"Wow, you lived in Italy?! That's so cool!"
I get this response from just about everyone when they hear the news. I can see in their eyes that they imagine fancy meals, gourmet gelato, handsome individuals with breathtaking accents, and beautiful landscapes.
It makes me laugh because if we turn it the other way around, when Europeans think of America, they imagine New York City, big coffee mugs, and PEANUT BUTTER (it's apparently an "odd" product that you will almost never find in Italian grocery stores).
Can you believe that the entire concept of the United States of America🟥⬜🟦has been reduced to one city, large portions, and peanuts?! We don't know what we don't know, especially when it comes to different cultures.
Moving to Italy was not part of my life-plan. I actually never had any desire to go visit.
I thought that the language was odd and I was unimpressed with American-Italian restaurants. Overall, a trip to Italy was low on the bucket list. (Like I said, we don't know what we don't know).
My decision to pack up and leave the country was actually not my decision at all. My parents had given me an ultimatum after I graduated high school. Before I get into that, let's backtrack for a minute so you can understand the whole story.
As a child, I was outgoing, loud, and opinionated. Somewhere in those years I developed this deep need to feel accepted. Maybe my precociousness was a bit much to handle and I was trying to make myself more likeable. Regardless, I grew up with a disconnect between what others saw in me and what I was feeling about myself.
Like most teenagers, I was full of insecurities and confused about life. Unlike most teenagers, I soon found myself tangled in a web of lies, trapped with an eating disorder and alcohol addiction. I won't go into many details because its not really necessary. Everyone knows someone who has struggled/still struggles with addiction and its painful for all parties involved.
Deep down I must have wanted help but I had no idea how to ask for it. I'm not sure I was ready to let go of my web which I thought was holding me together.
My dad, knowing me very well, knew that the cycle had to be stopped or I would soon die. This is where the ultimatum comes in: "We are not letting you go to college, and you cannot live in our house anymore."
There's an Italian community named Comunita' Cenacolo. The community welcomes men and women who are seeking freedom/healing from addictions. The foundress, Mother Elvira, felt strongly to help the youth in the world who lost their sense of purpose, who were sad and angry, those who never understood the real meaning and beauty of life. Now, Comunita' Cenacolo is all over the world and it continues to grow.
There are so many beautiful things that can be said about Comunita' Cenacolo, but for the 17 year old me, I could have cared less. I wanted to go to college and make a lot of money. However, the reality of my situation was clear: I was broke, I did not want to be homeless, and I didn't really have any options.
Kicking and screaming (on the inside, of course) I packed my things and left home.
Now, let's be clear, I was angry at my parents; I felt abandoned, a failure, a disappointment and more. BUT TODAY I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT MY PARENTS HAD THE COURAGE TO DO WHAT THEY DID. It saved my life.
That's how I ended up in Italy. "So cool!" Right? 😉
The actual cool thing is: when we fail in life and we are at our lowest, there is always FORGIVENESS. Whether you believe in God or not, forgiveness exists. The cool thing about forgiveness is that it not only brings us back to the same state we were in before we screwed up. True forgiveness, and God, lift us up even higher than where we were before. My life has been just that.
From my sins and hardships have come some of the best experiences in my life and the best friendships I could ever have. Most importantly, I learned to love myself,
LOVE MY (wild and imperfect) LIFE, and be happy.
I can't wait to share more with you!
Hey there! My name is Marisa Elias. When I was 17 I left my home in Georgia and moved to Italy. Not the Italy that you're imagining, though.
This wasn't your typical vacation site. I was up in the French Alps, surrounded by corn fields, living "off the grid" in a community of young adults from all over the world! I didn't have a plan, but I ended up staying for 6 years! Today I am 27 and enjoying the journey of life. Life has been an adventure since then, and I am not stopping now!