We All Need To Get Uncomfortable
Hello from Italy!
Haven't written a post in a while, so figured I would write one while thinking about my time in Rome thus far.
If I'm being honest, it hasn't been an easy adjustment. There's many reasons I love it here so far and many reasons why it's been challenging, but for now, I'm just gonna focus on this thing that I've been stuck thinking about.
The other day I was in a retail store in line for the dressing room to try some pants on. As I was standing there, I couldn't recognize anything I heard. Many people were talking, but I had absolutely no idea what anyone was saying. By now I can start to pick out words here and there and I know a few basic things, but let's just say I'm not the best in Italian. (The other day my Italian teacher asked me if I had allergies because my eyes were watering. No, it was because I was so frustrated from not understanding the language I was about to lose it.) Anyways, back to the line at the dressing room. As I looked in front of me I saw no one that looked like me. And as I looked the rest of the way around me I saw no one that looked like me. No one looked like me or sounded like me. Most other people here have dark hair, tan skin, and could understand each other. And then there's me with blonde hair, fair skin, blue eyes, and I'm assuming a harsh American accent. For some reason, I just felt really alone in that line. There weren't extreme physical differences. There is a different cultural, but there could be a much larger barrier. Yet, it felt like a huge wall.
Now, this is like most days here. It's a real struggle to communicate. I try to speak in the language the best I can when I can, but generally I get a weird look because I'm pronouncing it wrong. (Hey, it's the thought that counts and I'm trying.) You can feel people's eyes on you because you stand out, and especially being from America, there's a certain stigma people have about you. My friends and I will go to a pub and you can tell that sometimes the young people are laughing at us because we're different than them, have no idea what they are saying, and they can literally tell you anything and you have no idea if it's true. Yeah, that's happened a few times now. Many people have told us tell us how rich America is, how they can never afford to go, and yesterday it was, "All they teach in American history class is America and the rest of the world doesn't exist."Let's just say, not everyone looks at us in the greatest light.
Now, this is all getting to a point. It is uncomfortable here a lot of the time, and it's frustrating because it's not so easy. But, I think that's one of the best lessons of being here. You will be uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable is how you grow. I'm uncomfortable because I'm not in the same position I always am, where I can understand everyone and mostly blend in, depending on the setting. But this discomfort gives me a new, important perspective.
After feeling this way most days for the last month, I've been thinking to myself, imagine what it must be like to be a minority or an immigrant. I've thought about this many times before, and the closest way I can relate is being a woman, but it just made me think about it again in a new way. I'm not saying me being in Italy can really compare to being a minority or an immigrant, but I just thought to myself, if I've felt this uncomfortable and frustrated after just a month, what it's like to live it?
I just wanna propose a few questions and ideas. Have you ever actually lived in a place where no one understands you? Where you look different than everyone around you? Where you're trying your best to understand and be understood but you fully can't? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone and saw how others live? Maybe not in a different country but a different state, a different income level area, maybe just see the differences in your own neighbor? If you have, well then keep that perspective in mind. And if you haven't, just imagine it. What it's like to not have people understand you, or look like you, or sound like you, or act like you, or have your traditions, but attempting to be accepted all at the same time. Imagine what it's like to have people judge you because of the tone of your skin or how you pronounce words or because you celebrate your spirituality or religion differently than they do.
I'm only in Italy for three and a half months, where the cultural barrier is large but could be a hell of a lot larger. I know I'm going to have that comfort back when I go home. It's not something I have to live forever. Now imagine if you had to, and remember, for many people, that is their reality.
I believe we all need to start getting uncomfortable and learning from new perspectives, because that's the way you grow.