Sunday Scribblings: You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

This post is inspired by Sunday Scribblings‘ prompt “goodbyes”:

I’ve been asked countless times by strangers, close friends and family, and everyone in between how I ended up in southern Italy. It’s really a rather mundane answer, actually, if you break it down to its barest element.

I decided to come.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well for me, it was. Whenever faced with big decisions, I go through the motions of weighing pros and cons, but I always know what I’m going to do anyway. Once an enticing idea enters my mind, it’s all systems go. I have instincts, and I follow them, and that’s why I’m here.

Three and a half years ago, I came to Italy, saying goodbye to the United States, my family, my friends, my apartment, my profession, my native language, my general comfort level, and so much more. All of that sounds scary now looking at it in print, but I swear to you, it didn’t even phase me at the time.

Looking back, even I can’t believe that, but this is a common theme in my life. When I went away to a prestigious university 400 miles from home, 17 years old, not knowing a soul, not exactly from the same background as most of the students, not nearly prepared for the kind of people I’d be surrounded by, I wasn’t scared or nervous at all. How ridiculous is that?

Some may call it habitual naiveté, but I like to call it dancing to the rhythm of the universe instead of sitting this one out. Or, put another way, if you are quiet and listen to your heart, it will tell you what to do. My heart has never been one to wait for silence, though, as it speaks up whenever it damn well pleases. Not surprising, being that it’s inside of *me* and all.

So when someone asks how I ended up in Italy, how do I explain in a blurb without sounding at least a little like a loon? I’m pretty sure that the phrase “doing the universe jig” isn’t going to make things any clearer.

Sometimes I wish I had a more solid, mature, acceptable answer like that I came here for a job or heck, even a guy. But I didn’t. I came because I wanted to. Simple as that. I didn’t have a significant other or children depending on me, so there was no one to consult. Just my heart, and it told me it was time.

The most difficult part for me was leaving my family and friends, not being able to be there for all the big and everyday things that I’ll never get back. And I’m sure that some of those people still don’t get what I’ve done or approve of it. I’d guess that some of that also has to do with the idea that I left a promising legal career—my goodness just that phrase makes me want to hurl.

You see, I had done the right thing, what was expected for so long, and I most certainly don’t regret it, because it’s made me who I am. But at the ripe old age of 25, I decided to do what I really wanted, what would make me happy. I would hope that those who love me can understand and respect that, but I don’t know if that’s happened, or ever will.

And I’m at peace with that. Because when I said goodbye to my old life, I said hello to me—the real me, the one that I’d been meaning to become—and to new experiences and a way of life that just feels right. Makes perfect sense to me.

And you know what else makes perfect sense? In Italian you say “hello” and “goodbye” the same way, reminding me that where there’s a goodbye, an inevitable hello can’t be far behind.

43 Beans of Wisdom to “Sunday Scribblings: You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello”
  1. Ninotchka
    02.04.2007

    What a perfect introductory post for me to read! I admire your self-reliance and sense of adventure. Two attributes that perfectly compliment one another, come to think of it. 🙂

  2. vespa-rosso
    02.04.2007

    I loved what you said about the word ‘ciao’. Great post and tie-in to your adopted culture.

  3. Annika
    02.04.2007

    Oh my gosh, that is a beautiful and inspirational post and exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you for writing!

  4. Waspgoddess
    02.04.2007

    Thanks for sharing you story. I particularly like your closing statement. I think I’m going to write it down to remind myself, perhaps it will help make separations less sad. Less finite.

  5. Gil
    02.04.2007

    You left a promising legal career and now you have a real life! Just think if you were in a major law firm, in a major US city would you even have enough time to yourself to enrich your life one bit. Keep writing this interesting blog.

  6. gautami tripathy
    02.04.2007

    You did what your heart desired. I admire your spirit!

    gautami
    Finally….

  7. GreenishLady
    02.04.2007

    I have to echo what some of the other commenters said about your statement about ‘ciao’. Hello/Goodbye – two sides of a coin. Lovely thought. Thank you.

  8. bella
    02.04.2007

    That is, the best story ever. I don’t know many people, who at such a young age, decided to do what they believed was the right thing for them.
    My dear, that kind of courage, is inspiring.

  9. nyc/caribbean ragazza
    02.04.2007

    Very moving post.

    Originally I was planning to move within 3 years (I need to get my finances together) but I don’t think I can wait that long. Life is too short.

  10. Crafty Green Poet
    02.04.2007

    Well I can certainly understand moving to italy just because you want to!! (Not that I’ve done it myself!).

  11. Paris Parfait
    02.04.2007

    I did something similar once – was living in New York and although I’d been to the Middle East on assignment, hadn’t lived there. I got on a plane without a place to stay or a job, and within two days of arriving in Amman I had both – as a television interviewer for English news. At the time I had no commitments to anyone but myself, so I could do whatever I wanted. And I figured the worst thing that would happen would be returning to New York (a great city). I think you’re very brave and wise to follow your heart. Usually when people make great leaps of imagination, all sorts of possibilities and prospects unfold. I’m so glad you’ve taken advantage of yours and have made a life for yourself that pleases you, in a beautiful country! As for other people understanding your actions, some people probably won’t – but it’s your life and you must do what makes you happy, as you’ve discovered. Best of luck to you in your continuing adventures in Italy!

  12. Becslifeonline
    02.04.2007

    That’s a lovely post. I’m glad you did what your heart told you to do. You’ll always be happy if you follow your heart. Thanks for sharing this!

  13. jenica
    02.05.2007

    following your heart can never take you to a bad place. i loved this post!

  14. Johnaesthetica
    02.05.2007

    Ah, nice post.

    I read another really good post about the topic here, http://www.melindagallo.com/blog/details.php?d=2007-01-28.

    Definitely a refreshing read for wannabe expats.

    -John

  15. Sharon
    02.05.2007

    How many times have your neighbors asked ..*how can you live away from your family?*

    That is my most unfavorite question!

    I like that you moved because you wanted to. Best reason in the world.

  16. The Other Girl
    02.06.2007

    I really admire you for just picking up and moving like that. I met a woman recently, who at the age of 70something was selling her house and leaving Seattle. When I asked her where she was going, she just grinned and said, “I haven’t decided yet!” I have a feeling that when you are her age, you will be exactly that kind of kickass old broad (and I mean that in a good way).

  17. twilightspider
    02.07.2007

    This is so inspiring to me – and couldn’t come at a better time in my life. I’m hoping to get out of my comfort zone and on to exploring in the next few months, though I’m not doing it as fearlessly as you have.

    Thank you for sharing this, I may have to come back and revisit it to build up my courage…

  18. chest of drawers
    03.21.2007

    WONDERFUL POST!!!
    I can really identify with such a move. Often people will ask me why I did this and why I did that and my answer is often “because I felt like it” or “because I wanted to”. Dissapproving looks all around – I wonder why it´s so frowned upon to be selfish.

  19. jay
    04.20.2007

    Ciao Sognatrice

    I am really interested to know how you came up with you’re blog name? Is there some inspiring story behind it? It’s such a great name!
    Ciao Jay

  20. Jenny
    05.10.2007

    I am:
    impressed, jealous, envious, intrigued. very cool.

  21. Emsk
    08.17.2007

    Good for you, ragazza! I imagine the pressure you felt when chucking in the ‘promising law career’ was acute, but it sounds as if you really did the right thing. Have you ever had the chance to apply your law savvy to your life in Italy, out of interest?

    Ciao… now I’d never really thought of it the way you put it.

  22. sognatrice
    08.17.2007

    I see now that I hadn’t responded to comments on this post…hmm…anyway, thanks to everyone who commented and said nice things about me 🙂

    Thanks John for that link.

    Sharon, yes, that question is definitely annoying–especially when they talk about my mom, “poverina!”

    Emsk, I still use my legal knowledge in writing and sometimes in conversation, but unfortunately, American law isn’t very useful here–I’m learning some Italian law on my own though 🙂

  23. Miss Expatria
    10.25.2007

    So, did you freak out when you read my post, because it is shockingly similar to yours? I freaked out reading yours, I can tell you that.

    Having finally bought a copy of Eat Pray Love, and having just finished the Italy section, and now having read this post as well as other posts on here, I am now heartbrokenly convinced that I no longer have anything original to say.

    After having lived in Italy for so long without having met anyone even remotely like me, I’ve come across two of you in two days.

    I think we have no choice but to get to know each other better – our twin posts have decreed it!

  24. sognatrice
    10.25.2007

    Miss E, I think you’re right about having to get to know each other better, but wrong about not having anything original to say…there may be a few of us with similar experiences, but the way we write about them will always have our own flair. I loved your post, as you probably guessed, but I couldn’t have written it because I’m not you. I think we’re safe 😉

    And I loved Eat Pray Love too, and thought, geez, why didn’t I write that many, many times 😉

  25. 05.12.2008

    What a beautiful post. I’m glad you followed your heart! 🙂

    Thanks noobcook; me too 🙂

  26. Ala
    06.03.2008

    Wow, very interesting blog. I can relate to your journal having lived in Calabria for over 2 years. Back in the States now but still have a house in Soverato so where are you? I will be back there July-August.

    I’m still here Ala, and not too far from Soverato…I’ll email you 🙂

  27. 07.29.2008

    And every time a door closes, another opens, or perhaps only a window, but still… How I admire your bravado and your willingness to do what YOU want to do. Brava lei! I really enjoy your blog…

    Fern’s last blog post..Roadkill

    Thanks Fern! Nice to see you here 🙂

  28. I’ve always wondered…now I know. What a beautiful post. Maybe it’s time I write my reasons for living abroad too. I get a lot of questions from people…

    Grace @ Sandier Pastures’s last blog post..Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt – Clouds

    Therapeutic to write as well Grace; I look forward to reading it 🙂

  29. I wasjust like you in 1996, finished my degree in UK and was offered a job in singapore, which i took up i never even knew where SIngapre was at that time, now been here for 12 years

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  30. Pellet stove Reviews
    08.10.2008

    sometimes bold decisions can be the best… as we fear nothing when deciding..

    Excellent point 🙂

  31. 10.09.2008

    Ciao!

    I love what you said about how you “did what was expected for so long”
    and how you found yourself saying hello “to the real me, the one that I’d been meaning to become.”

    I really relate to that. I fell in love with Italy on my first day there when I was 19. I have lived there a few times over the years and I’ve led tours there and organized weddings there for Americans, and in various ways gotten myself over there as much as I can… but I never totally “left” the US for good. And I think it was because there was a part of me that wanted to be very responsible and wanted to do what was expected, and didn’t want to upset my parents.

    Now as I am going through a divorce (and I don’t have kids) I wonder if the time is right to finally make that move… I find some encouragement in your blog, so thank you!! I’d love to see you visiting my blog, which right now is mostly about a crazy experience I had in an Italian hospital this summer:
    http://italiandreams.wordpress.com

    Chandi’s last blog post..On Dying, feeling feelings and body-centered psychotherapy

    I look forward to getting to know you better and following your journey 🙂

  32. carol
    11.07.2010

    michelle,You were among our earliest *inspirations*. We didnt know how or when but we totally knew it was gonna happen. thanks for being a generous resource.

    Thanks Carol; it’s been great to follow your journey as well 🙂

  33. 11.07.2010

    Great posting! Calabria or Southern Italy is the antidote to the US — just as the US is the antidote to Italy. I personally need both. Just an old-woman’s point of view.

    I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say they are polar opposites, but I can certainly understand appreciating different aspects of life in each place (as I do as well).

  34. 11.07.2010

    This post makes me feel a bit more brave. I’m getting ready to say a very big goodbye and I hope that there will be an even nicer hello not too far away.

  35. 11.07.2010

    It takes a brave person to follow their heart, Michelle!

    I have often admired my ancestors who for one reason or another left their countries and crossed the ocean by boat to come to the US a century ago, with little except the promise of a better life. My own husband’s family left a town not far from where you live to do the same the early 60’s.

    Why can’t someone from the US do the same and reverse the trip back to Italy? Your life there is a good one and you’re happy! That is reason enough!

  36. Anza
    11.08.2010

    Came across this the very night I arrived in Albany w/ Valentina. It feels very strange to be moving so far away from my hometown. Am I a New Yorker? Time will tell.

    I’m so excited for you move…can’t wait to follow the journey 🙂

  37. John
    11.09.2010

    So it had nothing to do with the boy friend? Just wondering.

    Nope; I met Paolo after I had been here for a year and a half, and had no boyfriend in either country when I moved.

  38. 08.10.2011

    So beautifully written by a wonderful, loving, and courageous soul, so happy that I have met you in cyberspace Michelle, who knows maybe some day in person…which would be very nice! Hugs! Ciao!

    michelle Reply:

    Hugs to you, Pam…would be lovely to meet indeed! xx

  1. [...] written about my decision to move to Italy in You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello, and I’m not sure I can... bleedingespresso.com/2008/07/how-i-ended-up-in-italy-what-i-miss-and-when-ill-be-leaving.html
  2. [...] is Bleeding Espresso. I can’t remember who found whom, but read this post of hers and then mine, a... missexpatria.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/blogging-about-blogging-about-italy
  3. [...] is a lot to reflect upon as I continue my journey in Italy, and I have more questions than answers. As M... simplyitaliana.com/2012/07/30/what-is-the-meaning-of-home
Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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