Relaxation and lightness of being ignored my invitation as I reclined on my mat and listened to the guidance of my yoga teacher, “Close your eyes. Let yourself just be…listen to what comes up for you.” I wanted to leave. I was swimming in checklists and to-do lists for my Italy trip in 6 days, thank you very much. Deep breath. I exhaled my plans and lists, creating enough space to realize I had a weight on my chest and lump in my throat. I diagnosed myself with an extreme case of cold feet in regards to my commitment to Florence University of the Arts. Then I felt guilty. Who gets cold feet about an amazing opportunity to live and study in Europe? Only crazy people. Or was I crazy to go? At twenty-seven should I be spending my entire savings on one season abroad instead of finding a steady job with perks like parking and benefits? A teardrop slid down my cheek and dropped onto my mat. “It’s really not fiscally responsible…do you even know what you are doing with your life? And why do you of all people deserve to go?” This was the voice in my head.
Professor Fadigati motioned to all the pre-set options on the camera dial for portrait and landscape etc. “You see all these? They are for tourists who don’t want to think before they take a picture.” Then he stopped at the capital ‘M’ (manual setting for exposure) and said, “This is for the artist who needs the freedom of choice.” The words ‘artist’ and ‘freedom’ sounded very romantic and breezy, and made me feel like I was in an Audrey Hepburn film – maybe I should cut off my hair like Sabrina before I return, responding to inquiries about my trip with, “I really found myself in Florence…” In reality, however, I can’t always manipulate the numbers and dials on my camera fast enough to capture a moment. The photo turns out dark and vague.
“And now hug your knees into your chest, then let them gently fall over to one side…” I sighed over to the right, my cheek absorbing the aforementioned teardrop. A quiet voice inside spoke up, “It might not make sense, but I just know that I need to go.” A memory surfaced. I was about seven and sitting on the floor with my grandmother, Mor Mor. She was showing me postcards and mementos of her worldwide travels. Her face was glowing as she told me stories, and she had a quiet smile on her face the entire time, “When you go, you will see.”
Last night I went for a run, and I had to stop as I crossed one of the bridges over the Arno because the sunset was so glorious. It even rivaled the ones in Costa Rica. My soul was awake, and I felt so grateful for the freedom and the choice that I have been given. Yes, there are moments of dark confusion, but there are also others of arresting beauty. And I don’t think that these radiant, simple moments are limited to Europe – I hope they will follow me back to daily life in Washington or to wherever I land. They seem to come from leaving behind cultural autofocus and choosing the settings for myself as I compose the light around me.