our light shine brighter.” – Gabrielle Union from the Essence Black Women in Hollywood event

With hope,

Stevie

I Held onto One Friendship While Simultaneously Letting Another Go

“Friendship is worth fighting for.”

These words were like a punch in the gut. Not because they were bad or harsh but because I knew they were true.

When one of the leaders at my church sat with me for coffee a few weeks ago, I knew her words were what I needed to hear. (After all, she is in her 30s. 30-somethings are my favorite people. They are so much more put together than us 20-somethings!)

When I came back to Los Angeles after three months in Europe, I did not come home to the warm welcome I was anticipating. One of my closest (and one of very few) friends in Los Angeles seemed to be icing me out. (Remember I mentioned how hard making true friends in L.A. is?) I was hurt. I was offended. I was prideful.

Long story short, we had a bit of a tiff (like all friends do) back in December right before I left, but we talked about it before I left- twice. We had talked it out, apologized and gotten past it (or so I thought.) Why was she still mad at me four months later?

Simple solution- Talk to her. Make an effort. Reach out. My pride would not me to do any of these things because I was hurt and rightfully so (or so I thought.) Then, I sat down with the worship leader at my church and laid my cards on the table. X,Y,Z- Here is why I am angry, here is why I deserve to be vindicated and here is why this situation is unfair.

Then, she eloquently and gracefully reminded me friendship isn’t about being right nor is it always fair. Friendship means showing grace (especially when it is undeserved.) By definition, that is what grace is. She told me real friendship is worth fighting for.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Friendship isn’t about being right nor is it always fair. Friendship means showing grace- especially when it is undeserved.”

I was angry and frustrated, but I knew she was right. I knew if I wanted my friend back (which I did), I needed to let go of my need to be right. I needed to do the work of being a friend- forgiving, asking for forgiveness, letting go, talking it through.

Simultaneously, another friend was acting strangely toward me. Warm welcome back to America, right? This friend is someone I am a lot less close to, and this fallout involved money (a very tough area to navigate with friends and family I have learned.) I felt she should pay for something. She thought it was unfair of me to ask her to pay for said thing. My thoughts- lets agree to disagree, but this does not have to be a deal breaker. Yet and still, she wasn’t talking to me when I returned to America, and she was acting quite strange when I reached out.

In this second scenario, what did I do? I decided to let it go. Why? I evaluated the situation, the person and our friendship, and I decided it wasn’t worth putting that much energy into. In reality, we were not that close. Our friendship was more so situational, temporary, seasonal. It was time to let this one go.

The first scenario- I did the opposite. I decided to fight for it. I reached out to my friend. We talked over coffee. We made amends. We got in the trenches together, and we did the work.

What is the difference between the two situations? One friendship is a a long-term (going on 10 years) friend who I have invested in and who has invested in me. It is a two-way street, a friendship that had seen more through some hard times and pushed me to grow. This friend was like a sister to me, someone I deeply care about.

The other situation was more so a friendship of proximity. We were “friends” or more so acquaintances because we saw each other daily and knew the same people. It was never a give-and-take friendship, but rather, it was friendship where I always felt like it was one-sided.

Friendship in adulthood is hard. Making new friends in adulthood seems even harder. It’s not the same as when you are a kid, and you can just ask the kid next to you to play or share their crayons. I have friends in different states (and different countries), which require effort, work and energy to maintain. No one likes to associate work with friendship, but the truth is any functioning, adult relationship (romantic, familial or friends) requires work. You gotta pick up that phone!

Another truth about friendship, some friendships (most actually) are only temporary. A part of growing up is knowing when to let go. If you try to hold onto every friendship and take them with you into new chapters, then you might being doing yourself and the other person a disservice. Holding on to old friends might be limiting your growth.

It takes work to balance the art of knowing when to let go of friends and when to hold on. The irony in this situation is that I watched both scenarios play out in my life at the same time.

I am so glad I fought for my true friendship. My heart healed a little just talking to her. Making amends with her felt so much better than holding onto my pride. True friends are hard to come by (especially in Los Angeles).

How has navigating friendship in adult been for you? Have you ever struggled with knowing when to let go of a friend and when to hold on? I hope you are encouraged to know you are not alone in this journey. I wish you nothing but wisdom in your friendships and also that you would always have a few true, loyal friends by your side to remind you that you are not alone.

With hope,

Stevie

How Life in L.A. Reminded Me of the Value of a Friend

Whenever I talk to friends back home about life in L.A., one thing I always hear myself repeating is the difficulty in making friends.

Sure, meeting people here is easy. There’s more than 4 million people in the Los Angeles metropolis area. With the endless amount of happy hours, networking events and social media professional groups, there’s an endless possibility to make connections here. However, making actual, genuine friends in L.A., that my friend takes work (effort, intention and maybe a dash of luck in meeting the right people at the right time.) Bebe Rexha so eloquently explains how she suffers from the “lack of realness” in L.A. and how friends come and go like the seasons in the song F.F.F.

As I’m writing this, I am sitting in a coffee, and to my left there are two women talking. It seems one has just been laid off (maybe just as recent as today- my creeping skills could use a little more work), and the other is playing cheerleader, counselor and career coach all at once.

Lay-off. Ouch, been there. It absolutely sucks, and it can feel painful, blindsiding, and like a stab in the back all in one fell swoop.

The cheerleader, counselor, career coach friend offered some very wise words to her hurting amiga. She told her she might have to cut Hulu or Netflix for ahwile. (I kept Spotify and Netflix when I lost my job. A girl needs her entertainment in hard times!) She told her of course to prioritize paying rent, but if she ever needed a place to stay, then she could crash with her. She also told her, most importantly, not to isolate herself but to continue to talk to people and network. Only by putting herself out there would she be able to hold her head up and not allow the job loss to hurt her confidence. Only by networking would she make connections that would lead to her next job.

I so wanted to lean over in their conversation and give them both the biggest hug, but considering that I am a complete stranger, I won’t do that. I loved this conversation. I loved this moment in my day (though only made possible through easedropping) because it reminded me of what true friendship looks like.

Friendship shows up in the hardest of times. Friendship offers comfort and a shoulder to lean on when you are having trouble standing on your own. Friendship isn’t concerned about what it can gain or get. Friendship doesn’t give up without a fight.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Friendship can be messy, hard and stretching, but guaranteed, if after all life’s curveballs, unfair hands, ups and downs, you find yourself with a true friend, you are blessed.”

I think finding true friends in adulthood can be difficult no matter where you live but especially in L.A. With the Hollywood culture, there comes a lot of fakeness, people who smile at your face but whisper behind your back, people who use friendship as an opportunity to promote themselves and their careers.

The irony is that often some of the most real and down-to-Earth people in Los Angeles are the people who are actually from here. The wishy-washy, opportunistic people are often transplants from small town, Midwest or suburbia America who bring their ideas of the City of Angeles with them.

While I love L.A., the wishy-washy culture can make thriving here difficult. Everytime I meet a genuine person, it’s like a breath of fresh air. It seems so rare.

A true friend is a precious gem worth holding onto. Making and keeping friends in adulthood can be tough, but I encourage you to fight for your true friendships and to not be afraid to put yourself out their to make new ones.

With hope,

Stevie

The Power of One

Hi readers! First off, I just want to thank you for following along in my Italian adventure and my journey as a twenty-something. My hope for each post is that you can relate, walk away inspired and perhaps have a laugh or two. (Because I am definitely a twenty-something still figuring out this thing called life, all the while facing embarrassing, cringe-worthy and humorous mishaps and missteps along the way.)

It means the world to me to be able to share my experiences with you through the written word and photos. I am currently teaching a lesson on writing to some of my high school students and trying to convince them that writing can be fun. (Mind blowing idea!) So thanks for reading along and reassuring me that the power of the pen has not been lost.

In one of my recent posts, I shared with you about the ups and downs of living in a foreign country and about learning to embrace the differences. I still am encountering the culture shock I mentioned before, the learning a new language (I am reading a book in Italian at the moment), the stares when I’m out in public and the food, language and other differences.

Last week, there was a point where I was feeling pretty down. I messaged a friend who is living in Israel and teaching there for nine months, and I told her I was feeling pretty defeated. I didn’t understand just how she was doing this for six months longer than I was and how she was able to muster the strength to overcome the inevitable obstacles of life in a new country.

Of course, like the good friend she is, she encouraged me. She reminded that I have faced hard things before and I will surprise myself at my ability to overcome the obstacles I am facing now. Her words gave me a glimmer of hope. She reminded me of my own ability to do hard things, but she also reminded me of the power of a friend.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “One friend, one person, one kind word, one act of goodness can make all the difference.”

Life abroad has shown me the difference one person can make. My third week in Italy was rough (i.e. a no-show train to Milan, language barriers and adjusting to my new home and job). Other than talking with my American friend in Israel last week, I was able to spend time with another teacher assistant in a nearby town called Savigliano.

A friend was just what the doctor ordered. He showed me around his town, introduced me to his host family (they’re the sweetest people), took me for coffee and dulce (yum, Nutella croissant), and we went shopping! (Retail therapy is a thing!) It was simple and sweet, time with a friend on a warm, sunny day (the first in my time in Italy).

Slowly but surely, I watched my perspective start to shift simply because of the encounters I had with people. The next day, I had lunch with a professor from my school. We sat for hours just talking, and I was honest with her about the ups and downs of my time in Italy. There was no sugar-coating. (Gah, doesn’t it feel great to just be authentic with people?!) She took me for a tour of my town, and she showed me places in Bra where I might meet people my age to hang out with. She took me for coffee and dulce. This time I had torta al cioccolato. (If you couldn’t tell, the way to my heart is clearly coffee and sweets.) Yet again, time with a one kind person shifted my perspective. It was so simple, but it really made my day.

Fast forward to the weekend, on Friday night, I visited a nearby town, Saluzzo, with a friend who is from there. We had pizza and tiramisu, and I remember making a joke about how good it was to see people in their 20s and 30s out and about at night. We even laughed at the people staring at me! (My friend threatened to stare back on my behalf.)

The next day, Sunday, I spent a rain-filled seven hours touring Milan with another teacher assistant, my friend Gabby. We were soaked. Our hair, our shoes, our purses, everything wet. Our paper shopping bags were useless and dripping with water, but we had the best time. We joked about Italian men, and we laughed about how we missed American breakfast and earlier dinner time. We talked about spring break plans and how we want to see a soccer game while we are in Italy. Within my first hour in Milan, I saw a man steal something and get chased by police, a pregnant woman expose herself (and also run from police), and a young woman have a crying session in the train station. (Aaaah back to big city life!) It was a humorous and cloudy day well spent because of good company.

Plain and simple, life can be hard. We have curve balls thrown our way when unexpected things happen. We make mistakes and bad things happen. (Did I mention I got on the wrong, more expensive train to Milan and had to pay the ticket price plus a surcharge?) I think one of the most valuable tools we have in overcoming obstacles is a friend. One person can truly change your perspective and open the curtains on an otherwise dreary and dark life.

I am really grateful for the people, near and far, in my life who help find perspective and let the light in to the window of my heart.

Here are some photos from the last week. (Click on the image to enlarge and for captions.)

Savigliano


Saluzzo

Milano

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The Milan Cathedral, Duomo di Milano

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The Kardashians are all over Milan. This is the Milano Centrale train station.

With hope,
Stevie

A Taste of Italy: The Sweet and Salty

 

I’ve officially been in Italy for one week and four days. What a crazy 11 days it’s been.

At times, it’s been hard, tiring, overwhelming and stressful, but in the midst of all of that it’s been really, really good. I am not sure how good and difficult can coexist simultaneously, but it’s a part of this messy thing we call life. It just is. The hard things are sometimes the best things.

Last time I wrote was right before my big voyage, my flight from New York City to Istanbul to Milan. (Yes, this flight schedule is slightly backward since Istanbul is past Italy, but that’s the flight Turkish airlines selected for me!) In 36 hours, I got two hours of sleep, but when we landed in Milan, we had a two hour bus ride into Turin, and then, we went straight into the teachers’ assistant orientation. So basically, it was all go-go as soon as we touched down in Italy. We literally hit the ground running!

The teaching program I am a part of is under two organizations- the World Education Program (WEP) and Greenheart Travel. There are about 25 teacher assistants in my program from all over the world, mostly America but also from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and South Africa. The group was only together for a few days, but we quickly bonded over our similarities as Americans, as English speakers and as twenty-somethings. Our differences (between states, countries and ethnicities) sparked conversation and a lot of laughter. (The New Zealand teacher assistant asked a few of the Americans if Boston was in New York, and you would have thought he said a bad word. All the Americans gave him an adamant NO!)

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A few of the teachers assistants

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The joy and excitement of being in Italy with new friends experiencing this adventure together was briefly put on halt. On my second day in Turin, Italy, as the group of teachers assistant and I were headed back to our hostel, I was pickpocketed on the city bus. Frustration quickly turned into panic when I couldn’t get in touch with my parents in America for more than an hour to suspend my phone. (I was nervous my phone- which has my bank app on it- would be hacked into.)

If you have ever been robbed, then you know the feeling of helplessness and violation that overtakes you. One of the teacher’s assistants (Anna) stayed with me as I struggled to contact anyone back home in the states. It was comforting to have someone stand with me and help me figure out what to do.

All in all, getting your phone stolen in a foreign country really sucks, but it could have been worse. I wasn’t hurt, and my passport, money and credit cards were safe! My Italian host family was so concerned I’d think badly of Italy because of the experience. I smiled and told them I have lived in Los Angeles and New York City. Hence, I have seen it all, and I know that bad and good people exist everywhere, not just in Italy.

 

After orientation, on Friday afternoon our host families came to pick us up in Torino. All the teachers assistants nervously and excitedly parted ways to spread across the Piemonte region to our new temporary homes. My first full day in Bra (where I am living and working) was plagued by jetlag, but I managed to stay awake long enough for mealtime and to run a few errands around town.

Sunday and Monday, I spent my time in the Alps with my host family and their friends. I have never skied or snowboarded before. So instead I hiked with the parents. My host sister and her friends skied. Boy was that a workout. It was so hard climbing the mountain with all the layers and gear, but the view from the top? It was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. All the sweating and shortness of breath was worth the destination.

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The Alps

Overall, the Italian people I have encountered so far are loving, welcoming and caring. Everyone instantly becomes like a mom or a brother or sister to you. There’s always someone looking out for your or ready to lend a helping hand or plate of pasta!

All in all, my time so far has been sweet and salty. Good and hard. It’s been fun and eye-opening meeting new people and learning about a different culture. It’s also been difficult being at a dinner table or in a room where you don’t understand the language everyone around you is speaking. Good and hard. Sweet and salty.

Isn’t that such a metaphor for life though? There will always be another mountain to climb, an obstacle to overcome, but the view on the other side is marvelous. I think what’s most important is how we choose to handle each mountain. We get to decide if and how we will face the hard things in life. We get to choose whether we will have the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Here’s to three months in Italy and a lot of putting one foot in front of the other!

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With hope,
Stevie