Strangely, I've had a couple of opportunities in recent days to refer to myself as a writer. As in, "I am a (soon-to-be) published writer." It felt good, but a little strange - kind of like one's first real kiss. It's wonderful and exciting and a little bit off, somehow. In a delightful, happening-to-someone-else sort of way.
Or was that just me?
I think the reason it's taking some adjusting is the fact I've always said I was a writer. I've believed it in my heart of hearts from a pretty young age. It's only now that other people are conceding the point in a real way.
And then there's the sense of unreality that comes from this phrase:
"I am a writer and I live in Italy."
There's so much weight in those words, it's almost inconceivable to me how to make them mean what I want them to. Because when I say "I am a writer and I live in Italy", people get all sorts of wrong ideas. They imagine that I don't have a "real" job. They think I don't need one. They think I live in a place full of warmth and sunshine year-round. They think I live in a Tuscan villa, complete with vineyards and/or olive groves. They think I have an airy apartment filled with light. They think I live a glamourous lifestyle, sipping wine on a balcony which overlooks rolling hills, while I wear some sort of designer frock.
The reality is far different.
I have a "real" job. I teach English to Italians at a language school in the city where I live. Yeah, the job can be fun sometimes, no doubt about it - I've probably mentioned some of my students here before, and how much I adore them - but it's still work, with all the bureaucracy and paperwork any teaching job entails.
My writing hasn't made me rich. The book isn't even out yet, remember? (November 15th is coming soon, though! Not that I'll be "rich" anytime in the near future. Heh.)
Reggio nell'Emilia is a sunny place - in Spring and Summer, anyway. In Autumn and Winter, however? Not so much. It's rainy, it's cold and it's very foggy. Which is one reason I love it so much here. It suits me and my creative energies.
I most definitely don't live in a Tuscan villa, or sit on a balcony overlooking rolling hills, vineyards or olive groves.
Does that make sense?
I'm here because of chance, and because I followed my heart and did what I had to do in order to be happy. I took chances, and chance took me where I needed to be, so I could tell the story I needed to tell and find more stories when that one was finished.
I'm here because I was open to the possibilities which lay before me. I'm here because a real gem of a guy caught my eye when he slipped under the radar of women who were too focused on the flashy guys around them. Their loss, my gain, thank you very much. This is the payoff for ignoring the superficial and appreciating the substance of a real man.
I have friends who envy my living here in Italy. Sometimes I don't know why, but I suspect it's because of those words I mentioned. For the record, my life is no different here than when I'm in the States, in many ways. I write, I work, I do laundry, I cook dinner and clean the catbox (not at the same time). I grouse about politics with friends. I complain about the potholes in the road and the fact people can be so darn rude! Argh!
I miss home a little bit, every single day. I miss my family, and my friends. I miss the view of the mountains from my mom's back porch. I miss being able to find clothes in my style and size. I miss US junk food and television and driving myself around (I don't have an Italian driving license - another story for another time). I miss a lot about the US, but overall, it's just like here, in Italy.
Wherever I am, it's just life. And yes, life is beautiful. Life is strange, and life is hard wherever you are.
It's all in how you choose to look at it.