How To Ruin Your Life (Without Even Noticing That You Are)

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Thought Catalog

Erin KellyErin Kelly

Understand that life is not a straight line. Life is not a set timeline of milestones. It is okay if you don’t finish school, get married, find a job that supports you, have a family, make money, and live comfortably all by this age, or that age. It’s okay if you do, as long as you understand that if you’re not married by 25, or a Vice President by 30 — or even happy, for that matter — the world isn’t going to condemn you. You are allowed to backtrack. You are allowed to figure out what inspires you. You are allowed time, and I think we often forget that. We choose a program right out of high school because the proper thing to do is to go straight to University. We choose a job right out of University, even if we didn’t love our program, because we just…

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There are some people who can live life fairly care-free, can go with the flow and make me completely jealous.

Until recently, I was a complete over-analyzing, head spinning, over-thinking, anxiety ball most of the time.  I think I am learning to be a better balance of these two types of people.  However, when it comes to writing, the latter has haunted me.  Over the weekend, I went for a jog at Valley Forge park, when I say “go for a jog,” I mean run for two minutes and walk for 58.  Anyway, I found a tree.  The tree looked good.  The view from the tree looked even better.  So, I sat.   I am not sure I can say that I ever would have spent an hour of my life under a tree in the park, staring into space, but it happened and I loved it. 

I had a phone call with my brother who challenged me to keep writing the blog.  He was not the first one to say something about it but he was the first one to really challenge me on why I wasn’t already doing it.  The conversation was good.  I was able to talk about why and why not and really think about it after.   The result of that was a recent tweet saying this: 

     Never think you are irrelevant, or you will be… 

That is what I learned from this time exploring my thoughts about writing.   I just kept asking myself who would care about what I write now that Italy is over.  Why would I keep writing or why would people care what I think.  Well, since that time under the tree, I have had so many people say or write about ways that I have inspired them.  They all think I am relevant. Why don’t I?  Writing is about personal joy and release anyway, why would it matter if it is relevant to others?  There is always going to exist a part of my brain that will tell me I can’t, or I shouldn’t but this time, I just don’t think I am going to let it work. 

Interestingly, I recently joined a football team.  Now, I am no good at football, I am out of shape and I have horrible asthma and bad eye-hand coordination, so what am I thinking?  Well, it’s time to just go for it and that is what came up.  So, in the store buying cleats and I hear a mother asking her child (about 10) if there was room in her cleats for her foot to grow. I remember that… the time when I had to worry about my foot growing.. That is when you should be buying cleats!  I thought, I will never be that young again… is this how this feels, am I old?  I literally had to do brain exercises in the store to prevent myself from saying nevermind, leaving without cleats and quitting before I started.  I guess we have to fight our brains sometimes, especially when they are so used to working a certain way.   My first game is tomorrow, and I AM playing!

Overall, I think the lesson goes back to what I said on twitter… If I convince myself that I am irrelevant, I will be. 

I am not okay with that!

Parting is such sweet sorrow


This blog is so appropriately titled since I am now en route via train to Verona where I will stay at the Songo Di Giulietta ( As I write this, I have the most incredible view of the sea…and tears in my eyes.

I always knew that I would meet my family when I came to Italy. However, I never would have imagined the immediate bond I would feel to them. I am an emotional person but normally would be guarded with anyone I just met. Anything I have experienced in the past went out the window when I arrived here in Italy. There was an immediate love and closeness that was just simply understood without words. The simple displays of affection came so easily and with just a squeeze of the arm or a kiss on the forehead, I felt love. I skipped right over tolerated, accepted and welcomed and just so immediately felt loved. There is just no other way to explain it.

Initially, I was frustrated with the language barrier but by the end of my time with them, I appreciated it. Let me explain. You see, when two people do not understand each other’s language, they listen so intently to each other. You never look away, you watch the lips, the body language, the facial expressions… You give your full attention to the speaker and you get full attention in return. I wonder if I have ever had a conversation so intensely focused. I felt that every word I said was important and I didn’t not want to miss one single word that was said to me.

Also, one of my favorite memories included myself and Carlo sitting at the kitchen table teaching each other words. I used a book to pick words and phrases and he would teach me the Italian translation and I would teach him English. This was not planned and we did not have much time but it was so special to me. This man lives in another country, speaks another language and is my family… and he is sitting in front of me teaching and learning. I just do not know how else to describe it but to say it is an incredible memory. I told him later that I hope we will sit at that table again sharing words without the teaching. We both intend to learn each other’s language but if we had already known, we wouldn’t have had this special time of learning together.

As I sit on this train and look out at the sea, I cannot help but to reflect on my favorite moments.

– Carlo understanding my love for pictures and pulling the car over to show me a good view for the camera. I will miss that during the rest of my trip.

– Carmella letting me help her cut asparagus. There is an amazing feeling of togetherness when you participate in the kitchen with an amazing Italian woman. I feel inspired by her talent and just the simple task of cutting asparagus with her made me feel like I could cook like her too! She never uses a recipe and the food she served will be my favorite, I already know it. I will forever remember the bond I felt that day, in that very moment, in her kitchen, side by side with her and she probably does not even realize it.

– Elvira telling me to get married! It is a Di Renzo family thing… She should not worry as my mom will continue to remind me for her! The other one was watching the reunion of Lucia and Elvira after 20 years. It was a touching, raw, emotional moment between two relatives who have be separated for two decades.

– The memories of my Aunt Betty. I was a young teenager and my best friend was in her early 70’s! I literally knitted and played bingo with her and her friends. I loved her so much and miss her but I always feel connected to her. Since she passed, however, I haven’t really thought of how much she talked about our Italian relatives. I thought as I boarded the plane that she would be so happy that I would meet them. She always told me she wanted to teach me the language and take me to visit. As soon as I met Elvira, she said she knew all about me from talking to Betty. I guess I just didn’t realize she would have talked about me. I do not know how to explain the joy my heart feels thinking about her watching from above as Elvira and I hugged each other tightly sharing about our mutual family member and amazing friend.

– Chiara being on the radio with me, teaching me how to talk about handsome Italian men (she can speak amazing English and is only 16) and then sitting around the table listening to one of our radio stations in America to hear our voices all the way from Italy. Technology is amazing, isn’t it? Here I am, in another country, with family, and most of them do not speak English, and we are standing around with our ears to the phone app. It was one of those moments where two worlds collide for me.

– Marco trying to sell us the fruit after our dinner at his Grandmother’s house. I guess she told him to get it and bring it out to the table, and he did, but tried to charge us for it! I said he could work for me in sales! I also was happy to get to watch him play in a soccer game. Marco gave up his bedroom for me and we all know that young boys would not want to do that! He is such a dynamic boy and is always smiling!

– Carmella putting together waffles and cookies and wrapping them in aluminum foil for me to take on the train. I just watched… I feel so lucky to feel loved by this amazing Italian mama!

To get to my absolute favorite moment, I have to give some background about the word insieme. The word insieme means together. The first morning we were there I woke up early and spent most of the morning with Carlo and Carmella (I blogged about that morning). They were feeling bad that I had nothing to do as we waited for the others but, of course, I did not mind. Carlo had to go to the grocery store and was trying to tell me insieme. I did not understand. He would say “grocery… Insieme.” I would say “no?” Again, “insieme…. Insieme….insieme… Laura, insieme.” I think I finally got frustrated and just said, “what?” You can’t say “what” to someone who speaks Italian, it gets you nowhere, trust me. Again, he says, “insieme,” but this time he puts his two pointer fingers together and I understand he wants me to go to the grocery store with him! “Si, si, insieme,” I say. The bad part is, I forgot the word insieme by the time we got to the store so when he said it again we went through that entire exchange over again! I laughed so hard but insieme became my favorite Italian word. So, now I can explain my absolute favorite moment.

Last night, I knew it would be the last hours I would spend with them. We ate so much pizza and laughed a lot! I forget exactly what I said but mentioned insieme and laughed. Carlo responded with the following:

“Anche se abitiamo molto lontano staremo sempre insieme”

Translation: “Even if we live far away, we will always be together.”