Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Me, My Heart, and I :: Home is where my heart expands

My sense of home has shifted since I first became an expat. I used to consider home to be the location where I was brought up and where my family lived. However, now I believe that home is no longer that static place from my past, but rather the place that nurtures and supports me. I'm not at home in Florence because I live here and “home is where the heart is,” but rather because it’s where my heart expands.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Expats are immigrants with options

Every now and again the debate about whether expats are immigrants comes up. While I am not fond of labels, I do recognize their usefulness at times and am also aware however that they can be quite limiting. The difference between an immigrant and an expatriate is that the former lives permanently overseas while the latter does not. In my mind, expats are immigrants with options: they have the option not only to decide where they live and how long they stay, but also if they want to return to their native lands. Immigrants, on the other hand, rarely return to their native countries. My great-grandfather arrived in the US from China while my Italian grandparents arrived as children. None of my ancestors returned to their homelands and considered the US their home. That is what immigrants do: they make their new country their home and that’s exactly what expats should do as well. Even if you are in a location only temporarily, you have to treat it as if it is your home.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Embracing diversity

One of the greatest lessons that my expat life has taught me is that "Tutto il mondo è paese.“ This Italian expression means that regardless of any differences that may exist between us, we are all the same. When you embark on a life overseas, you are invited to embrace diversity. Living in another country, you don't just accept the differences that may exist between you and the locals, but instead you open yourself up to the locals by speaking their language, adapting their customs and way of life, and basically living your daily life as they do. It doesn’t mean that you will end up liking everything that they do in your new home country, but you should open yourself up to it all and hopefully try.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: My five-year hiatus to the US

In my last blog post, I mentioned my “five-year hiatus.” It’s a term I use to describe the time I spent in California after being an expat in France, England, and Italy for a total of ten years. I packed up all my belongings and moved back to the US a week after my mother called to tell me she was diagnosed with cancer. Ever since I made the decision to live overseas, I had always known that I would only ever move back to California to take care of my mom if she ever needed it. Nothing could have ever prevented me from being at my mom’s side.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Coming full circle to be a writer in Florence

I initially came to Florence to learn Italian and find my inspiration to write. I thought of going to Venice, Rome, or Siena, but the woman at the Italian Consulate in London convinced me that Florence was a better choice. I had visited Florence only once in July and never thought I could live here, but I’m happy I listened to her because Florence has ended up being the perfect city for me.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: What I learned as an expat benefits my writing life

Living overseas as an expat for most of my adult life has definitely shaped me. Not only has it affected who I am as a person and how I see the world, but it has also taught me many life lessons that I apply to everything I do. As I embark on this new chapter in my life, navigating my life as a full-time writer, I am fortunate that my experience as an expat will be helping me tremendously. While living abroad, I have learned to follow my heart, listen to my intuition, have faith that everything will work out in perfect timing, and be confident that I can handle whatever comes my way.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: A new chapter in my life

This blog entry marks the end of my previous blog “My Heart in Two Places” in which I wrote about my life as a double expat and the beginning of my new blog “Me, My Heart, and I” where I will be writing about this new chapter in my life. I have always been a true believer in the expression “Quando si chiude una porta, si apre un portone. (When one door closes, another one opens.)” I have been through a lot of deaths and rebirths in my life and even if I feel some trepidation today, I am extremely excited about this new door that has opened up to me.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: An expat is both a foreigner and a local

I’ve been an expat for over 20 years. The word “expat” is not a word I use to describe myself; it’s a word I use to succinctly explain my life in Florence and Paris. Being an expat for some people means living overseas and returning “home” every year. For me, being an expat means being a foreigner and a local all at once in a place that is your “home.” Living overseas is a big part of my life and is at the heart of who I am. It explains so much about me: not just how I live my life, but also how I interact with others and how I see the world around me.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Achieving balance in Florence

When I began this blog, I initially imagined that I would write about what I love in my two cities and share the magic of each one. I had been happily going back and forth between Florence and Paris for a year and a half before I claimed Paris as my second home almost three years ago. The decision to make Paris my home was precipitated by my divorce and my decision to move in with my beau. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that my life was out of balance and I needed to do something to get it back into balance.

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