IT HAPPENED

Are you ready for this?

I’m here with the update I never thought I’d get to write. I honestly still can’t believe it, and I think it will be a while before the reality truly sets in. But as of Tuesday night, I am officially a recognized citizen of Italy.

To be honest, this whole process became a bit of a nightmare. I had serious doubts it would ever get done, and was sure I was years away from any progress. Then Christmas happened, and while I suddenly felt sure it would happen at SOME point, the missing middle name correction was something the LA consulate had rejected plenty of people for in the past. I expected to need another court order. Because obtaining a court order takes a lot of work, time, and money, and I figured I should at least give what I had a shot. What was a few more months in the years this has taken? I’m so happy I did! I feel like as soon as I stopped stressing about it, it happened. NOT to say that had I stopped stressing before it would have worked, because it took a LOT of determination, commitment, and belief to get to this point.

From my research on the consulate, I was expecting to hear back sometime around now. So when I got an email at 1:00 am with the subject line ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP, my heart stopped for a second. The email was so short, I had to read it multiple times to understand. Like it couldn’t possibly be official. Do you remember when I got my first email with the huge list of problems that needed correcting? I didn’t read that one carefully enough, and mistakenly believed it had gone through. But this one was different. It was maybe three lines, most of which explained how I could obtain a passport. A EUROPEAN PASSPORT.

This means I can stay in Europe as long as I want, and I can get a proper job. It means no one can force Gareth and I apart (um, until Brexit happens). It’s weird because I have very little connection to Italy. Other than my love of the food, I´ve never been there (though give me a few weeks!), I don’t know a word of the language, and even my actual genealogy isn’t very Italian. The true value of this passport is Europe. I can stay in Spain for as long as I want. I can move to France. I can live in the UK. I suddenly have 28 more countries in which I can legally work. The amount of languages I can study, cultures I can get to know, and food I can try has just increased by so much! Also a lot of places in Europe have nearly free or actually free masters programs. So, that´s also a PRETTY big plus.

I can’t believe it’s over, but WOW, am I happy to cross #1 off my list!

Dual Italian Citizenship: When the Going Gets Tough (you hire a lawyer)

Hi friends, I know it’s been too long since my last post, and while I have a huge backlog of stuff (G’s visit, I saw Kesha in Vegas!, etc), something really big/exciting happened last week that I want to talk about.

My last post about Italian Citizenship was not a happy one. I think we all deal with bad news in different ways, like I said earlier mine is to immediately get sad and feel beaten, and then get angry and SUPER motivated. My already low amount of patience ceases to exist, and I go into research overdrive until I come up with a game plan. This time was a little more difficult, because it was so dependent on other people, but when I’m determined, I’m pretty unstoppable.

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I WILL trill my R’s!

Cooking. Algebra. Squats. There are some things I just can’t do. And for years I had convinced myself that trilling my R belonged on the can’t list, something I was perfectly fine with. I’d heard the excuses before–it’s genetic, some people, even native Spanish speakers, just plain can’t do it. Obviously, I was one of those people. I couldn’t roll an R and that was okay.

Until I decided to dust off the old Spanish and dive straight back in. Suddenly, there were all these words I couldn’t say. I was calling dogs buts and I couldn’t do anything about it. Spanish is already hard enough without adding in an entire letter (sound?) I can’t make.

So I started practicing. I watched all the youtube videos, I read all the articles. Nothing came close to working. Again, I came to the conclusion that I was just physically incapable.

But fun fact about me, I HATE being bad at things. At anything. I honestly think this is why Spanish is such a struggle for me–I hate how long it takes to learn the grammatical rules, the vocab. I feel like I’m failing if a week in I can’t read Harry Potter or understand native speakers in Spanish youtube videos. That is obviously the WRONG way to approach learning a language, and I really do think I’m learning to relax into the process, not put too much pressure on myself, and just let the learning happen. That said, I think all my perfectionism and impatience found an outlet by zeroing in on one thing. That thing being the trilled r.

Hence, the practice. For weeks now I’ve been trying. Sometimes I’d think I was close and I’d show my roommate and she’d laugh like a terrible person and I’d realize that only in my head did it sound like anything at all.

But then I realized, you couldn’t hear it (I tested this by recording myself). But I could FEEL it. I could feel my tongue starting to vibrate. I knew I was close. Last night I locked myself in my room and made crazy sounds for HOURS. The more frustrated I got, the crazier I sounded, until I was SURE I was doing it. Spoiler alert: I was not. But I really was close. I showed my roommate, she was a little more encouraging. I sent it to my boyfriend and he was shocked I couldn’t just do it, he didn’t know it was a sound people struggled to make (PS I hate him). I sent it to roommate’s Spanish speaking sister in law, she said I really was close. To move my tongue closer to my teeth.

(This video is highly embarrassing, I was never planning on showing anyone. BUT if it gives just one person hope or insight into the process, then it’s worth it. That said, excuse the crazy hair, terrible angle, and oversized t-shirt.)

I spent all day sitting in my office like a true psycho, trying to whisper a trill to myself. Probably not the most effective method, but it loosened my tongue up. Then I had to run an errand and was so pent up and just READY to have figured it out, I started doing it REALLY loudly. I had read this could help. Also that singing  can make it super easy, and also that it could make it damn near impossible. I started making the sound in gibberish, because it felt like that’s kind of what my tongue should be doing. Basically, I was throwing anything and everything at my alveolar ridge, trying to crush its spirit. (In my head we were in a war.)

And then like magic, something happened. A trilling sound came out. It was almost like I could roll my r. There were all kinds of limitations: only for a few seconds, pretty much only when the word STARTED with an R, and it only worked about 50% of the time. BUT. SOMETHING was happening.

I took a million videos because even though I wasn’t at 100%, I was at something and I was so scared it was a one time occurrence. For one night only, watch Kristen nearly roll an R! But also to remind myself that it IS possible. Obviously I’m not completely there yet, but there’s no anatomical reason why I can’t do it. The only thing holding me back is my own self doubt. Also to maybe give other people hope, because I was pretty much hopeless and lookie here, I’m really kind of doing it!

**Please ignore the fact that I look and sound like a CRAZY person in all of these videos. I can’t really do it unless I go really fast and kind of loudly. They’re gonna love me in Spain.

30 Before 30 – Learn Spanish

This goal is definitely my trickiest one. I think it’ll be even harder than making it to 11 different countries in five different continents, actually. The thing is, I’m just not good at languages. I studied Spanish from 8th – 12th grade and by the end could barely string a sentence together. My classmates seemed to understand it in a way I never could.  I’d listen to them have actual conversations with our professors and not get how they could do it, when we had been in the same class and I DEFINITELY couldn’t. It just did not, and does not, come naturally.

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And that was fine, until I went to Spain, and then Guatemala, and then El Salvador and Mexico. Honestly, even working in a restaurant or living in Los Angeles. Spanish is everywhere. And I want to travel and be able to communicate with people other than Americans and Brits. I want to feel as comfortable walking down the street in Madrid as I do in any random English speaking city. I want to be able to hold a steady conversation with the driver for an entire cab ride. I don’t want to have to think… between… each… word when trying to say something. I want it to be natural.

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So, I have goals. But wanting is not nearly the same as achieving. It’s not even the same as working towards it. For the past year (and for many years before), this has sat on my list as something I really want, and something I’ll get to… some day. Which meant it was future Kristen’s problem–and it’s easy to keep making things future Kristen’s problems, until the only problem is that I failed to even try at something I really want.

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So, the plan. I’m diving into Spanish. This is going to be the start of something real. I bought a grammar book. I bought a beginner’s book that tells a story that I’m finding I can actually read. I’m doing duolingo every day. I’m watching Mi Vida Loca. I’m listening to Notes in Spanish. I’m strongly considering weekly group classes. And at the end of March, no matter what my level is, I’m finding a partner and doing weekly (or more) Skype dates where I speak in Spanish. Because actually speaking Spanish is by far what I’m worst at. Thank god it’s not something necessary to the core of the goal *rolls eyes*.

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I’m going to track my progress, once I have any progress to track. I’m excited/nervous about this one. A huge part of me really believes this is something I just can’t do. And the other, smaller, part of me knows the only way it’s impossible is if I let myself think it is. It’s also so much easier to not try and not fail than to try and be bad. But I just have to let myself struggle, embrace the struggle even, until it all starts clicking a bit. Which it will. It has to.

Wish me luck!

30 Before 30 – Read 10 Books Each Year

So I think I went a little easy on myself with this one. It’s hard though, because some years I’m so busy a book a month seems impossible, and last year I was breezing through, sometimes at the rate of a book a week. I didn’t post about each book I read, which was a mistake I’ll rectify this year, but last year I read the following books:

  1. Harry Potter 4-7 (rereads)
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun
  3. Americanah
  4. NW
  5. Me Before You
  6. The Lowland
  7. This is Where I Leave You
  8. The Interestings
  9. An Unnecessary Woman
  10. The Goldfinch
  11. All the Light We Cannot See
  12. The House of the Spirits
  13. The Alchemist
  14. Jonathan Livingston Seagull
  15. Tales of a Female Nomad
  16. The House of Memories
  17. Love in the Time of Cholera
  18. Deception Point

And I just completed The Pilgrimage, by Paulo Coelho.

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Gareth gave it to me for my birthday (along with a rad Julian Edelman hat) because it’s about The Camino de Santiago, which I really want to do. (It’s on my bucket list, obvs.) Also because The Alchemist was one of the first books he gave me, and we both really like Coelho.

I really enjoyed reading it, and a chapter a night before bed was perfect for me. That said, it’s a WEIRD book. It’s supposed to be a true account of his experience of finding the sword in a secret spiritual society, what seem to be modern day Templar Knights. But on occasion something would happen that seemed so impossible I found it hard to remember it’s supposed to be a true story. There’s a lot of communing with spirits and fighting demons.

Once you decide to just go with it, it becomes a beautifully written and an interesting perspective on the camino, and a chapter a night was perfect for me. There were also meditations in there that I tried and helped me fall asleep at night without watching TV, which is a BIG deal.

“Have pity on those who are fearful of taking up a pen, or a paintbrush, or an instrument, or a tool because they are afraid that someone has already done so better than they could…”

“We always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”

So that’s book one of ten down for 2016! I just started The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz.  Not exactly light reading, but I love psychology and am so interested in how people, especially children, recover from trauma. Have you guys heard of Beth Thomas from Child of Rage? She’s healthy now, and such an interesting (and completely heartbreaking) case.

*Also if you’re interested in the Camino, you should watch The Way by Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen. It’s really good and filmed on location (and on American Netflix).