To My Generation: There’s Still Hope

Alex Taylor
Major: Creative Writing English
Non-WMU Program Florence, Italy

My finals days are upon me, so I find it necessary to reflect on the time I was able to spend here. Our apartment is eerie; silence has overcome us all, and my roommates’ faces reflect the same sadness overcoming me. As we fight our tears back by remaining mute, one thing keeps us sane: we know eventually, we’ll be just fine.

As I pack my mementos in my suitcase one at a time, a smile overtakes the misery on my face. A Fiorentina soccer ticket; unfortunately a match that ended in a tie. The journal made from Tuscan leather; each time I press it against my nose, it smells like a freshly printed book. And letters that are filled with encouragement; both from people back home, and people from here. Although I must leave, at least I won’t be leaving empty-handed.

Drinking it all in.
Drinking it all in.

The memories flood together with nostalgia. Anxiety blends with gratitude. And the sadness, the emotion pumping in my blood as I scribble against this page, is no match for the joy that has been engraved in my body.

I don’t feel like an adult anymore and I’m amused I once thought I was even close. But finally, I’ve realized; at 20 years old, I don’t need to be. Our generation races toward a piece of paper deeming us “qualified” for a better source of income. We post on Instagram to fight for the most likes. And our attention is constantly away from the people, the places, and the beauty in front of us. Our generation and the generations to come are the ones living life through a virtual world- rather than the real one.

I fall victim to this generational pattern. I’ve reached my senior year and looking back, I didn’t appreciate any of the time I spent on this education. I raced full speed to get here, running through the credits even if it meant sitting in community college for six hours in July. But what I’ve realized- I only wanted this degree to prove to everybody that I wasn’t the dumbest kid in the room. I wanted to impress potential employers. I wanted to prove my life meant something. But the problem with this: I was trying to prove this to other people- not myself. But through four months of studying abroad, my perspective has permanently shifted. I feel alive again.

As I look at my roommates, I sense our mutual understanding. The next two days have been dreaded for 115 days. We must say goodbye, and after being inseparable for four months, we must disassociate. But after watching each other grow, which is why we came here in the first place. We know it’s time.

I hate goodbyes.
I hate goodbyes.

We humans complicate life; we take the fun out of it by trying to rack up achievements. Our decisions are made out of fear. Nobody wants to fail; nobody wants to be “that guy.” But the only failure is blindly contracting ourselves to living a life of misery. We put others’ opinions of ourselves before our own. We hop into relationships just to say we’re in one. We must stop dooming ourselves.

I was never the travelling type. I never spoke Italian or even picked up a textbook about the country. I never even had a passport; I saw no reason to ever get one. So how, out of all people, was I able to make it here?

The reason I wasn’t a traveler was because I never traveled. The reason I didn’t speak Italian or know any history was because I never tried. And the reason I saw no reason to apply for a passport, was because I never gave myself a reason to. Traveling sucks. It’s expensive, it puts your anxiety through the roof, and it is absolutely terrifying. But sometimes we let fear eat us alive; it intrudes on us until one day, we look up, and we realized it was the reason we never left.

As I finish packing my suitcase to head back to the states, I’m surrounded by roommates who saw me transform before their eyes. I finally gave something a chance, and it paid off. Being cynical is infectious, contagious, and I promise you, it will destroy you. We are not fated to misery; there is still hope. Give yourself a reason to travel because without a reason, we all remain trapped in the ground we stand on. Change is never impossible; your feet are not rooted into the ground.

I depart in 36 hours and I’ve accepted it. I must return home, apply this change to my own life there, and never forget what I have just been able to experience. To the people I’ve met, you’ve changed my life- and I’ll leave it at that. I really hate goodbyes.

Italian sunset.
Italian sunset.
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