The 15th of July, a day etched in my memory like an inscription on a gravestone. This time last year I was in Milan Malpensa Airport, waiting for my flight to Cardiff.
The way I see it, my time in Italy had ran out. Like sand in an egg timer. It felt like a natural decision, the logical conclusion to a series of events. It wasn’t drastic or rash, even though it had been a hard one. I felt like all the good things in my life, all the reasons I’d had to stay, were being chipped away bit by bit. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made to stay. I actually should’ve left a few months earlier, with how difficult life had become, but I carried on because I thought everything would improve. But I’d come to the end of my journey, like it or not.
It’s been an… Interesting experience coming back to the UK from a country like Italy. This time last year, I got on that plane with my self-esteem and self-confidence in pieces; it had constantly been broken down by the attitudes Italy generally has towards women. To say that the images of beautiful, thin, young women on TV had really got to me is an understatement. Sometimes it feels like a crazy fever dream now, did I really used to see scantily clad women dancing on a desk on a primetime show? Or a woman in a bikini on a gameshow being openly ogled by men? British TV isn’t perfect, I’m not going to pretend that it is, but at least it’s nowhere near as obvious as its Italian counterpart. And after a year, I can definitely feel the positive effects of not being bombarded by such images on a daily basis, even though I’ve still got a lot of healing to do. I’ve also, well, in a way had to get used to being Welsh again. The vast majority of people I met during my years in Italy didn’t get that I was Welsh, and referred to the UK as ‘Inghilterra’ or England. I’ve blogged about it before, how I felt that my Welsh identity was erased when I lived in Italy. I’d also not lived in Wales full-time since I was 18 before last summer, as I’d studied at an English university. For a long time I’d been a kind of ‘other’, a nationality and culture that wasn’t fully understood outside of Wales, and now I’m back among people who are like me, who have the same mother tongue as I do. It’s very comforting, but it also still feels like I don’t quite belong, after having been away for such a long time.
It’s easy to for me to look back and think of only the negative things, but I had a lot of experiences that I wouldn’t have done had I not moved to Italy. I took part in a competition for aspiring radio presenters in 2011, I met people from all over the country and beyond, I saw so much of western Europe as well as Italy, and I could hop on a train and go for a weekend in Rome. I went to Venice several times – twice for Carnevale – Rome about 10 times, I had wonderful weekends in Florence with my friends, Turin, Bologna, a crazy few days on the Adriatic coast in the middle of August… And even though it was only for a brief period of time, I experienced what it was like to have a boyfriend who had been born and had grown up in a different country to me.
I can’t quite believe it’s been a year already. So much in my life hasn’t changed since I made the move back, it’s been a much longer process than I originally imagined. It’s been a frustrating few months, trying to re-build my life and constantly getting knocked back one way or another. It’s a difficult position to be in, when people I grew up with have families, their careers sorted out, and I’m trying to start from scratch in my early 30s. It’s difficult not letting it get me down, but I have to battle on. I’ve gone through a drastic life change that most people won’t come close to, and I don’t give myself enough credit for it. I’m hoping that in a year’s time I’ll be able to write a more positive post, that things will be starting to fall into place. I’ve still got a mountain to climb.