Here Begins a New Life
The title of this post comes from Dante's words in La Vita Nuova. As I write this, Italy has just entered "phase two" of its efforts to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. We have spent two months in strict lockdown, outdoor excursions limited to quick "necessary" errands that left you mired in guilt and avoiding eye contact the entire time.
In my last post, the lockdown had just begun, and I expressed a lot of the confusion and misunderstanding at the beginning. The post ended on a semi-hopeful note that life really would return back to normal on April 3rd.
We're in May now, and it's still not normal. I'm not sure when it ever will be again.
As with my last post, my goal is not to educate everyone on the finer details of the restrictions and rules here. For the details (in English), with links and videos, I advise you to check out Girl in Florence's latest post. She's done a fabulous job of keeping people up-to-date.
As of now, early May, we are allowed to walk around outside. Shops remain closed, as do bars and restaurants, but the latter two can offer take-away services. (I'm going to shout-out/link a few of my favorites at the bottom of this post). Masks are required where social distancing is not possible. Since there are so many people out-and-about, that essentially means any time you leave your home.
It's a small step, but I remain cautiously optimistic for the future, so long as people follow the rules. The sheer ability to go outside and take a walk gives me indescribable joy. I don't think I will take such a small thing for granted ever again.
Below, I share some thoughts on this budding new life.
Image credit: Alexandra Wendt
What were we left with, in the end?
When I could no longer find new cafes to work in, new restaurants to try, new bars to rank the Manhattans around Florence. When I could no longer go around the city to take pictures for my Instagram.
When travel became dangerous and forbidden.
When athletics halted, concerts postponed, everything not deemed necessary for sustaining life stopped.
The world. Stopped.
We clung to loved ones, even if only through a grainy image on a screen that formed a connection hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Maybe we realized our home really was a home after all, and we'd spent too long chasing fleeting entertainment outside of its walls. Or we realized our home was not a home after all, and we had to find a way to cope until we could get out.
We ached for the pulse of the sun and the whisper of the open air and tried to recall how often we used to spend out of doors before. Not often enough.
We looked at our stuff and realized we had too much. That so little fit under the now-omnipresent category of "necessary."
We picked up artistic hobbies to distract our minds. We found ways to be active within a small room, suddenly panicky about the lack of movement in our lives.
We became chefs or we perfected peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
We pondered the deeper questions of life. I spent a month researching semiotics and semiology "for my novel," but at a base level, to fulfill some inner need to still find order and a system in the universe.
I stocked up on coffee, Manhattan-making supplies, kept more food in my fridge, made my desk more comfortable, and so created an ordered, structured, Covid-free universe in my bubble of an apartment.
But bubbles pop.
When systems collapse.
We are working toward a "new normal."
My work for the fall is, as of now, uncertain. During the moments when I am most honest with myself, I admit that my future in Italy is itself uncertain. The path I'd dutifully followed along for three years now has come to an abrupt and thorny end, and I must figure out a way to jump ahead to a step I thought I'd have a bit more time to climb my way toward.
In a couple weeks, I begin an online TEFL certification course in the hopes of finding an English-teaching job. (If you too would like to sign up for a course, I have a referral link you can use, at the end of this post). Life is slowly but surely moving on, and it will continue to move until it eventually ends for every single one of us. And end it will, even if not from Covid-19. We must never stop looking toward the future.
How do you find a way to live with something that is such a great danger to so many? This is the question we're figuring out here in Italy, a question most people around the world are trying to answer.
When the order you'd always relied on falls apart, how do you build a new system?
I wish I had some wise words to say about this, but all I can think is one sign at a time. Masks and hand sanitizer and gaps of empty space. The already universally-recognized system of signs to stay protected and protect others. A new system for the world until a better solution can be found.
Just like with the language(s) you grew up speaking and other socially-acquired habits and manners of thought, you have no choice but to adapt. The difference now is to do so consciously and without fight. What is the alternative?
"Normal life" won't be the same for a very long time, but at least now, after two long months, it will be a life.
Florence bar/restaurant shout-outs:
International TEFL Academy referral link here.