24 September 2015
Oof. What a night out in Florence. Laura and I went to Dante’s – the student favourite, as free and endlessly flowing wine accompanies each meal. Unfortunately for me this morning, that wait staff at Dante’s lived up to its reputation, filling and refilling and refilling our little pitcher of white sparkling wine. Even when the food was gone, the wine was there. Even when the wine was gone, after about a second the wine was there once more. And who says Europeans aren’t keen on free refills?
But now my head is feeling the pain. No longer am I the young and vibrant twenty year old studying in Florence, drinking endless vats of wine nightly and waking up, unaffected, to gaily recount the ventures of last night. No, now I am a graduated twenty three year old who is hunched over her laptop in a ten bed hostel room, wishing that all Florentine traffic would kindly come to a halt, just until I can get a cappuccino in my hand.
Yesterday wasn’t just drinking and eating (though I wouldn’t call it a bad day if it were), we walked for miles and miles around the small city, we saw the Pitti Palace and gazed longingly at the €12 Boboli Gardens, we window shopped on the Ponte Vecchio and contemplated taking the window out of window shopping on the Ponte Vecchio, we longingly stared at crepes and gave in and bought crepes, we ran through the rainy cobblestoned streets and turned down the offer of ‘Umbrella?’ on every corner.
In short, we had quite the charming stay in Florence.
This is unsurprising, as Florence is quite the charming city. I like to think of it as the Italian Portland. It’s charmingly quirky, a little bit weird, very walkable and you have an extremely high chance of getting hit by a bike at any point in your journey. But then there are the added extras of Italian flavor to throw into the oh-so-charming pot: bars and cafes scattered on every twisty stony street, wine that is cheaper than water, an entire pizza ordered for one person is a normal occurrence and the wonderful fact that almost every building in town is older than my own country.
This visit to Florence has also held for me a certain kind of understanding about myself – it turned small feelings and questions into answers for me, it starkly reminded me of who I was when I was here last and who I have become since then.
In the summer of 2013, I studied abroad in Florence. I had just come out of my sophomore year, I was young, I was untested in my ideals and ideas, I was unsure of who I was and who I could be. In retrospect, I think that this was the perfect way to go into such a situation: unsure, untested, young, malleable. It allows the experience to really sink its teeth into you, to shake you up, to throw you down, to let you pick yourself back up off of the ground and stand up taller and more confident than you were before.
But back then I was scared. And nervous. And anxious. And excited. And confused.
And now is it the autumn of 2015. I am a graduate. I am twenty-three. I am confident in who I am and what I like and what I want (for now). I have had my ideas and ideals tested and retested and tested again. I have changed because of it. I have had teeth sunk into me, I have had things shake me, throttle me down and I have gotten back up from it all and dusted myself off. I am not done changing. But I have changed since that summer in 2013 where the world was mine and I knew most everything.
I think that the most important thing that I’ve learnt is this:
That nothing is mine and that I know close to nothing.
From the beginning of that summer, I thought that my travels would expand my mind, that I would gain more knowledge, that I would soon obtain a wealth of information that would make me more well rounded, more worldly, more cultured. While this was in one sense correct, it was more wrong than right.
Since then, what I’ve found is that the more that I see, the more that I realize I cannot see; the more that I know, the more that I realize I cannot know; the more that I learn, the more that I realize I cannot learn; the more that I have, the more that I realize that I cannot really have anything –
Nothing is mine and I know close to nothing.
It is strange to come to this conclusion: that I know nothing and own nothing. Because with that knowledge, sometimes it can feel like this is everything I could ever know and everything I could ever own.