I’ve been applying for a whole slew of jobs lately, particularly in the field of hospitality and customer service. While my actual work experience is rather limited, I’m playing up other skills, like my success in completely random and unrelated fields (pottery painting, horse wrangling, whitewater rafting), my dubious Spanish skills, and things I’ve learned from this past year. Somewhere after “functional-ish Spanish” and “traveling hungover,” is the skill of flexibility.
On no trip was my flexibility tested more than my time in Italy. Here is a short list of setbacks that required flexibility whilst journeying across the Italian countryside:
1. That time my flight got canceled three days before I was supposed to leave.
2. That time I had to book a new flight and bump up my departure time, giving me 24 hours to pack, give notice at work, and get ready for a week in Italy.
3. That time that I got all the way to Malaga and found an email from EasyJet that basically said, “JK, original flight back on. All that drama from the last 24 hrs? It was for naught.”
4. That time I had to beg EasyJet at 6 AM to let me on the plane.
5. That time that Laurel and I arrived in Milan and got lost right out of the gate because we spoke no Italian.
6. The time immediately following that when we bought the wrong train tickets in an effort to get to Como.
7. That time that Laurel and I successfully made it to Saronno, transfer to a new train for the last leg of the journey to Como, take that train all the way to the end of the line, find out that its not the right train, head back to Saronno and try again.
8. After getting on the right train, finding the water taxi, spending too much on the water taxi, getting to Menaggio, Laur and I read the sign pointing towards the hostel, then walked in the opposite direction for twenty minutes.
9. That time that we hiked several hours up a mountain and to a waterfall and then got lost on the way back down.
10. When there was a train strike (naturally) and we couldn’t make it to Venice.
11. Even though it didn’t happen to me, that time that Christina missed her flight out of Barcelona, booked a new flight to Milan, couldn’t catch a train to Como because of the strike, got on a bus that left her at the Swiss border, and joined us for a brief 24-hour stint in Menaggio.
12. When the train strike ended, we cut Venice from our trip itinerary, and made it to Milan, we bought the wrong train tickets and made it to the right train to Cinque Terre with a few minutes to spare.
13. That time we got lost in Vernazza, an Italian town with exactly one road, and couldn’t find our lodging because we couldn’t find a street sign.
14. That time Christina wanted to wear her hiking boots with her sundress and Laurel and I outvoted her and then we ended up hiking for an hour and a half.
15. Whilst hiking the trails connecting the cities of Cinque Terre, we were finally coming down from the mountain that we had to climb to get to Manarola and came to a fork in the road. Naturally, we took the path that led us along the cliff with no handrail.
16. The time when, taking the train back from Riomaggiore, we didn’t buy tickets since we hadn’t had our tickets checked the entire time we’d been in Italy, and this happened to be the one train where they were checking tickets. We were also on the wrong train.
17. The time that I packed only skirts and dresses (and one pair of pants) for a week in Italy and then it was rainy and miserable the three days we spent in Rome.
With the year wrapping up, my fellow ex-pats and I are making plans for the future. The majority are coming back for a second year in Spain, while others are pursuing new paths back in the States. For them, Spain helped them figure out what kind of career they want and what they want to do with their lives. Me, I’m still trying to sort out my emotions from New Year’s.
But one thing I have figured out is this: I want to work for a company whose creativity and passion matches my own. One thing that my scattered work experience has in common is that I’m at my best when I’m being challenged.
I was watching Charlie Day’s commencement address this morning and, if anything, it resonates more with me a year out from college than it would’ve a year ago. Because when you’re sitting in an auditorium in a funny hat and gown, anything seems possible. The future is a big uncertain thing and you don’t know what the next adventure holds.
Well, I’ve made it through the next adventure after college. Sometimes, it felt like a continuation of college. Sometimes, it felt like I was just born and living for the first time. Sometimes, I feel like I’m back in that auditorium wondering what the hell is going to happen next.
So I’m staying flexible. I’m taking a bus to Switzerland and skipping Venice and hiding in a bathroom from the man who’s come to check my non-existent ticket. I’m applying for any and everything and I’m refusing to settle for a job, a career, a new life in a new city, that doesn’t excite or impress or inspire me. I’m terrified, but I’m going with it.
“You do not have to be fearless, just don’t let fear stop you.” –Charlie Day’s Merrimack College Commencement Address