So it's time to go to Italy. My flight is a good'er- from Edmonton to Iceland, then to Denmark, then finally to Milan where we will then drive the 40 minutes to Bergamo. I should arrive in Italy on Tuesday, December 2nd, in perfect time for my favorite part of the day: dinner. I'm not a believer of goodbyes which is quite convenient for my present situation. When Massi left Canada more than six years ago and we had no plan and no idea when we would see each other next (it would be in Italy, two months later), we told each other ciao-for-now. So, in the hopes of being hopelessly cheesy- Ciao for now!
An amazing friend gave me this yesterday and it both broke my heart and made it smile at the same time. Who knew that feeling was even possible. Less than 24 hours now.
Sometimes I wish I never had it as good as I did here, it would make leaving so much easier. But that simply was not the case, I have been living what some would argue to be a perfect life- an amazingly satisfying career split between working in the community and teaching labs to future pharmacists, the best friends and family a girl could ask for, and essentially a comfortable existence split between work and hobbies. My line of work afforded me the chance to travel all over the province and to vacation wherever my heart pleased. It let me help people. I really could not have asked for more, but that is exactly what I am doing with this move. I need a greater challenge, to step out of routine comforts and to feel my heart race every day with the prospect of not knowing what is going to come next. The only thing that would make this perfect is if I could bring all the people I love with me. But I suppose if that were the case, we would never truly live, because life is about making choices and sacrifices. Hard choices. Whether the sacrifices will be worth this risk is yet to be determined, but I will keep you all updated. I have to say thank you to absolutely everyone that has been a part of my life up to this point-
To my friends and family- thanks for asking the hard questions and yet sending me off with well wishes, there will always be a place for you in our home in Italy. You supported my crazy dreams the entire way and that is the true meaning of friendship and family. Your love and nurturing is what made me into who I am today- the kind of person who, thanks to you, has the backbone to move to pursue a fantastical dream. Please always stay in touch and visit.
To my colleagues and the profession of pharmacy- it has been the pleasure of a lifetime to work alongside so many wonderful pharmacists, technicians, assistants, and students striving to improve lives each and every day on the literal frontline of healthcare. I have loved the profession and loved my patients dearly, you gave so much to me in the form of trust and confidence.
To Edmonton and Canada- Edmonton, everyone complains about you but you are where I grew up and it is impossible to deny the fact that you hold almost all my most precious memories. My first love, my first drink, they all belong to you. There is a saying that you can never go home again but I know I'll be seeing you soon. Canada, I wouldn't want to be from any other country in the entire world. You are the epitome of what other countries strive to be, a sanctuary for people from everywhere and anywhere, a safe haven where multiculturalism and diversity are not new or foreign concepts but rather a way of life. Where saying sorry and smiling at strangers is commonplace. So I will always wear my flag proudly and try to be a living example of the true north, strong and free.
To everyone in Italy- grazie for making me feel at home during every trip, even when I knew only two words in Italian. And thank you even more, for being rather terrible at English and forcing me to learn the language of my future home!
And finally, to Massi- for taking a chance on a girl you met in a bar one warm summer's night in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and for all the sacrifices you made moving here to make it work. And more importantly, thanks for waiting.
GRAZIE and ciao for now (never goodbye).
So even though it has not hit me yet, I think my subconscious can sense the impending move and it is making me do strange and fanatical things that are totally out of character. Here's a random list:
Today I booked my ticket to Italy. Gosh, no words can describe the exhilaration and fear but I know this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I also know it is an opportunity that so many want but so few are granted. I never planned to fall in love with someone who lived across the ocean but I did always plan to live, if only temporarily, in Europe. True, I may be lucky that my stars aligned a little more perfectly than I would have ever imagined, but anyone can live this adventure. For one year I will be using a Working Holiday Visa, the golden ticket available to any Canadian between 18-35 years old. It is available for many countries besides Italy as well (because Canada is such a beloved country and everyone wants to be friends with us). It can be very difficult to permanently live in Europe should you not be blessed with birth-rights and a hand-me-down EU citizenship so I know I have to take the chance given to me. I am one of the blessed few who can stay if she choses without being on early retirement or married to George Clooney (we all know he wishes he were Italian!). And though many people will only ever make it to Italy in their golden years, I personally believe Italy is even more wonderful to youth.
Do you believe in fate? I have always been a personal fan of destiny and a God-created plan, especially when it comes to the people we meet in our lives. There is an Asian legend that is referred to as the red string of fate. Apparently the gods tie a red string to your ankle and around the ankles of the people you are destined to be with and no matter where you are in the world (Italy or Canada) or how twisted and tangled the string gets, you will eventually meet each other. The people connected by the string are soul mates, destined lovers despite place and time. I believed in the red string far before I ever met Massi, but it was only after our meet cute that the ties that bind became even more apparent. I thought I would share the four circumstances that, in my opinion, are no coincidence. I dedicate this post to my work colleagues who just adore these stories.
Late June or July, 6 years ago. Abercrombie and Fitch. Edmonton, AB, Canada.
I was manning the dressing rooms at my summer job when a cute boy came to try on a hoodie. He spoke with a heavy accent that I decided was Brazilian (now I can pick out an Italian accent from miles away). For some unbeknownst reason, I remembered his yellow shirt and backpack (which we would later realize was his Invicta backpack, the trademark carry-all of every Italian). And for more obvious reasons, I remembered his long hair tied into a ponytail. That was the first time we met without knowing it. We would later discover that Massi had just landed in Edmonton from Italy and was looking for clothes after his luggage was delayed. Little did he know, he had found more than a hoodie at Abercrombie that day!
August, 6 years ago. The Bank Nightclub. Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Our official meeting, read The Backstory for descriptives of Massi's white pants. I was there with girlfriends on a Wednesday night for the last official Ladies' Night with 25 cent highballs. He photo-bombed a photo with my friend Claire even before photo-bombing was a term, then he decided he would be in the next one... right beside me. We are literal strangers in these photographs. The next Monday, we had a first "date" on campus.
January 2014. Edmonton International Airport Check-In: Edmonton --> Honolulu, HI, USA.
This is going to sound like I made it up, but it is the absolute truth I swear! We had booked our flights to Hawaii separately. The same flight obviously but Massi had wanted to use his credit card travel points for his ticket. So I booked mine from my home on one day, on my laptop and Massi booked his through points on a completely different day from his apartment downtown. As far as the reservations were concerned we were person X and Y, un-related, un-linked, no little travel agent notes saying we were a couple. We specifically went to check-in early as we knew we would have to request our seats together on the flight. And as the red string would have it, when our tickets were pulled up, guess who I was seated next to already? No seating adjustments necessary.
June 2014. London Heathrow Airport, London, England.
I was flying to Milan Malpensa with my mom and Massi was flying to Milan Linate. He had flown out of Calgary to Heathrow while we had flown from Edmonton. Our flights had arrived at separate times and based on the crazy chaos that is Heathrow, we had made absolutely no plans to meet or even try to meet up. We were going to meet in Italy. This might only have significance if you are familiar with the size and number of people at Heathrow- to put it into perspective, it is the busiest airport in Europe. So there I am, sitting on the floor in a totally random corner of the airport, sipping on my iced Starbucks latte and waiting for my mom when all of a sudden, Massi strolls out of the bathrooms situated directly in front of where I am sitting. Check out this post: Heathrow and destiny.
So now that you are hopefully feeling all warm and fuzzy from this quartet of recollections, what do you think....Is it coincidence? Chance? Whether it is a red string, God, or the tapestry of fate, I like to think there is something greater at the root of all great loves.
Ever since I first backpacked Europe between first and second year undergrad and stumbled upon this quote, I have waited for the moment when I could use it in a post exactly like this one and happily check off each line like a Sunday shopping list. Today I quit my job. And while many people remain perplexed by this decision, citing numerous issues such as financial security and the time it takes to become a pharmacist etc, etc., I simply ask: so? We should instead be asking ourselves when the value of education became second to the number value on a cheque at the end of the month. Having a savings account above zero is definitely a nice feeling, I cannot dispute that, but what I do know is the moments where I have been truly happy required little or no money at all. I usually try to take a mental photograph of what happiness is, the situations in which it bubbles up in my soul and I am somewhere smiling like a fool at nothing in particular. Here is an actual photograph, one of those rare ones that captures something unintentional. It is just a simple moment- we are squished and sweaty in a tuk-tuk bouncing along through Kathmandu to an unknown destination, sharing a story I no longer remember, and yet there is a lightness in all of our faces. It shines through the eyes and the smiles. I like to think that this is what happy hearts look like.
Chase whatever makes your heart happy. Do not resign yourself to living the same day on repeat and eighty years later, call it a life. After a year of practicing pharmacy, I feel the winds changing. It is time for a new adventure. I sincerely hope that my journey will inspire some of you to be daring and do something that makes people furrow their brows with confusion and concern. What a wonderful reaction to create in others, wouldn't you agree?
Airports are a bittersweet spot for me. They are where I waited so anxiously for Massi to arrive, red suitcases in tow, when he was first coming to Canada four years ago to start a new job. Before that, we had spent many tearful hellos and goodbyes at the arrivals and departures, spread out between Edmonton International, Milano Malpensa, and Linate. How I adore and loathe those airports! Honestly, even walking through Malpensa now, I can recall choking back tears on a chilly February morning as I waited for my flight back to Canada. It was my first visit to Italy. Almost six years later, this past Saturday, we said what was hopefully our last 'ciao for now' as I sent Massi on his way back home.
If distance makes the heart grow fonder, I do not doubt we have reached a level of fondness for each other that has never been witnessed before (at least in post-Shakespearean times). We will now embrace the wonderfulness that is Skype and romantic evenings/mornings (depending on which continent you are referencing) of watching each other fall asleep/wake up. There is usually snoring and drooling involved for a good part of the conversation. Perhaps that is what love is. Love is staying up on Skype watching someone sleep on the other side of the world even though the screen is completely dark anyways and you could really just be listening to a snore soundtrack on repeat and not know the difference. But somehow, those are never wasted moments because in those moments, your heart is happy. Ciao for now amore.
Once upon a time, I met a charming Italian boy in a bar in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I immediately fell in love with his wits (and white pants). Through the years, we endured the challenges of an overseas relationship as well as the greater challenge of living in the same city. There were moments the Atlantic seemed endless and between the two of us, we have probably flown over it more than a dozen times. I even have a Heathrow airport ritual consisting of dry shampooing my hair with Batiste dry shampoo (there was a time it was only available at Boots drug store), then picking up the latest Tatler and sitting at the gate with a Caffè Nero cappuccino. The first part of the ritual is very key as you do not want to arrive in Milan looking like you just swam the Atlantic to get there. I digress, apologies. Returning to the backstory, we have certainly had our comedic moments, mainly when I could not speak Italian and Massimiliano (that would be the aforementioned charming Italian boy) was still perfecting English. But love knows no language barrier nor borders of countries. I ended up studying Italian after my first trip to Italy and when I graduated from university, four years later, I was taking classes taught in Italian. So here we are, almost six years since that fateful summer night and I have fallen not just for a boy, but a dream. That dream is to move to Italy and it is coming true as you read this. My hope is to bring all my loved ones on this adventure with me through this blog and I want you to know that my story is your story. This is your one-way ticket to come with me.
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Jasmine is a former pharmacist turned writer and wine drinker from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy.
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