Italy: In The Darkness of The Pit, There Will Shine A Bright Light

It’s ending, it’s ending, it’s coming to an end! Wipe the sweat from your brow, stretch your muscles for the final pace, the end is in sight.

Oh good lord, what has this year taught us? It must have taught us something. There must be something we can take away from all of this.  First, though, I should probably take a few steps back and fill in the gaps since I last posted here, which was many thousands of years ago, long long ago in a world that looks nothing like the one we see before us now.

I believe we last found me on my knees, bloody and bruised, with a grizzly expression, ready to face a second semester of what was proving to be just about one of the most difficult things I’ve been through on a personal level. After attempting to battle the Fates, the Powers That Be, Those Who Decree Up On High, and failing in complete vain, I decided to survey my lot and accept the hand I’d been dealt. It was not a pretty hand, but it was my hand, and progress requires resilience, we know, so I persisted.

This is one of the greatest lessons I learnt from this year, I suppose. Sometimes the tide will sweep you into difficult places, sometimes you will find yourself washed ashore of some lightless place, where the ground burns beneath your feet and the vegetation grows with a putrid stench; you hear whispers from unseen sources, threatening whispers, scary grumbles. You would be afraid of your own shadow if there was enough light to form a shadow. There isn’t. You are alone.

But you come to learn something when you find yourself washed ashore these dreadful places. (And you will, believe me; you can’t not. If you’re exploring the waters–and you should be–the tide will take you there, for the tide tends that way). You invent small ways to save yourself every day and you loosen your concept of necessity — you alter what you feel you need in the name of perseverance, and it’s the best trick you could have ever taught yourself.

What I mean to say is, second semester was slow going. After that initial burst of New Year’s positivity, the old anxieties came back and I found myself increasingly in ruts once again. But I’d begun to know how to deal with the ruts, the ruts were my home, a profoundly understood feature of my landscape. I soon learned to become one with the ruts. (Lol). I established a general routine that involved forcing myself to go to the lectures and exploring places by the weekends. I drifted away from Erasmus Life and, more or less, sustained IRL human contact and figured out how to work with the ruts. I ended up exploring northern Italy an appreciable extent, and online I kept in touch with friends in distant places, so that I wasn’t fully or entirely mentally isolated. One soul in particular provided me with virtual company daily, that we grew closer and closer. From a distance she protected me and kept me going while I was low. In the darkness of the pit, there shone a bright light, and where that light was cast, old things became new and the new things lost their terror. That’s the thing: eventually you will see light, and it will be sweet and it will be good, and it will almost make the journey into the pit seem worth it.

She came to visit me over the past two or so weeks, where we explored the south a little, flying to Sicily, then taking a ferry to Naples where we stayed, then a train to Rome where again we stayed, before finally heading back up north. I can now pretty confidently say I’ve explored the Italian peninsula more so than my own home, Britain. There is more yet that I would have liked to see, but also I’m rather content with everything I have seen, and I would be very pleased to leave now and finally go back where I understand the speech well and feel more persistently comfortable. But I have to stay for another month or so because of a rogue exam. It’s fine, though, I’ll survive.

To wrap this up, though, let’s recap what I’ve learnt. 1) You must invent small ways to save yourself every day; 2) in the darkness of the pit, there will shine a bright light; 3) Erasmus is not what you make of it, it’s what it makes of you. If you’re reading this before your own Erasmus year, most likely you will be just fine and you will find joy and larks — I too have on occasion found the joy and larks that I have perceived in my peers. But it’s also perfectly possible that it will be a long, long strain; you finally understand why a comfort zone is called a comfort zone, and why one should not leave them (comfort zones, that is) for 9 month stretches at a time.

Put simply, like life, Erasmus will happen to you and you will just have to work with what it deals you. Expect nothing; take it as it comes. I’m serious. Expect nothing at all. Never expect anything. That’s a surefire way to feel crappy. Expect nothing and stay alive. That is all.

I think this is the last thing I’ll post here. If you’ve been reading through my posts specifically, thank you for your time. Perhaps nobody will read this and it will just be a lost artefact floating in the mysterious nothingness that is the Web. That is also fine.

Arrivederci, y’all.

P.S. I was going to post pictures like a good Erasmus blogger should do, but I just don’t think it suits the post to intersperse pictures in there randomly. I’m sorry. If you really desperately want to see pictures of my time, hunt me down. I’m sure you can do it. I’ll be waiting in the shadow of the western hills.

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