You know that girl? That girl that sits alone in a coffee shop? You know the one. The girl in her young twenties with a book or notebook in hand and a large mug on the table in front of her. She sports the coolest boots you have ever seen and an aura of someone who you would want to have a long conversation with because she clearly keeps her mind full and makes time for reflection. She seems at peace being there alone because she is not only comfortable with herself, but she is also content to sit, sip a chai, and feed her mind.
This girl has a rich life in that moment, you can just tell, even if you know nothing else about her.
I have obsessed over this woman nearly my entire life. I see versions of her everywhere and have built them all into a single stereotype in my brain that eventually evolved into the person I wanted to be. Other kids wanted to be firemen or marine biologists and I had my own occupations that floated in and out of my brain, but all of them included this idea that I would be that young woman sitting in a cafe with something important to think about.
The other morning, I saw another one. Another lovely woman sitting alone in a little outdoor cafe in the Borghese Gardens of Rome. She had on a sophisticated dress and a spunky hat and book in hand with a croissant and cappuccino in front of her. I sat a few tables away admiring the scene she made. I took my own journal out and set it next to my own cappuccino and croissant and stared at the table for a moment.
Could it be?
I was one of those girls. All of a sudden it hit me that I have spent all my life excited to be that young and independent woman I had seen in coffee shops. I wanted to be someone that looked like they had something thought provoking to write in their journal, or had interesting opinions about that book they were reading. And there I was, in Rome, journalling about living a life abroad.
This all may sound silly, but I think it is the best example of how to sum up my time here so far. Life here is molding me into the person I want to be and in many ways, abroad is demonstrating to me day after day the richness of life and the beauty of the human condition. I have found a deep love and appreciation for the Florence of the Renaissance, a camaraderie with Martin Luther that has me rediscovering the heart of my faith, an Italian perspective on the World Wars through literature, and an awakening of the simple and complex importance of language in culture… and all this just from my classes.
On the weekends I’ve found that the journey is truly often more fun than the destination and that I really enjoy having a new city to figure out every weekend without wifi. I’ve learned that trains are hands down my favorite mode of transportation, that it is a life skill to learn how to travel with big groups, and what kind of wine I like best.
I’m learning so much everyday about the world around me about the world that exists between my heart and mind and how all three relate. It’s a journey that involves the past, the future, the spiritual, and the very real culture that I am still figuring out around me. Frankly, it’s the journey I think that will spit be back to the US, not a new person, but certainly a more developed one and that’s just wonderful.
Maybe that’s what the appeal of the “girl in the cafe” stereotype is for me… simply someone that is trying to reflect, trying to discover something new about the world, God, or themselves. I think it takes to know yourself to be your best self and that is the first step to contributing back to the world that gives so much. The fact that I have the opportunity to do this through my classes and through my day to day routines and crazy weekend adventures throughout Europe… is humbling.
These thoughts, these lessons, these reflections are finally starting to form into more complete concepts in my mind and will be shared here on my little blog and maybe you’ll agree with the opinions developed in them and maybe you won’t, but I sure hope you enjoy the journey with me.