Big Steps Forward

I’v made a few steps forward in my life plans. I’m thrilled to share  some of the progress.

Last week I received news that I actually passed my Italian C1 certification exam that I took back in December in Rome! Unbelievable. I was so convinced that I bombed it that I’ve been studying every day to be prepared to return to Italy to take that exam again. I certainly don’t regret all the time I’ve invested in the last few months improving my language ability through watching movies, doing exercises, reviewing flashcards, chatting with Italians in person and over WhatsApp. However, it does come as a huge relief that I won’t have to go back for this one step.

As it turns out, getting my advanced certification in Italian is the biggest link for me to pursue my dream of returning to Italy to go back to college to become an engineer. Now I just have to take the SAT, which I find somewhat hilarious because it’s been 15 years since I took it last and I already have a college degree, but I’m not complaining! Finally I’ll just have to apply for school. If admitted I might be able to move to Italy as soon as June, which gives me a several month window to transfer with Apple to a new store there.

My class is going well at MCC. It is leaving me fairly excited about returning to taking classes full time and I feel like I’m going to be ready for the transition.

Also I just need to find one more document to start applying for citizenship.

That’s all for now.

One Step at a Time

I’m realizing how hard it is to truly turn your life around. Reinventing yourself from the ground up is probably not realistically possible, but I’ve been trying to work towards several goals at once and it’s certainly quite the challenge.

This would be a good place for me to write a little about the progress I’m making. My goals are spread across a number of areas of my life including health and fitness, relationships, professional, personal, and educational. Not only can I hold myself accountable here, but I can also give myself credit for the days I try and fall short by recognizing how many things I’m working on at once.

  1. Waking up at 7am consistantly
    BJ Fogg talks of “keystone habits” – habits which you can establish or build upon that make every other new, positive habit in your life easier to achieve. For me I think waking up at the same (relatively) early time is a keystone habit for me. Even more than working out, waking up early gives me time to be early for my first commitment of the day, creates time before that commitment to accomplish errands or chores, and prevents me from stay out late at night.
  2. Working out
    For others this is their keystone habit. For me fitness is not a top priority but I do like the way it makes me feel and the way it can add balance to days that are otherwise very intellectually or interpersonally challenging. I’d like to get bigger or stronger, but it’s more of a lower-priority goal right now. Perhaps once I check other items off my list this will become a bigger focus.
  3. Getting my Italian citizenship
    For too long I’ve been “working on it” – but now I’m turning the bend and I’m coming down the final stretch. Just yesterday I secured five more documents in one day, leaving just one or two more to find before I get everything translated and submitted, I’m ready to have the rewards of dual citizenship instead of the rewards of impressing other people by talking about getting dual citizenship.
  4. Obtaining my C1 certification in Italian
    So I’ve been studying Italian off and on for over eleven years but I’m ready to really arrive at the summit. I’m sick of saying I’m learning Italian. I want to confidently be able to answer “YES!” when people ask whether I’m fluent. I took the exam last December but I don’t know if I passed, so I’ve been studying most every day since to prepare for the next exam date. Target: March 31, 2017. The best part: once I pass I’m going to start another language and I want to reach fluency in a fraction of that time.
  5. Getting into school in Italy
    I feel younger than ever and ready to go back to school to improve my career. Furthermore, I feel up to the challenge of going to school in Italy in Italian. I’ve been living close to home my whole life and I’m ready for a change in more ways than one.
  6. Take a college class
    It’s been eight years since I graduated with my undergrad degree from the University of Rochester so I’m going to take one class this Spring semester at the community college to acclimate myself to academics again. It’ll give me a chance to make sure that I enjoy the idea of engineering as well.
  7. Becoming a better version of myself at Apple
    I hope to become a better version of myself everyday at Apple because I hope to transfer to an Apple Store in whichever city I go to school in. Continuing to work for Apple would have a handful of direct benefits, including a seamless transition to a new job in a different country, a set group of potential friends outside of school, a job in a country with 40% youth unemployment, tuition reimbursement, etc. One of my main motivations for getting the citizenship done first is to start working on transferring as soon as possible.
  8. Minimizing my life
    I haven’t started this one yet, but if I’m going to move to Italy for five years than I clearly don’t need about 99% of my stuff. Currently I have things like a car, computers, tv, clothes, stereo, shoes, and general accumulated stuff to get rid of which I wouldn’t or couldn’t bring with me.

Studying for My Italian Exam in Pescara

Having finished my slice of pizza I sip on my Peroni while studying for my Italian exam.

Preoccupying my mind is the incredible difficulty of the Italian exam that awaits me. The slice of pizza fills my stomach, the Peroni calms my nerves and the cool breeze fall air lifts my spirits as I work on some practice exams.

I’m realizing at this point how badly I underestimated the difficulty of this  upcoming exam. The C1 advanced exam is clearly crafted to test some of the most difficult aspects of the language in a way that gives some native speakers pause from time to time. I’m struggling the most with the prepositions and the verb tenses. It doesn’t help that a huge portion of my grade will be based on sections that are graded based on my writing and conversation, preventing me from knowing how I’m doing in those respects during my practice.

I’m trying to remain as positive as possible but the stress is starting to wash over me now. I hate to feel defeated a week before I even take the exam, but at this point it feels like I’ll probably have to study more and take it again. I’m feeling more determined than ever and I don’t care if I have to take it twice. This is something I want and I’m going to manifest it in my life. I’m not going to sign up for an easier level just to pass.

Back to studying. This is endless, but it certainly helps to be completely immersed here in Italy.

How Can I Help Italy?

Photo courtesy Alessandra Tarantino/AP

I’m leaving for Italy in just a few weeks now and I’m struggling to find a concrete way to help the victims of the Earthquake-stricken Central Italy. As I contemplated more of the ways I could help an enormous aftershock of 6.1 magnitude stuck central Italy, only slightly smaller than the earthquake that devastated Amatrice back in August.

I just happened to start listening to the audiobook of The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone and I’ve decided that I’ve got to say yes to ALL of the ideas that I have and 10x my efforts towards each of those if I really want to be successful.

This means posting 10x a day to Instagram, not just daily. @italyheals

This means creating that photography book and selling 100 copies, not just 10.

This means hosting my friends from work to an event to raise money for my trip, another for family, another for some group I haven’t determined.

This means collecting children’s books to donate to Italian schoolchildren.

I want to dominate this effort and not waste a moment of my time before I leave. I can make a huge impact if I only set my sights higher, push harder and not give in for a moment.

Reflections on a Tuscan Sunset

Sometimes we have struggles that we don’t understand. Sometimes we take journeys and we don’t know where they will lead. Oftentimes I look back at this image I captured of the sun setting in Tuscany and think back to the wonderful memories of that time.

Then I realize that art isn’t about reminiscing. It’s about expression. It’s about healing. It’s about moving forward and creating new opportunities in a world that keeps haunting us with our past.

This sunset is a beautiful reminder that every day will come to an end, giving us a new chance tomorrow to create a new future for ourselves. I seek to set out to find new friends, new roads, have new experiences, but most importantly create new art along the way as a vessel for the experiences themselves and a beacon for what is yet ahead.

In a few short weeks I’ll return to Tuscany I’m sure of it. I’ll photograph a new sunset during some experience that I’ll be completely surprised by yet serendipitously open to as I try to live in the minute.

Come with me on my journey.

See you in Italy.

Building an Itinerary

At first I was feeling a little stressed trying to come up with my rough itinerary for this upcoming trip to Italy. It’s not that I don’t know how to fill the time. It’s more that there are so many logistial details to solve that could easily be worked out if I had a pile of cash to work with. They seem to require a lot more creativity working on a tight budget.

The first question is wheter to rent a car at all. If I don’t, I’m worried that I won’t be able to get around in Amatrice or have the independece that I’d like to have. If I do that could take more money than I would really like to use on transportation.

Then again busses and trains also do add up and limit my travel to main routes.

I think I’ll visit Romina in Rome at the beginning and end of my time in Italy. I think I’ll spend no more than three or four nights with family. I’m going to try and reserve at least a week in the earthquake stricken region surrounding Amatrice.

Then there’s the question of visiting Milan Bovisa as well. I think it makes sence to visit the actual campus where the program I hope to attend is held.

Yesterday I Bought My Ticket to Rome (and Paris)

I finally pinned down my dates and a rough itinerary allowing me to buy my next ticket to Italy yesterday morning. I’m headed to Amatrice via Rome to volunteer in the earthquake zone for a couple of weeks. I’ll likely visit my family again and the Milan Bovisa campus as well. I’ve promised myself a half dozen times that I’d finally visit somewhere outside of Italy and this is the trip. A few days in France should be enough to allow me to see some attractions I’ve been wanting to see.

Italy 🇮🇹 Earthquake Relief Photography Benefit Sale

What can we do for the victims of this terrible tragedy in Italy?

An earthquake has come and destroyed their tiny cities, their whole livelihoods, literally decimated the population in some areas. Hundreds have died and some are still missing. On top of that in Amatrice alone over 1500 artworks in 115 churches are destroyed, in danger, or buried under rubble, taking second priority to the initial search and rescue efforts.

Now, as summer ends the cooler fall nights arrive hinting at the winter without proper shelter to come. Around 2000 Italians are currently living in tents and other temporary housing and are predicted to remain there for the winter.

Roads in the region were initially cut off making it extremely difficult to get vital supplies up into the scattered hillside towns surrounding the epicenter. Slowly the infrastructure is being rebuilt, yet it’s going to be a long time until life gets back to normal. In some places, normal may never return.

Many fear that the reconstruction of historic center of Amatrice is in danger of being taken over by the Mafia, just as L’Aquila still has a center that remains a ghost town after the 2009 earthquake that struck the city.

I’m hosting a fundraiser event at my home for the victims of the earthquake in Italy on August 24th that affected Amatrice and the surrounding towns.

You are invited to a celebration of the culture and beauty of Italy.

I am going to be giving a short presentation of my recent visits to Italy as well as making available for purchase my matted and signed artistic prints from all five of my trips.

A large portion of every photo sold will be donated. Our goal is to raise $1000 for the earthquake relief. I’m optimistic that we can reach this goal because my employer, Apple, is doing a 2:1 match of donations from its employees.

Available will be Italian wines, desserts and other snacks. Gluten free and non-alcoholic beverages will be available as well.

I can’t wait to see you there. Please bring your friends and RSVP so we have enough wine!

If you cannot make it please consider donating through PayPal:

This Is a New Start

It’s time for me to start again. I can’t be held back. I just have to go and go and go . I’ve got to get my art out there and write again. Photograph again. Pour myself into it. I keep wanting to be successful at this, but I nearly stop completely when my initial momentum fades. Really, I often stop before it has even faded. I don’t understand why. It doesn’t make any sense really.

Look, If I want to go to Italy, if I want to photograph, if I want to pursue the life I really want I’ve just got to go for it. I have to pursue that which fears me. I must push ahead no matter what. It’s worth it. I’m never going to get the encouragement I need from those who are trapped in lives they don’t want. Unless it’s that negative encouragement.

I’ve got to go for it. Fear is the motivation I need. If it scares me enough then I can actually consider pushing forward. Then I know I’m on the right track.

Photography, yes.
Language, yes.
Showing others cool places, yes.
Technology, yes.

These are all fantastic things. My interest in these topics make me who I am and I’m never going to be completely satisfied if I compromise myself. No wonder I can’t imagine taking a normal job.