Being back to Turin (Italy), the city where I grew up and lived most of my life, is a nice feeling. It’s lovely seeing my parents, my siblings and my friends after many months. Sometimes I wished I lived a little bit closer, so I could go come back to Turin more often. I don’t really get homesick, but sometimes during the school year I cannot wait to be back here. But then when I start hearing the same old conversations and arguments, I want to be back to the States.

As I’m approaching graduation, my heart feels divided. When you live in two countries, sometimes you end up not knowing where home is anymore. Now that I’m here, I wonder is Turin is still my home. I love this country, I love Turin, but I don’t know if I want to come back here after graduation. I’ve been enjoying my life in the States so far, and I don’t feel like I’m ready to go back to Italy yet. While driving around Turin, I look around and I ask myself if this is the place I want to be. I think my heart is saying not now. Maybe in the future it will be again, because I do see myself coming back to Italy later in my life.

For some reasons, not knowing where my home is anymore makes me feel like a tree that is losing some of its roots. I don’t feel fully at home in Turin anymore, and I don’t feel fully at home in the States yet. This is an uncomfortable feeling sometimes, but perhaps I must lose some roots to let new ones grow. But this time I feel like they’re not growing in a particular place, they’re growing inside of me. Perhaps home is not a place, it’s more a feeling I cultivate inside. Home is rooting in my own self and feel like I belong wherever I go. There’s no place I cannot call home as long as I have myself.

This is my last post of the semester. I hope everyone is feeling at home, no matter where they are.

Cheers from Italy.

P.S.: When you come to Italy, make sure that on top of seeing Rome, Florence and Venice, you’re making a quick trip to Turin. It’s worthwhile, I promise.

Looking ahead

If I could only mention one thing that this class has taught me it would be to give myself permission to write (thank you, Ray). It might sound banal, but this is something I needed to learn because I’ve always believed that if I wasn’t an expert in something I was not supposed to write anything. I’ve always thought I was writing for the last word, whereas now I know I’m writing to participate and add something valuable, even if I’m not an expert.

This is something I’m taking with me, in my writing as well as in my life. Sometimes I’ll stay silent not because I’ve nothing to say, but because I also believe I need to be an expert. I don’t give myself permission to have a voice. But this project has given me the confidence to talk about my passions, even if I might not know everything. So this will be my New Year’s resolution: give myself permission to have a voice.

I think one of the first steps I need to take is writing more and writing differently. Even though I write frequently on my journal, I want to do more. I need to take the journal with me and write more spontaneously. Usually I’ll wait until I have some free time to write, but sometimes that doesn’t happen for a few days. I want to change that. I want to write when I’m on the bus or when I’m waiting on someone. I also want to write using different modes. I always write in a letter format, Dear Oriana (name of my journal)…. I want to change that. I want to start writing poems again, stories or writing even only a thought that passed through my mind. I want to add images and drawings and give my journal more life.

Another step I need to take is reading more, because it will allow me to learn from other people how they give themselves permission to have a voice. I always do a reading challenge every year and this 2019 I had the goal of reading 20 books. I’m at 14 right now and I don’t think I’ll be able to finish the book I’m reading plus reading 5 books in the time remaining. I want to get to that 20 next year. I know, I can talk myself out of it very easily (I don’t have time) but then my phone report tells me every week that I spend on average 2h on my phone every day, so if I cut down on that damn iPhone a little bit I’ll be able to it. I also want to read different genres of books, because I usually read books about psychology/spirituality and not a lot of other stuff.

Allowing myself to fail

I failed the first experiment. I remember the moment right before submitting it, desperately crying in a hotel lobby in Tulsa, OK. I knew I could have wrote so much better than that, but I was stuck. The things I wanted to write about didn’t want to be written, and I couldn’t stand the feeling of having failed at writing. I could fail at (almost) everything, but not writing. I was mad at myself for choosing the wrong topic, but maybe there was something deeper behind my disappointment.

Maybe for the time I had so much freedom to write that I got lost. Not having a rubric and a structure to follow seem great initially, but it can be challenging if you don’t know what to do with all that freedom or how to give a structure to all your ideas.

Maybe it was my perfectionism trying to take control of my feelings again. I’ve always been the student with straight A’s, so failing has never been an option. In my other classes, I usually get good grades on my papers because I genuinely care about writing and I follow the rubric. But in that moment, I knew how to talk myself out of perfectionism: even though I fail at something, it doesn’t mean I am a failure.

If there’s something I learned by failing the first experiment is that I need to allow myself to fail. When you’re trying to do something new, it is ok to fail and make mistakes. There’s a common saying in Italy, “nessuno nasce imparato” or “nobody is born learned” (it probably doesn’t make any sense to you, but I think it can be translated in English as “nobody is born knowing it all”). We’re not born knowing how to do things, and often we learn more by making mistakes than by doing everything right.

The things you don’t see

Working on this project made me realize how much work goes into building a website. I was probably being very naive, but before this class I had never asked myself how websites were made or how to even start building one. It’s crazy how when we’re used to see or use something, we don’t really ask ourselves how is that thing made or where it came from. It’s like when you go to the grocery store, you don’t really ask yourself where your pineapples come from, how they were made or who brought them from the farm to the store. There’s so much work that goes unnoticed and there are people behind almost every thing we consume, from the pineapples to the website.

Working on this project also made me a more critical consumer of websites. Even though I’m not a website designer expert by any means, when I visit a new website now I notice things. I don’t only look at the content like I used to do, but I also look at the layout, the colors, how easy it is to navigate and all the stuff I learned by working on my project.

What I feel like saying after building my own website is… shoutout to all the website designers out there! I can’t really know who they are, but now I see their work.

Productivity is where my bedroom and my phone aren’t.

The first condition to my productivity is the place. Being productive in my bedroom is extremely hard, actually… almost impossible. When I’m there, I hear my bed calling me for a cozy night with my weighted blanket and a book. So my bedroom is not an option. I tried the living room many times, but I always ended up taking a nap on the couch. So as much as I would like to stay at home in these cold Michigan days, I need to get out of my house if I ever want to get something done.

I’m not a big fun of studying in coffee shops because there’s too much going on – people coming in, going out, talking out loud etc. So I usually end up going to the library – I love studying at the Hatcher Library – or in the common area of the DANA building (probably my favorite spot on campus). I also learned in one of my psych classes that choosing places where there are physical cues such as books stimulates thoughts of schoolwork so you’re more likely to be productive.

The second condition to my productivity is putting my phone away. This should actually be the first condition because these smartphones are the most distracting thing ever. This requires a lot of self-control, or situation modification as they call it in psych, and it is so important. I usually need to turn off my phone and put it out of sight. If I don’t turn it off at the first notification I’ll check it and lose focus and if I have it in sight I’ll end up taking it in my hands and that’s the end of it.

There’s another productivity hack that I use sometimes, which is studying for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. This is because it is estimated that we have an attention span of approximately 20 minutes, so this really helps stay focused and maximize productivity. I have an app on my laptop that tracks the time and notifies me at the end of the 25 min period and at the end of the break.

Being interested in the stuff I’m working on is a plus to my productivity. If I’m working on something that I’m interested in, I’ll usually get it done faster, but if I follow the conditions above mentioned, I can be very productive working on something that I’m not really interested about as well. I’d be curious to know what makes other people productive!

Make Magic

I might be a little bit late on this, but it was amazing seeing a lot of the beautiful gateway projects last Tuesday. I always feel enchanted by the different ways everyone choses to tell a story and the infinite ways one can be creative. I’ve seen blog posts, podcasts, essays, interviews, art work, websites with bright colors and websites in black and white. But what really amazes me is the process of creativity – how you go from an abstract idea in your head to a concrete piece of art. What we have in our website was once only a thought, probably just a vague idea of what we wanted to do, and now that thought has turned into something tangible, a complete, polished website. For me the creative process is like making magic.

Seeing all these beautiful projects during showcase and the experience of making my own reminded me that I need to keep writing new things that I’m passionate about. This class showed me that I can do a lot of other things with my writing other than writing boring papers and it gave me the confidence to pursue a lot of my interests with my writing. Now I know that use my writing to do all sorts of magical tricks.


Writing and mental health

As a senior, I’m frequently asked what I want to do after I graduate, and even though I don’t know the answer yet, this project has really got me thinking about my passion for mental health and writing. If I look back, I can see how these two seemingly distant disciplines have always walked hand in hand in my life. When I was an adolescent, I started writing because of my struggles with mental health. Writing was my only outlet and my first form of therapy. Writing about my struggles has helped me finding a way out of my pain and a way into myself. Even though I’m in a much better place with my mental health today, writing on my journal is still one of my favorite things. Whenever something happens in my life, I feel that impulse to grab a pen, open my journal and write. Writing is so important to me that if I was sent to a desert island and I could only take one object with me, I will definitely take my journal (and a pen obviously – I know, that’s two objects, but they can’t go alone).

With this project, I was able, once again, to write about mental health. But this time I used writing to help other people rather than myself. This morning, I realized how much this matters to me and even though I’m almost done with the project, I don’t want this to be the last time I write about mental health to help others. I don’t know what my future job will look like yet, but I do want both writing and mental health to be parts of it.

About me

I might be the only one, but I’m finding challenging writing the “about me” page. What makes me, me? How do I want to present myself? What truly lead me to create this project? What things do I want to include and what do I want/should leave out? AH. I have so many questions but not a lot of answers.

But if there is something that this is teaching me is that sometimes I need to stop thinking and start doing (in this case writing). Sometimes I get in my head way too much, thinking about a million things, instead of just writing something. As Anne Lamott would say, you just need to write that shitty first draft. Ok, enough asking myself questions and writing about writing the “about me” page. I’m gonna go back to my project and write the “about me” page.

I thought I was done with perfectionism, then I started the gateway project.

Ah, perfectionism. Here we go again. Spending endless hours trying to find the “perfect” picture for my blog posts and the “perfect” background color with the “perfect” amount of image opacity. But I know somewhere in my mind that perfection is an unattainable goal and I shouldn’t even try to create a perfect project, because I won’t.

This doesn’t mean I won’t try to create something great and unique, but I won’t be obsessed by the idea that it MUST be perfect in order for me to be satisfied with myself. Because there is a the difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence.

Perfectionism for me is about trying to create or do something that will help me feeling accepted, recognized and praised. It’s a way of trying to get approval from others to feel that I’m good enough. Healthy striving instead is trying to create something with passion and soul, something that I’m proud of and something that reflects who I am.

Creating this project made me realize how much perfectionism gets in the way of creativity. And even though I’m trying to create the best gateway project that I could possibly make, I know it is not going to be perfect. And it doesn’t have to be.

On relatedness

When I think of a relatable yet distant art I think about a painting by Salvador Dalí called Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, which I saw at the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, a few years ago.

I remember staring at this painting for a long, long time. I absolutely love this painting. From 20 meters away you can see the face of Abraham Lincoln but as you get closer you can see Gala, Dalí’s wife overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. This painting tells the story of when Dalí and Gala moved from Spain to America to escape the Civil War and it relates to me because it reflects also my story of moving to US from Europe (Italy in my case). Dalí represented the intersection of two identities, the American and the Spanish, so well in this painting because you can’t have Lincoln without Gala and you can’t have Gala without Lincoln. This relates to me so much because two of my identities, the American and the Italian, are so intertwined that it’s hard to tear them apart. When I’m in the States I miss Italy, and when I’m in Italy I miss the States.

Even though I relate to the painting, I feel so distant because I don’t know enough about visual arts. I’ve studied history of art for 5 years in high school (it’s mandatory in Italy) but I never really paid attention. I feel like I can’t appreciate a piece of art if I don’t know the history behind it, the biography of the artist etc.

But can I still relate to a painting even though I feel I’m distant from the world of visual arts? For me the answer is yes. For me, relatedness has a lot to do with the extent to which something speaks to me and it’s potentially productive (if it helps me in some aspect of my life or if it inspires me to create something else). In fact, even though I might now know a lot about the art of Salvador Dalí, I still relate to this painting and it inspired me to write a poem when I was taking creative writing.