The Gap Year Decision

Recently, I have been struggling a lot with my decision on moving abroad to Italy. Not Italy per say, not the experiences I have been living, the people I have been meeting nor the life that I am constructing… but exactly that, because I am in the midst of a new life that I am building.

To be honest, I believed I would be somewhere completely different by this point in my life. I have always said that I didn’t like planning my life too much, but I was also the person that liked to at least have some kind of road map to an end goal. It’s been hard to accept the fact that in the midst of the beginning of my career, I decided to take a break. I left a job in which I didn’t feel like I was evolving the way I wanted to career wise. I felt very stuck in what the right path was for me: there I was in Paris, with a bachelors and first year of Masters from the Sorbonne (an echo I often hear when I tell people where I graduated from). I had done it… I had done what I believed NEEDED to be done. I had turned 18, gone to school, graduated, got a job and now I was well on my way to making a stable living… Yet, I wasn’t happy, and in the midst of the pandemic, I learned that everything can be taken away from us in a second. Life is too short to have headaches from a place you spend around 40 hours a week if you don’t enjoy what you are doing. 

I decided very quickly over the course of a weekend to fulfil a lifelong goal of mine: to live in Italy for a few months and learn the Italian language. When I shared this with friends and family, I did receive a few “are you sure about this?” and others were very much on board. It was a mix. Not only was I doing this because I felt stuck in my career, but also due to my personal history, it was something I needed to do to personally evolve and no longer feel stuck in my mind. It was a risk I was taking, and I knew that. 

I have often found it hard to explain to people how stuck I felt. There’s a song by Taylor Swift called “Right Where You Left Me” from her album Evermore where she describes a woman sitting in a restaurant and being stuck in time.

Did you ever hear about the girl who got frozen?

Time went on for everybody else, she won’t know it

She’s still 23 inside her fantasy

How it was supposed to be

Did you hear about the girl who lives in delusion?

Taylor Swift, Right Where You Left Me

When healing from trauma or personal event, often times therapists say that it isn’t linear. I also have come to believe that life isn’t linear. Often, those who have thriving lives and careers are those who didn’t follow the same path that is proposed and instilled in us from a young age. Though I have been very nervous, wondering how these “off months” have helped me, I decided to make a list to be able to show myself how these months abroad have helped me. Has it been the months that I imagined they would be? No, but life is never often the way we plan it out to be.  

1. It has let me define myself

I moved to Paris, France at 19. I always explain that I wanted to go to a country in which I hadn’t grown up in. I always find myself explaining that growing up, I found it to be difficult to manage being a foreigner in two home countries, being known as the Spaniard in the U.S. and an American in Spain. I wanted to grow somewhere else and define that I was truly from both, because that’s how it is. Moving to Italy has done the same thing but in a deeper sense. I am slowly seeing that I am no longer fearful of defining my worth and using words such as courageous, strong, motivated, intelligent, adaptable, opinionated and empathetic. These are words that I believe when used by a woman can be off-putting because women should “follow the rules” and be quiet.  

2. I discovered new passions. 

Outside of moving to a new country and learning a new language, I actually took on a new activity I had always wanted to learn: ballroom dancing. More specifically, I took up tango. I’ve been having so much fun and have been very motivated in perfecting the basic steps that I am learning right now. My teachers are thrilled with me, and having that boost in confidence, in being good at something I just started, has given me something I needed and is something I look forward to about my evenings. 

3. You gain confidence and independence 

I’ve been able to navigate Italian bureaucracy pretty much 90% by myself (I truly thank from the bottom of my heart my Italian friends who have helped me fill out a few forms that I didn’t quite understand). I got an Italian fiscal code (which is needed for practically everything here: opening a bank account, getting a phone number and even transportation passes) and signed up for the national health insurance. These are things that most of my Italian friends did not know how to set up since they were born into the system and had this all registered from birth. I had to figure out who to contact, what emails to send and what numbers to call. Everything was done in Italian, a language I am still mastering. Receiving my national health insurance card (especially in time of a pandemic and needing to get the booster shot) was a very proud moment for me. I felt very much confident and independent at that moment. 

4. It gave me time to refocus on myself, my needs and my wants. 

The most important relationship you will have in this life is with yourself. If your foundation isn’t strong, how do you believe that the rest will be? I have been able to focus on my mental health and do things I am passionate about. I’ve been able to see new cities and learn a new language. This year has given me time to write more, reflect and set new goals both personally and career wise. At the end of the day, my “last dream” before settling down was moving to Italy and learning Italian… if I didn’t do it now, before 30, when would I?

I no longer wanted to mourn a life that I had worked so hard to have that felt demolished when I was 23. So now, for the first time, I’m feeling strong enough to finally move on. Something I’m proud of is that I now know my limits.

Baci, Bisous, Besos, XOXO

You can follow more of Veronica

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/veronicalavil

Instagram: @veronicalavil

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