I am writing this from the floor of the gate at Linate airport in Milan, waiting for my flight to Dublin to start boarding and wiping tears from my cheeks as I get ready to bid farewell to beautiful Italy. It’s hard for me to put into words the emotions that are washing through me, but mostly I think I could some them up with gratitude.
I have been tested and exhausted by the last two weeks of camp, but I have also had wonderful connections with people and the chance to use my skills as a teacher in new ways and really help and share with people in ways that I hope will be helpful. I haven’t written because I have been absorbed in the work and working with younger kids is supremely exhausting. The last two weeks I was in a camp in Mestre near Venice and it was a delightful, stressful mess. There were a few very strong personalities in the tutor group and so I decided to take a step back and shut my mouth most of the time, waiting to use my currency when it mattered the most rather than throwing my weight around for no good reason. Watching the others, I see that this is a gift that wisdom and age bring us and I feel grateful to have made it to this point in my life that I have learned how to shut my mouth and let the stress go away when it isn’t there to serve my needs or those around me.
In the last week of camp I started to make friends with one of the other tutors and I think I’ve found this trip that I can be friends with people who are 18 and 19, which I usually feel I can’t because I teach them, but it’s been nice not to have the teacher thing in between us and to be able to have good conversations and fun times with people at that age and be forgiving of the fact that they don’t know a lot of the stuff yet without being a judgemental asshole. My friend at camp told me I’m “safe” which is Brit talk for cool and not an asshole, and he said I’m the first 30 year old person he’s been able to be friends with and not feel like they are discounting him because of his age. He helped me a lot actually and we talked about some things that he helped me get some perspective on. I also had the idea that at the end of our camp we should sing “Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles because it’s simple and it was in my head after he had been singing Beatles songs and he went home that night and wrote out new lyrics about all the people at the camp. I was so stoked on his song and the camp directors decided we should do it. It was stressful, and the other tutors were negative and shitty about it at first, but in the end it turned out amazingly well and I think he learned a little bit more that he can do amazing things and that he’s got a lot of wonderful talent to give the world.
On Wednesday night the helpers (high school kids that get assigned to us to help in our classes) invited us to go to a silent dance party, where you wear headphones and pick out of three DJ’s channels the music you want to listen to. A bunch of the tutors said they didn’t want to go because it was late and a weeknight but I said we only have a few more days left in Italy and we won’t remember the nights we went to bed early 10 years from now. So Rob and I went to the supermarket and bough cheap and terrible boxed wine, and met up in the park and sat on a bench and played a horrible drinking game called the Bus. It was a lot of fun and getting to know him was wonderful, I think it helped me heal one of the last parts of the broken feelings I’ve had since this last year. Then our helpers met us on their bikes to show us the way to the old fort by the water where the party was. It was insane and so much fun and terribly dangerous drunkenly biking through the streets of Mestre but we were managing until we went onto a dark gravel pathway at which point I felt my equilibrium shift and felt the deep knowledge that I was destined to go ass over teakettle. This wouldn’t have sucked as badly if it hasn’t been directly into a bramble bush, so I was picking thorns out of my wounds for the next day or so, but I got up laughing and got back on my bike and chalked it up to battle scars. We had so much insane fun dancing around at the party, they were playing electroswing and Elvis and 90’s music and Rob and Jess and Monique and I were just crazy dancing all over the place, the helpers were having a blast and it was fabulous. I lost my little black bag of cosmetics but I felt sure I would find it again and Carla knew where it was and Rob helped me find home and biked back with me and it was an exhilarating adventure that I will remember forever.
The final show was a day where everyone stressed out, but I had made a film with my kids so I took them out to the side of the school in our little secondary garden and we played games all day and they taught me a volleyball like game and I used my body again like I used to when I was a kid and I didn’t feel sure that I wasn’t able to anymore. Rob and I had played basketball and I was actually good and I jumped rope and I ran around and I have been carrying my luggage and I am strong as hell right now and it’s a beautiful feeling. I’ve lost a bunch of weight, my pants are loose and I feel like I found my way back to my body again after being disconnected from it for a long time. Being around kids can do that for you, you remember what it was like when you could just do anything and your legs would bend however you needed them to and you could do a cartwheel because it never occurred to you to think you couldn’t. When you were just your body and there wasn’t the division between who you are and who you want to be, or need to be, or hope you can become one day so you can be an ok human and not a disgusting blob like the world has told you that you are.
My flight is boarding soon, and I’m so happy to see Coco. I spent the night in Milan at Rafaelle’s houe and it was sort of like a circle, coming back around the to the first nights I spent in Italy on my way back. I’m very excited for Dublin, and I am very excited for home. And I have loved Italy and will forever be grateful I had this chance to find my way back to a better me that can trust herself and is strong and powerful and lovable.