I'm back in Milan, hooray! And I had forgotten how much this city feels like home to me. I flew in last Friday evening, ready to spend New Years Eve in Italy for the first time ever, despite mine and Michele's five (nearly six!) years together. We dumped my suitcases in the flat and went straight out for an emergency dose of Italian pizza with friends.
The next day, we went for a walk around the city. Whenever I am here, I'm always desperate to be out and walking around Milan. Every street is another memory waiting to be rediscovered. My year abroad here was truly one of the best (if not the best) years of my life. It's a huge, bustling metropolitan hub and yet it feels so deeply personal. There are so many independent shops and restaurants, even in the very centre of the city. The other night whilst we were aimlessly wandering the streets, we started chatting to a young guy setting a restaurant up right on the edge of the historical centre. It feels as though this city actually has space for young people to give wings to their ideas.
We spent NYE at a friend's house, eating as much as was physically possible and drinking to match. Italian New Year's traditions include the absolute meat fest that is cotechino with a side of lentils. Apparently, the more lentils you eat, the richer you'll be in the coming year. Unfortunately we had stuffed ourselves silly on bread and cheesy ravioli in a buttery sage sauce by the time the lentils were placed on the table so it doesn't look like any of us will be getting rich any time soon! Although of course I found room for another Italian NYE tradition - panettone with a fresh mascarpone custard. At midnight, we adopted the Spanish tradition of shoving a grape in our mouths with every chime of the bell and crammed out on the balcony to watch the fireworks explode across the city.
We stayed up until 5am (absolutely unheard of for me) and slept in until 1pm. Needles to say, January 1st was spent indoors with a big glass of water and a sore head! No resolutions were made that day although in the time that's passed since, I've begun to think a bit more about new beginnings. After all, Milan is the city where it all began for Michele and I and since that day in August 2011, so many big and little things have changed.
I've learnt Italian and lived here for a while (and gained about 10% of my bodyweight which I am 100% blaming on la dolce vita) - I've gained a BSc and a MSc and started working towards my PhD (yes, I am crazy). Michele has changed careers, reached his 30th birthday (and beyond) and we sadly lost his wonderful Dad, Giorgio. We've travelled around Italy together countless times and did a roadtrip across Canada. We've set up a little life in Exeter, where Michele now comes and stays half the time. We're engaged!
So in light of this all, sitting here and writing this post in the city where my life changed course forever, I'm looking at 2017 not as a huge new start but as another little step forward in this story. I have absolutely no idea where it's going to end up - whilst I'm currently on course for a career in academic research, who knows what roads life (and Brexit) will create and block off for us. It's hard to plan ahead in uncertain times which is why I don't want to create any more pressures for myself.
Which brings me to my one and only resolution for 2017 - to stop giving a fuck about everything and keep repeating my new mantra whenever I feel stressed by the little things: I don't care, I don't care, I don't care! I'm fed up of doing things because I feel I should or because I'm always chasing after being and doing the absolute best. It means that I'm never present and never enjoying the moment.
I don't want to live like that anymore. I want to live like I did when I was back here in Milan. Relatively carefree and inspired by the things life had to offer me from moment to moment. I think it's that feeling I've been chasing every time I've dragged Michele out for another walk around the city. I'm just looking for a glimpse of that old life when everything felt so much simpler.
So that's the goal for 2017. Easier said than done, I know - but so far just telling myself that I don't care (about responding to that email straight away, about working out every single day, about putting make up on before I go out) really seems to be working!
Fingers crossed this will be a simpler year.