Friends, I’ve decided it’s time. Time to share my story — the story of my sweet girl and me. While I’ve been particularly private over the last four years about how my little love came to be, I’ve reached a point within my heart to share.
To be honest, I preferred the “rumor” that it was a result of a steamy Italian love affair and wanted to own that narrative over the truth. Even still, I know people were and are curious. It’s just human nature!
However, in setting out to write this, I asked myself, “why do I want tell this story? Why does it matter?” I wanted to make sure it didn’t come across as a woe-is-me story of unfortunate events. Because my story is quite the contrary. It’s one of finding joy and unwavering faith in the crazy ways God works in our lives. And also because, now in hindsight, it has some pretty comical aspects that are honestly, just too funny not to share. My mom always tells me I should write a book, but ain’t nobody got time for that. A series of posts on the internet will have to do.
So…deep breaths. Here we go…
Ah, sweet summertime in DC. I had just graduated from grad school and the annual influx of college interns and middle school field trips hadn’t yet started — seriously, they come in droves. The city was particularly calm. To take full advantage of this short-lived quiet, I’d been opting to walk the long walk home all week. By long walk, I mean I got off the bus two stops before my usual.
It was during these walks that I started having life chats with myself. When you live in a big city you can do weird things like that and not get judged, so stop judging me! Chats about my goals, what I wanted to do now, and how I’d get there. Getting a master’s from GW (The George Washington University) was kind of it for me — THAT had been my long-term goal for so long that I guess I forgot to make any new ones? Or maybe part of me never thought I’d actually get there. I’m not sure, but the “life plan” needed some attention.
Overall, I felt like something was missing, something about my life in DC didn’t feel complete. I also didn’t love my job (I worked full-time while in school), nor was I getting paid enough to actually continue to afford living there, so I knew I needed to make a move job-wise. Geez, adulting is so hard.
Now, here’s where we cue the quintessential I-was-at-a-crossroads-in-my-life-cue-the-violins part of the story. Before you say it, I know what you’re thinking: “Girl, stop wallowing, you live in the Nation’s Capital. You need to get your privileged little butt up and appreciate.” I KNOW, I KNOW! Trust me, I know how fortunate I was (am), but you know what they say, the grass is always greener. So I broke out my “special occasion” wine, made a DiGiorno pizza, and watched Eat, Pray, Love. I know you understand where I’m coming from right now — that movie is life-changing (insert preach emoji).
And that’s when it happened. My “HOLY-MOLY-I’M-MOVING-TO-ITALY” moment. It was decided; right then and there as Julia Roberts ate that whole plate of spaghetti at her table for one and smiled to herself with pride. My “life plan” update, check!
The lease on my apartment wasn’t going to be up until mid-September, which gave me just enough time to get everything planned for a transatlantic move. In the weeks following I got in contact with a hometown friend who was based in Naples at the time with the Navy. I tossed around the idea of moving to Naples to be close to someone familiar, but ultimately settled on Rome (to more closely align with Liz Gilbert’s vision, of course).
With many European countries, unless you have a job there, an American can only stay for three months. Because I didn’t speak Italian, applying for jobs in Italy was a no-go. Obviously this move was only going to be possible if I had a job. There was always the option of teaching English as a second language, but that requires months of classes and certification and I couldn’t afford to be without a job for longer than two weeks. Plus, I’d just taken out entirely too much in student loans for this fancy graduate degree to not use it.
So, I needed a job with an American company where I could work from Italy. Yes, you read that correctly. By the way, I can hear your laughter through the computer. Before you fall on the floor from my utopian view of corporate America, let me just tell you, I had the same thought — “it’s too good to be true.” However, my search proved me very wrong and low and behold my ideal job was posted with an amazing company that is 100% distributed, or in other words, everyone works from wherever they want. The planets aligned, many prayers were answered, and I was offered the position (which, as you’ll find out in later parts of my story, was fate at its finest).
Everything was falling into place beautifully: I found an apartment in the neighborhood of Monteverde, just outside of Trastevere. My flight was booked; the start date with my new job was set. I felt like I radiated happiness. This. Was. It. The adventure I needed. I’d live in Italy for three months and return home just in time for Christmas, then go to India or Bali or London (or anywhere!) for another 3-6 months.
Weeks past and August was finally here — my last month in DC. I was in the final two weeks of my job and it was a Tuesday. It was August 5th, to be exact. I had just gotten back to my desk from a mid-morning coffee run when I saw a new Facebook message. It was from a guy I hadn’t seen in awhile but knew through mutual friends, saying that he saw me walking into his new apartment building, asking if I lived there too.
We chatted for most of the day over Messenger — me explaining that I had lived there for a long time, but was actually moving in six weeks and then of course had to tell the story of where and why. He was particularly friendly, which was different from what I remembered him to be. The conversation was going great and I was pretty excited about finally having a friend in my building, even if it was for just six weeks. He asked if we could get together that night and catch up over a bottle of wine.
He arrived around 8:30, wine in hand. Conversation was flowing effortlessly. Seriously, not a single lull, and just laughing so hard at stories and our commonalities. I remember thinking, “dang, this is guy is something. I like him.” As he sat on the couch and me in the adjacent chair, I remember perfectly the moment he looked me square in the eyes and said, “Here you are moving to Italy to find a guy, when an Italian moves in right downstairs.” All I could think was, “dammit.”
He, being the Italian, of course. And for clarification sake, he is in fact Italian. Life is weird, isn’t it.
From that night on, we talked or saw each other everyday and boy, was I smitten. Of course this would happen six weeks before I’m supposed move to another country. But, there was something a bit off. Something about his behavior wasn’t quite right. For example, not showing up for dinner plans…twice. I remember his excuses being too vividly explained to be false and the hearts over my eyes were too big to really care. Multiple other “strange” events followed, but each time, he won me back over with his devilish charm.
I found myself constantly asking “why?” Why was he brought into my life NOW, why am I allowing myself to develop these feelings for him knowing that I’m leaving, why am I second guessing this move? WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Anyway, all that to say, by week four he told me he loved me and by week six I was trying everything I could to stay and not go to Italy. But I couldn’t and I moved out of my apartment on September 19th.
He’d promised he’d visit. That we’d see each other soon.
On September 27th, I arrived in Rome. I’d been to many non-English speaking countries before, but not alone.
Days passed and I could not shake the jet lag. I was sleeping 14 hours a night. I felt insanely nauseous… But, wait a second? Is jet lag supposed to last four days? I sat down to Google it.
Also…why do my boobs feel weird?
I added that to the Google search: “sleeping 14 hours + sore boobs”.
According to Google I was either dying, had cancer, or…
Surely not. No. No way. That wouldn’t happen to me. Couldn’t happen. No way.
Only one way to find out.
I remembered seeing a farmacia right around the corner across from the grocery store. In Italy, the pharmacies are very small and you must walk up to the counter and ask the pharmacists for what you need. So…I googled how to ask for a pregnancy test in Italian.
“Vorrei comprare un test di gravidanza”
I practiced for an hour. All the while, shaking uncontrollably. Half of me trying to be rational and the other half in panic mode — they did not mix well.
I walked to the farmacia and stood at the door, staring inside the small building, or room, rather. Why’s it so dark and gloomy in there?
I chickened out and walked a couple more steps to the school next door. Bad idea. Seeing children playing threw me into full blown panic and I turned right back around and practically ran up to the counter at the farmacia.
Then, as I’m about to mutter my best attempt for a pregnancy test in Italian, a nun in her full habit walks right up behind me. OH MY LORD, AM I ABOUT TO BE STRUCK DOWN?! How on earth is this possibly happening right now? I’m trying to remember my Catholic school upbringing and their thoughts on pregnancy out of wedlock when I awkwardly burst out the worst attempt at Italian you’ve ever heard.
“Uhhh uhhhh test-dee-grav-ee-donza?”
Shocked at my request and probably even more shocked at being able to understand me, the little pharmacist man shuffles about in a hurry to find the box. Considering he did a quick peek at my left hand, his face answers my prior question on their feelings about pregnancy out of wedlock. He very neatly wrapped the box in brown paper and tape and at what seemed like the most glacial pace I’ve ever encountered. I pardoned myself past the nun, leaping into an Usain Bolt speed sprint back up the block to my apartment.
“Ok, deep breaths, Katie. Everything’s going to be ok. This is just a precaution to rule this out. It’s just jet lag.”
OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS, the dang instructions are in Italian! Ok, yes, I know you pee on the stick — I’ve seen movies too, you guys! But decoding the symbols is what requires translation.
Right, instructions are translated. Here we go. Thank goodness I have to pee.
Done. Timer set for seven minutes.
Wait, what’s happening?? Why are the symbols popping up after only one minute? Which symbols are they??
Those symbols mean….PREGNANT.
No, no, hold on a second — this one turned after only a minute and the instructions said seven minutes, so this one must be broken. There’s two tests in this box for a reason, right? One must always be defective or something.
Ok, test #2. No, no, no, stop! The symbols on this one popped up almost instantly. Why aren’t they following the instructions?! What symbols are on this one?
But…it’s the same? They’re both…positive?
At this moment, I remember slowly falling of the floor. I’m not sure how much time past — it could have been an hour, it could have been three. Disbelief rushed over me, tears burning my cheeks, and my whole body feeling like it’s on fire. “I have to call him,” I thought. “He’ll tell me to come home, that he loves me, that everything will be ok.”
That was October 1st.