Ready for a cliche? I cannot believe it has been a year. One year in America — one year of our non-Italian lives. So much has happened. We’ve done a lot. Time for a recap.
In the last year, after packing up our home in Italy where we had lived for four years, immersing ourselves in a completely foreign country, we moved our newborn son back to our hometown where we had not lived for almost ten years.
In the past year, we:
Bought a house
Bought two cars
Renovated a Piaggio Ape into a Prosecco truck
I resumed my freelance photojournalist career, shooting for clients such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal
Learned a lot about running not one, but two, small businesses, and a lot about keg systems and Italian truck maintenance along the way
Tyler started a new job as a government contractor
Tyler’s government contract ran out
Lived with my amazing and patient mother for 5 months
Had our wedding that we never had!
Took a trip to Florida to shop for apartments for my little sister Mollie’s first job out of college
Took a trip to Arizona to help Tyler’s grandparents move, and saw the Grand Canyon and Sedona along the way
Spent about 5 collective months mostly unemployed
Tyler got another job, better paying than the last
Tyler started his master’s program
For the first time in almost five years, I was the “bread winner” and paid our bills on my photography income while Tyler was in between jobs.
We raised a tiny human who can now crawl, walk, talk and who is the sweetest, coolest guy ever
Hosted Thanksgiving! (and Hanksgiving, my Tom Hanks Friendsgiving)
Had the first Christmas with my family all together in five years
Raised our son while being stay-at-home parents
Made new friends! And had lots of visits from old ones
Somehow managed to not burn through our entire savings
To say that our first year back in America was a whirlwind would maybe be an understatement. It hasn’t been my finest year — although we accomplished a lot, I definitely wasn’t always my best self. I was often mean to Tyler, not being used to having him around after four years of him being gone basically all the time. And you’d think after all that time away, I’d soak up all that time with him — but it was really unusual for me, and I think part of me didn’t know what to do with all that time together. We’ve always been incredibly independent people, and now, with being self-employed and unemployed, it was a bit too much to be together like, every minute of the day. We weren’t always the best at giving each other space. And now, with Tyler going to school and work, plus the Army Reserves (hey, health care!) and our Fizzolino gigs, we don’t see much of each other — but hey, we’re not fighting!
Wedding photos by the amazing talented Marissa Yuhas of MNY Photography
On top of not being the nicest person, I also was so up and down about my place in the universe. Running a small business is not easy, guys — like, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because you know, that’s what small business owners say, but wow, I did not know just how not easy it was going to be. There are so many small tasks that you have to be on top of, and so much minutiae you have to know about. And to top it off, guess what — my journalism degree did not prepare me to know about like, how to tap a keg, so Fizzolino has been quite out of my wheelhouse. I constantly questioned myself and at one point I was like, what was I even thinking with this Prosecco truck? Did I not think this thing through? — do I even want to do this?
Running these businesses was taking up so much of my time that the things I wanted to be doing — making friends, fixing up our house, hanging out with my kid, writing on this blog, making things — weren’t happening. But I’ve finally found a more steady flow with everything and kind of gotten the hang of stuff and am so much more organized now. I’m hoping that I’ve planted the seeds for all these things to go more smoothly as we enter our first full year of business so that I will finally have more time to be an actual person, instead of a shell of a person who answers emails at all hours of the day.
That being said, being a new business owner has been one of the most rewarding and enlightening experiences I’ve ever gone through. I have so much respect for small business owners now and also so much disdain for local ordinances and governmental regulations (don’t @ me). It really is an amazing American feat to go through this process and will teach you so much about creating something from nothing.
I’ve been focusing so much on Fizzolino that I haven’t taken a deep dive into my freelance photojournalist career like I’ve wanted to, because I literally cannot commit the mental energy into marketing myself as a photojournalist again while simultaneously building the other business. Right now, I’m just maintaining, taking assignments that come to me but not waving my arms about how I’m over here in KC now. But y’all, I am still here! I did have an editor reach out to me a few months ago and ask, “Are you still doing editorial work?” and the answer is YES, ABSOLUTELY. I take most assignments that I can, and I’ll eventually expand to take on more. My goal this year is to have at least one restaurant client, and to have some more reliable work with national publications. I’m enjoying the very steady and enjoyable work I’m doing for local clients for the time being. But for now, I’m going easy on myself — there’s no rush, because I’m not going anywhere.
Though I miss so much about Italy, being home has filled my heart in so many ways that I do not ache for it as much as I thought I would. Though there are things I loved about Italy and wish Americans would get on board with, and though I would give anything to just pop down to the centuries-old piazza and buy fresh flowers from the flower truck and stare at the Basilica Palladiana, I also love so much about home. I’m learning a lot about our hometown (though I didn’t grow up here, it is where my family has been the longest, so it is where I call home), namely where stuff is and it’s beautiful, complicated history. Also, being near our family has been so rewarding and special, and has filled any hole that Italy left behind — even if they simultaneously make me very anxious and overwhelm me with all of their presence and visits! It’s a good problem to have.
That being said, even having family nearby has not replaced the gaping hole of leaving my friends in Italy and though I miss the country of Italy, I miss our community there even more. Even though almost everyone I know has since left Italy, and that staying there would not have remedied the problem, I miss our military community a lot. I know eventually our new hometown of Weston will be a place where we meet super talented and awesome people (I’ve already met many of them and they’re great!), I do so miss the military spouses I was constantly surrounded by. There’s just something special about the military community — the quickness in which you bond with others, the amazing way they come together in the face of hardship, the way women take care of each other and their children in lieu of the family members that can’t be there — there’s really just nothing like it, and I miss that a lot. I know eventually we will have that in our new hometown, but it will just take a little longer to build — and that’s okay! But I’m not going to pretend I haven’t cried many nights missing my Vicenza ladies who lunch.
So, there’s the bullet points but also the down and dirty on being back in America. Are there things from Italy I miss? Hell yeah. I would do a murder for some fat white asparagus right now, or some truffle risotto from Lovise. I miss the rustic-ness, the way people took care of their property and their community, even if it they didn’t have much. I miss the overbearing women, the flirtatious old men, the smell of fresh brioche in the morning at the local coffee shop, and even those stupid shitty disposable napkins that felt like a sheet of paper that were at literally every restaurant I ever went to. I miss being able to pop over to Venice for the day, and for “easy” holidays in Tuscany. I miss 2€ wine and walking everywhere and $50 Ryanair flights on four-day weekends. I miss 3-hour dinners and walking everywhere and the random altars in the middle of a field and my dolce vita.
I miss my trophy wife days often — what I jokingly refer to as my time in Italy, when I wasn’t allowed to work — and I wish I hadn’t wished them away. But this season is good, too. Italy was glorious and adventurous and so much fun, but it was also hard and, at times, lonely. You can have it all, just maybe not all at once — and we’re living our dream right now. If I can just pepper in a few exotic trips in there (right now I consider like, Omaha, Nebraska to be exotic, honestly), then that would just be the cherry on top of one awesome return to America.
Our adjustment back to America was a year of hustle. We accomplished a lot, and have a lot to be proud of. Though I wasn’t always the best person throughout all the struggle, Tyler and I had so many fun days just being a party of three with our little boy, enjoying our beautiful new home and our new lives and the fact that we were there together. More of that, please.