The Art of Self in Rome.
As I sit here under the warm red light of a small restaurant in Istanbul, I finally feel as if I am able to process what Rome signified for me. For the past few days I have been hesitant to write about my true feelings on Rome as a city. I don’t hold a special fondness of Rome in my heart, in fact I hold the opposite. But, what I realized tonight was that when I was in Rome it was never the city I meant to experience, but rather, myself.
In this realization comes a sense of forgiveness to Rome. I never enjoyed Rome due to the amount of street harassment I received. I never felt safe. I was always asked to go to drinks, or to “smile” by strange men. Several times I had men follow me around, and I had to go into cafes to dodge them. Rome, the city, became what I saw as a place not meant for me, a single female traveler. But, Rome wasn’t meant for me…just not in the kind way I expected.
My first day in Rome started with a complete breakdown. This is when the true, and utter shittiness that is homesickness hit me. I had just left Paris, and Mary (the American I met at Buckingham, who also went to Paris) was on her way to Ireland. I realized Rome was the first time in awhile where I knew not a single person. I was again, alone. When I arrived at the hostel after a rather stressful journey there, I laid on the bed and cried. I cried for a long time, and I felt bad about it. I was in ROME!! why should I being feeling this way?! But, I soon came to realize through several friends that this feeling is normal, that this feeling is human. That travel is out of my comfort zone. If I wasn’t out of my comfort zone, I wouldn't be growing and learning, I would be staying put. After some crying, and finally calming myself down, I went out to find some food. Which I found in the form of pizza, and two cones of gelato.
While walking the tiny streets of Rome, eating my first cone of pistachio and chocolate gelato, I became lost in thought. So lost I failed to realize the amount of chocolate I had covering my face. I started to laugh. This is when I realized I felt a new sense of “wonder”, that I haven’t felt in a long time. I first thought this sense of wonder was for the city of Rome, but I later discovered it was for myself.
I spent the next 5 days sightseeing, dodging unwanted advances, and growing increasingly upset with Rome. On the 4th day however, this all changed. I returned to the hostel after seeing the Sistine Chapel, and if almost instinctually, I began to assemble my camera and myself. I can’t really describe the process of my self-portraits in words. It’s a place of mind and less of a description of movements. The next day the same exact sequence of events to this place of mind happened. I just did what needed to be done.
And it’s done.
When I left Rome, I had no idea what to make of any of what I had experienced. I was angry with how little I enjoyed the city, mainly angry with myself. “So many others love Rome, Ellen. It’s what YOU make of it” I would tell myself. But as I said before, “Rome” was never the city I was meant to experience, but rather, myself. I’ve come to realize since I’ve left that the questions Rome proposed, indeed do have answers. Those answers manifested into the self-portraits.
My answers to Rome’s questions lied within my self-portraits. My answer to all of Rome’s questions was and still is “I learned self-confidence through self-care”. I learned to listen to what my body, mind and soul want. If that’s to cry, then cry. If it’s to choose to not go out past dark because I don’t feel safe, then don’t go out. If it’s wanting to people watch at the train station for two hours, then people watch. I should never feel obligated to see or do what someone else would on their Roman vacation. I should never feel shame for not liking a city. I should never be embarrassed of being homesick. I should never apologize for taking care of myself.
I am still having a hard time expressing into words all that Rome was to me, emotionally. If you are able to please check out the self-portraits taken there. I believe they speak louder and stronger than I would ever write out.
Despite all of this, I do have a rather random selection of stories from Rome that I would like to share.
My first night in Rome, I witnessed a dog stop traffic in a busy street because he was pooping. I connected with the dog…we have all had that moment…don’t lie to yourself.
The people watching at Termini Station, and St.Peter’s Square was beautiful. The flow of people’s movement, and how they interact with others, their environment, and themselves speaks volumes.
St.Peter’s square was my favorite place in Rome. What I felt there is indescribable.
The Sistine Chapel still has me in awe.
I was asked to buy a selfie stick to capture my beautiful blue eyes…my eyes are green.
So. Many. Cats.
Below are photos from Rome, taken with my camera and my iPhone.
As always if you have any questions, or comments please feel free to contact me here.