I’ve been living in Rome for a month, and I think I’ve hit a wall. It’s not a homesickness wall – it’s a fun wall.
It’s weird that every day is good and fun and exciting. I need a rainy day, just as a reality check. Things are pretty close to perfect here, and it’s starting to creep me out a little bit.
Last night, I went to a little bar in Trastevere with a group of Notre Dame kids, and we were talking about how different John Cabot is from Notre Dame. The general consensus was that we never realized just how much we work at Notre Dame. College is hard – really hard. And at Notre Dame, we’re surrounded by really smart people all the time. Study abroad is a nice break from the academic rigors of Notre Dame, but the Type-A student in me is kind of ready to go back to real life now.
In high school and at Notre Dame, I was so used to being busy with classes and friends and work and sports and hall government and volunteer projects that I never managed to sit and think about all that I was involved in. Now, I have more free time than I think I’ve ever had in my life. It’s totally bizarre.
All of the study abroad preparation literature talks about a “U-Curve” of adjustment. At the beginning of a study abroad experience, you’re supposed to go through a honeymoon stage. That’s the “Italy is so great! Oh my god the food! This is the best thing ever!” stage. Then there’s a down slope – the disenchantment stage. That’s when you’re supposed to be frustrated with the way that things are different in Italy than they are in the United States. It’s the “I can’t believe it took that guy twenty minutes to make a sandwich”/ ”Why can’t these people wait in a damn line?” stage. And then there’s the readjustment period when you come to accept the country the way it is and you find your happy place in that chaos. That’s the “Well, I don’t really have anywhere better to be, so I’m content standing in this amorphous blob of humanity while I wait for my panini” stage.
Right now, I’m entering the disenchantment stage, chronologically at least. But I’m not disenchanted with Italy. I’m just a little confused about what to do with myself while I’m here. I am adjusting to a totally different way of living – and I don’t mean living in an apartment and cooking for myself. Being without a full calendar is really difficult for me. Learning to cope with a lack of structure, a lack of stress and pressure, is challenging and new.
A month of vacation is all fine and good, but now I have this nagging feeling that I’m missing out on things. I’m weirdly anxious that I’m going to be behind somehow when I get home. Behind on what? I’m not really sure, but I feel like I should be doing productive things instead of doing things like taking naps in the middle of the day. I know that this is classic overachiever guilt at its finest and I know that I should just relax and have fun, but I also know myself.
This lack of stress is stressing me out.