Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Coming full circle to be a writer in Florence

Sunday, May 1, 2016

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知 happy I listened to her because Florence has ended up being the perfect city for me.Me, My Heart, and I :: Coming full circle to be a writer in Florence

My plan was to stay in Italy for three months, which was the amount of time I could stay legally without a permit, and then either move back to London or return to Paris. On my third day in Florence, I walked past a tall rectangular building, which I later discovered was the Orsanmichele church, and entered it. I couldn稚 help but approach the white marble alter containing a tabernacle that glowed in the dimly lit church. I sat down on a wooden pew in front of it with flickering candles between the tabernacle and me.

I closed my eyes for just a moment and heard the words you are home. In that moment, I decided to stay in Florence. It was a surprising decision even for myself because it went against all logic. I didn稚 know anyone in Florence, I just started learning Italian, I didn稚 have a job, I had very little money, and I was living in an apartment with an Italian family and four other students.

Even though doubts were swirling around me, I made a pact with myself. If I were meant to stay in Florence, everything would fall into place easily and in its own time. If things didn稚 work out, I would go back to London and figure out what to do next. In just a couple of weeks, I found an apartment to share with another woman and I was hired to teach English.

During my two-year stint in Florence, I thought my writing would be my focus, but instead learning Italian, supporting myself financially, and enjoying life took precedence.

I went back to the US for a five-year hiatus and then returned to Florence in 2004. When I arrived, I started my Living in Florence blog. A friend suggested it to me because he said he壇 like to know what it was like to live overseas. After having already lived abroad for ten years, my five-year break gave me some perspective that I didn稚 have when I first became an expat.

I worked fulltime as a web developer and dabbled in a few different writing projects. I had written a few short stories and began a novel, but I didn稚 have much momentum behind me. I started a column in an English-speaking Florentine paper about expats in Florence and also wrote articles about Florence痴 soccer team.

It wasn稚 until I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010 for the first time that something shifted in me. It was the first time I had a daily writing practice with a goal in mind. I had done my morning pages for years, did a few writing exercises every once in a while, and wrote when I felt inspired to do so, but I never put myself on a schedule. After completing the draft of my first novel, which was 100,000 words, I finally felt like a writer.

About a month later, my French employer called and asked me to come back to Paris to work on a project. I hadn稚 even thought about going anywhere to work because I have been independent for so long working for clients all over the world while staying at home. What was even more peculiar was that I壇 be going to Paris, which was where my first novel is based. I thought it was such great synchronicity because I had hoped to go to Paris at some point to do some research for my novel.

Eventually, my job became quite important to me. For almost five years, I was splitting my time between Paris and Florence by staying in each place for two weeks at a time. It was fantastic until it wasn稚. Eventually, my charmed life had lost its allure. I felt ungrounded and unhappy in my life. All I wanted to do was to return to Florence and not travel anywhere.

When I returned to Florence last September, I declared 的 am home. I felt a strong refusal to fly back to Paris. I flew back in November the day before the tragedies and I knew that I just couldn稚 stay there any more. It wasn稚 out of fear, but more out of not feeling at home any more in Paris.

At the end of January, my job ended. I had secretly hoped it would end so I could focus on my writing again. I felt a hole in my heart where my writing was and nothing else could fill it up.

As fate would have it, I am once again back in Florence to begin my writer痴 life. Not only is Florence a city that inspires me, but it also constantly nudges me to listen more intently to my heart and to follow my own intuition. Florence doesn稚 give me the answers to my questions; Florence reminds me to open up my heart to find them for myself.

Looking back now, it seems odd that it took all these years to come back to what I wanted initially upon arriving in Florence the first time. I do believe that everything happens for a reason and honestly I think I needed time to experience life more for myself, to understand who I am, and to be more secure in who I am.

I know that things don稚 necessarily happen when we want them to, but when they are supposed to happen. I feel like I was more like a flower trying to pry open my petals to blossom and now I知 just blossoming naturally. One thing I know for sure is that it is only now that I feel ready for my writer痴 life. I have made the same pact with myself as I did intially when I arrived in Florence: allow for everything to work out easily and in its own time.

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