Once upon a time I fell in love with a city. A classic textbook case of the Italy Grand Tour capturing hearts and minds of youth across the world.
Seriously. I’ve been fixated on the idea of my four months in Florence since the week I had to leave…which was over two years ago. I was obsessed, and I absolutely had to go back.
A few years ago I took this college course The Psychology of Romantic Relationships, and I remember studying the neuroscience behind falling in love — and being stuck in it. And my obsession with Florence has matched the cognitive patterns of out-of-your-mind-crazy love…except I fell in love with a country!
“There’s all kinds of reasons that you fall in love: Timing is important. Proximity is important. Mystery is important. You fall in love with somebody who’s somewhat mysterious, in part because mystery elevates dopamine in the brain, probably pushes you over that threshold to fall in love.” — Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist
So, still stuck in my Firenze frenzy, I went back to Italy this May. Back to Florence, where I’d never felt so alive. I walked by our old apartment the first day I arrived — luggage still in hand. I took all the best walks, I sat in all my favorite spots, I ate all the great food (ALL the food!), I said hello to old friends, I befriended new faces, and I explored even more places. Just me, my memories, and the juxtaposition of a life that is and that was.
Someone I met on this trip woke me from this Italy Grand Tour spell with one simple word: fantasy. For over two years, I’ve had one foot stuck behind in a fantasy life that isn’t mine, and the other plunging forward into the only thing real yet everything unknown.
I needed clarity; I needed closure. And I didn’t know that’s why I needed to go back until I was really there.
Don’t get me wrong — I loved my visit to Florence. This very special city will always be in my heart. But my relationship to this city now feels like all the Renaissance buildings it holds — a beautiful place to see, but one which cannot truly be revitalized back to its glory era of existence. And that’s because it no longer has the people, the situation, the timing….that’s all history. A beautiful history to learn from and to cherish.
My life can now pick up the fragments of a dreamworld and use them to reshape what’s real. I need to grow the person I am in reality into the person I want to be in my fantasy. Going back has finally shattered this illusion that the best version of myself can only thrive in my fantasy.
I will be back to Italy. Probably many times. I will continue embracing its language, its country, its culture. I will continue loving Italy. But I will no longer feel like my heart’s been left behind while my body mindlessly drifts through a life where something’s missing. With closure from the past, I can finally feel excited for the future again. (And hey, there’s a whole world out there!)
Sorry it took two years to realize this. Helen Fisher could probably tell you about some crazy cognitive rationale that makes it totally understandable. But for now, here are some pictures from my lovely trip. I’ll share more in the coming weeks…and with much more fun and much less emo posts 🙂