So at about ten to midnight last Friday, I had a roll-up in one hand, a half-drunk beer in the other, and was stood in the middle of a bar in a prayer circle.
Middle. Of. Bar.
On a somewhat related note, I also found myself crying roughly every seventeen-and-a-half minutes last week too, for reasons including but not limited to: school visits, focaccia bread, a beautiful description of ricotta cheese in the best book about Italian food that I’ve ever read in my life, people being nice, people being mean, getting my period, getting baby oil on my favourite dress, and saying goodbye to 85 of the most incredibly gifted, talented and self-aware people I have ever met in my 26 short years, even though I had only known them for five days.
I never feel more myself than in the summer when I wear this red t-shit and teach my peers how to teach. And I mean, HELL. Somebody pulled me aside to tell me that the evening before the course began their grandmother died, and on the first day they had already planned to quit to go home and mourn. But then during our introductions I said something about how this experience changed my life, and so they decided to trust me and stay and she said that now she feels like she is honouring the memory of her passed family. HOW CAN YOU NOT BE HUMBLED INTO CRYING SILENCE WHEN SOMEBODY THANKS YOU WITH TEARS IN THEIR OWN EYES?
That was a trick question Internet. The answer is that you can’t. You can’t not sob.
Also: delayed reaction to leaving Rome, much? At 7.30 a.m. on my first morning here my alarm wake-up call was My Pregnant Friend being in labour. All day I knew there was a little baby girl coming out of her vagina, and when I started a workshop on how to teach young learners there was no baby AND THEN 40 MINUTES LATER THERE WAS ONE.
Being a professional gypsy is hard. I miss my people.
(Also: being pregnant is a bit like being a magician. It really is.)
But then, despite missing all the people from a life that in two short weeks feels like another existence ago, WHAT ABOUT ALL THE NEW ONES? The ones who can be all shots and cheers and roll-me-another-one one minute, and then BAM. Give you one of the most memorable moments of your life the next.
A guy I had hardly spoken to all week started to tell us about his life that night in the bar. As we slurped down the last of our drinks and ordered the next one, he told us how he had opted out of high school when he was younger as a protest on formalised testing. How he now took classes at a local university to make up for it because he realised he needed that piece of paper. He explained how now he does calligraphy and Arabic and travels and not one word of it was wanky rhetoric to impress people, he just really wanted to share his story because now he was in Italy and those experiences brought him here.
That guy isn’t even 20 years old yet.
Do you know what he said? He said that every time he finds life getting hard he thinks of his granddad who emigrated from South to North America not knowing any English at all, and he worked his way up to master language and living and that is what keeps this guy going. Knowing that is his grandfather had the strength to unapologetically build a life from nothing means now his grandson comes to bars on the Italian Riviera and holds an audience in captive rapture with his honestly about living his best life.
Essentially, he is brave with his life so that other people can be brave with theirs EXCEPT HE ISN’T A DICKHEAD ABOUT IT.
Do you know how many of those exist? I’ll tell you: about 6. And one of them is Obama.
And then I realised that it was him- this overwhelmingly genuine and grab-life-by-the-balls being of incomprehensible compassion and warmth- that wrote on his feedback form for the teaching course that day: Laura in an inspiration for teaching… and for my life.
And then we all stood up for a group hug, because he declared that he had something to say, and before I knew it eyes were closed and addresses to our heavenly father muttered and I couldn’t stop sobbing like a baby because me and inspiration for his life? There is not a single thing I could have taught this man, and in five minutes of genuine conversation he taught me more about myself and the person I want to become than I ever knew I was looking to learn.
Its just… people, man. Fucking people. They put you in a prayer circle in the middle of the bar and sometimes? You don’t even mind. That’s when you know they are the good ones.