Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Returning to Washington, D.C.

Geysir steaming in Iceland
My family and I are back home in Washington, D.C., after our academic year in Florence and some travels through parts of England and Iceland. Much like a new year, this moment feels like a good chance to encourage thoughtful habits and live the lives we wish to live.

From a writing perspective, the distance from our usual routines, tastes, sights, conversations - well, everything - encouraged me to look at things differently and literally shake things up. The usual voices keeping me quiet with, "no, you can't write that," or sarcastically asking, "you think you're good enough to try that project," were mostly overtaken by better voices. I hope to continue to give myself this distance from those negative voices, real or imagined, and explore our surrounding world as if it were new. 

It was lovely to live in an apartment in Florence with large windows and a view of the hills. Sure, we couldn't run the dishwasher and the washing machine at the same time without blowing a fuse and the internet didn't always work, but the airiness and having few of our personal belongings gave us space to be together. From counter and table space to closet space, we literally had more space to move about and focus more deeply. This year we hope to continue to live more simply from a materialistic point of view and make room for more important things. 

My first impressions of returning to Washington, D.C., are mostly startling. It was familiar, but didn't immediately feel like home. Of course, I followed the news from abroad and continue to be shocked by what I read and work to counter, but it was the daily life around me that first struck me. Driving for the first time in almost a year felt difficult at first and then freeing. Such wide roads and so much space compared to sitting in the passenger seat of Italian cars and motorini zooming around! The supermarket looked like three stores knitted together after shopping in Florence. The prices seem insanely high after Florence and insanely reasonable after our time in Iceland. Walking through the local Trader Joe's and collecting jelly beans and my favorite cookies felt like a happy dream. I'm trying not to be offended by no one saying, "good morning" or otherwise acknowledging each other's presence, even after sometimes feeling like it was too much talking with strangers in Italy. 

Our child is thrilled to be back in his room with the many things we didn't ship to Italy. While he woke up the first morning needing help finding the bathroom and claimed he never, ever ate oatmeal before, he otherwise remembers this version of life. And, yes, former-Italian-teachers-of-his, we promise to keep up his Italian with a class, books, movies and friends!

I look forward to working in-person as a writing coach and teaching a class at Politics and Prose bookstore this fall (registration should open next week.) Don't hesitate to email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com with any questions.





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