My first cappuccino in Itlaia.

It was 9:20 pm on a Wednesday near the beginning of one of the worst semesters of my life. I sat in one of the library’s collaboration rooms with the rest of the members of my club, of which I was not and still am not terribly fond. But that is another story. A guest speaker was supposed to visit our weekly meeting, but he was late and so we started without him. It was the usual boring talk, much of which did not need to be addressed during our “one hour” meeting. Our guest finally arrived. He gave his spiel, answered a few questions, endured what I thought were unnecessary comments of encouragement and went on his merry way. Who knew that the fact that I actually showed up to that meeting that night would change my life?

As a result of that evening, I spent a week of my winter break in Bologna, Italy. It was a week of gelato, pasta, pizza, espresso, cappuccino, sparkling water, and tiramisu. It was a week of meeting (also read: dealing with) people I’d never met before, seeing things I’d never seen before, and hiking trails I’d never hiked before.  It was a beautiful week and I spent half of it in a foul, foul mood. Part my distemper, as the part of me that doesn’t like to take responsibility for anything often reminds me, was a result of hormones. Ah, what it means to be a woman. But the part of me that is in charge of the rest of me knows that there is more to it than that.As I mentioned, this trip came directly after one of the worst semesters of my life. Only thirteen hours of school work, only one science class, only one lab. It was a semester of “onlys”.  What could be so bad about a semester of onlys? Hold your horses and let me tell the story.

I suppose it all started in the summer. It was my first away from home and should have been full of misadventures. But it wasn’t. It was full of 8-5 research which was, although not uninteresting, rather wearisome. After 5, my time was filled not with explorations, escapades, or excavations, but rather with endless Netflix and an unrelenting lack of motivation to do anything but sit on my couch. I didn’t even eat. The end of my summer break was infinitely more exciting. The summer culminated in a two-week road trip that took me through 14 states and Washington D.C., meeting up with old friends and making new ones. It was perfect and wonderful, but alas, my summer habits had solidified. As soon as I returned to school, I relapsed. I undeniably had school and friends and my multiple jobs to fill my time, but I spent any time where I was even remotely close to alone moping about, feeling sorry for myself and thinking about how my stuffed tiger, Hobbes, was my only true friend. I spent a lot of time thinking about myself, what I wanted out of life, what I was not getting out of life, all of the things I needed to get done that were causing me stress. Zero hours were spent thinking of others. It is needless to say, but I will anyway, my relationships suffered. Moreover, I continued to not take care of myself physically. So one can imagine how I came to be in a sort of huff by the end of the semester.


(Walking with my feet approximately ten feet off Beale.)

When the time came at the end of the semester to pay the balance for my trip to Bologna, I bemoaned my empty bank account and status as a poor college student, instead of rejoicing that I had such a fantastic opportunity to go abroad. My mood lightened a bit over winter break. With the relief from the stress of school and work and the chance to spend time with family and dear friends, I began to once again see good things in life. But I was far from regeneration or restoration.

I hit rock-bottom on Wednesday night, after four wonderful days in Italy. Familiar thoughts flooded my mind. Thoughts that reminded me how I was different, afraid, incapable. I was paranoid that no one liked me, that everyone thought I was strange, that I was being fake. I felt like a fraud. I felt unworthy to be there. I felt ridden with guilt and doubt. I felt ready to give up.

Finally, something snapped. Mostly my uterus, but also something in my mind. I said to myself, “Listen up, you! I’m tired of your paranoia. You can quit, but I’m not going to. You can give up, but I am going to keep going and I am going to feel better. I rebuke your doubt and I reclaim my faith! I’m letting the good things in and you can’t stop me anymore.” And then I was better. That sounds a little crazy, and perhaps it is. I won’t say that I’m all better, but it is amazing what letting good things in, or back in, will do for your mood and your outlook on life.


(The day things got better.)

After that week in Italy, I came back for a week of school. It was the most magnificent first week of school. And now, here I am, spontaneously on this plane to Denver, with plans to surprise my sister (with myself and a bottle of Italian wine) for her birthday, appreciating the snow-dusted blue of the Rocky Mountains, the classiness of orange juice over ice, and the beauty of portable Baroque Art. Good things.


Thank you, Denver Museum of Nature and Science