It’s a funny thing, the cages and limits we build in our minds. The possibilities we deem unattainable, given our backgrounds, our childhoods.
For as long as I can remember I dreamed of living in Italy. Looking back on it I can see that to me it was one of those ‘dreams’ that we have – like flying into space orbit or becoming the president – that always stand at the edge of possibility. Their odds being.. not quite ever in your favor.
You see, At age 5, taking my first family trips from Colombia all the way to Disney World, I became accustomed to the accessibility of the United States, of the realness of my possibilities there, of the magic of spending an exhausted two weeks on your feet for just 5 minutes of sheer Florida thrills. But Europe — Europe itself had always seemed to me a land so far away from my native Cali — a place only the richest of the rich could access, a place that not even my parents, well into their fifties, had ever set foot in — that in my mind, I equated it to my chances of becoming the next Barack. The next Plath. The next Weird Al.
After emigrating to the U.S, my Visa status made it almost impossible to leave the country, and my economic situation took care of the rest. I was grounded. Italy, a lifetime away.
But as often happens when you head to an Ivy League university, you become aware of options that you never saw before, even if through the eyes of others. My friends would take spring break trips all over the world. Others would apply to internships for MTV, or Google — and actually get them a few months later! My world was beginning to change. I started taking Italian classes.
Then Junior year came and went, and I saw Liz and Irina and Amanda and everyone else I cared about jet off to study abroad in Barcelona, Prague, Firenze, Rome. I stayed behind, my dream unfulfilled, partly paralyzed by my childhood fences, self-sabotaging and thinking up all of the reasons that still stood in my way. I blamed the importance of a certain class, the price of tuition abroad, the timing, the status of my U.S Residency.
Then came Graduation.
Same city, same friends.
Until finally one day, a phone call. It was Pá, telling me he had just submitted all of our family documents to be processed for citizenship.. In as little as a year, I could be an American!!!
I still find it ironic how in my head I saw hopping on a plane and flying to l’Italia more complicated and out of reach than a ten year process of naturalization into one of the hardest countries in which to attain it. Maybe it was the branding of the U.S as “The Land of Opportunity”, or maybe i just didn’t realize how much a few trips to Disney could fuck with your head!
Nonetheless, at 22 years of age, I decided that I could not make any more excuses (..my parents sure hadn’t). I would start saving up and as soon as I had my prized blue passport in hand, I would set off to achieve my dream. Or as I should now say.. Il mio sogno!!!
I didn’t know it then, but the decision I had just made would NOT take me to ‘vivere in Italia per un anno’. Over the next year of my life, I would traipse through the Caucauses, Balkans, Middle East and Turkey before getting to fulfill my dream of living, loving, and eating in a small Italian village, in the farm at the end of the road.