For people in any walk of life, inspiration is everything. When inspiration hits, it’s like all at once you turn to magic. Your senses are heightened. Your pulse is racing at a speed that should make your hands shake, but you are so sure of what you have to do that you feel no hesitation. You’ve stepped into a world that’s more vivid than the one you spend most of your days in and, if for only a moment, there are no limits. We think more deeply, question incessantly, explore fearlessly and above all, we create.
The trouble lies in the fact that we aren’t able to live in a constant state of ‘inspired.’ It’s a kind of ebb and flow that seems to be kinder to some of us than others.
I’ve always considered myself fairly fortunate in the inspiration department. My childlike sense of amazement at the ordinary and the fact that I still believe in fairies and Hogwarts makes for a pretty whimsical worldview. It has manifested as this lifelong desire to find significance in the familiar and try to evoke a way of thinking about it that unmasks it, revealing it as the connecting link that it is. A deeper bond we all share that was disguised as something ordinary.
When I moved to Florence for the first time, I was pummeled endlessly with wave after wave of inspiration. Everything I did and every person I met evoked poetry. For the first time I spent six months entirely connected to myself and to what was happening around me. I was writing one of the best chapters of my life without even trying. When I left the city, I vowed that I would come back to Florence one day, certain that I had not exhausted all of the inspiration it had to offer.
I spent a year in New York determined to get back to the city where I had left my heart, but all the while I was unconsciously building a pretty little life for myself. When the year was over and I was preparing to move back to Florence, it wasn’t like the first time. I wasn’t running away from a life that didn’t feel like it belonged to me. In fact, it felt a little like I was abandoning a life that felt good. But my resolve was strong and I expertly silenced every fleeting thought that might derail my plans.
I arrived back in Florence on a humid day at the end of August. Two hours of sleep in a thirty-six hour period was inconsequential. It was so fucking good to be home. I fell right back into the life I had spent every one of the last 431 days yearning for. But though I had braced myself, the Florence I came back to was not the same one I had left. After the initial party phase, post return, reality began to set in. I started seeing the cracks in the perfectly rosy picture I had painted. And I think the shock of that sort of numbed me for a while. And as if it could sense that its charms would be lost on my apathetic heart, inspiration evaded me.
I began feeling defeated, discouraged, distrustful of my own memory. For the first time in a very long time, it had been months since I put pen to paper. I was too afraid to accept that I had made a mistake so I stopped thinking about writing entirely. I roved aimlessly, unfeeling, drinking too much and avoiding quiet moments.
A month later I found myself at a tall, steel table that felt out of place in front of the hand crafted, wooden stage at the front of the tiny music venue I frequented. The room was entirely dark except for a dim light over a piano. One gentleman came up and graced us with a 20 minute piano solo, and then another followed suit. A third man, wearing wind pants, a bandana and a beard that touched his stomach, came up and played the most ethereal melody that made the room vibrate at an entirely new frequency. He would be a tough act to follow.
But then he climbed the three small stairs to the stage. A young man, no older than 28 with golden brown curls and a dark, wool sweater. He walked up smiling awkwardly and took his place before the piano. He sat for a few screamingly quiet moments with his eyes closed and his fingers on the keys. And then he began. His eyes were still shut tight but his hands moved expertly. The notes, at first, were somber and laced with grief. Minutes passed and he played the same tune, but faster now, more urgently. As he pounded the keys, the desperation become almost palpable. He grimaced and held his shoulders to his ears as if being afflicted with a physical pain. And then there was a pause. A sweeping moment of relief. And the music grew delicate, sweet, hopeful, even. A celestial soft song. And now he was smiling, swaying peacefully to himself. He played the melody over and over and, under his instruction, the entire room hummed his redemption song in haunting unison. With his eyes, he urged us to keep humming as he played a new tune over us. A roaring declaration of triumph. He had transcended, come out on the other side. And we all got to watch him, root for him, celebrate with him.
His piece was to me what Taylor Swift’s latest breakup song is to a high school girl. (Like, oh my god. It was written about my life.) It had me thinking, if he could tell a story that I felt like my own, why couldn’t I?
I went home and for the first time since I had landed in Florence and I wrote. And I haven’t stopped writing. I write for work, I write for my sanity, I write because I’m inspired by this city and this life, for better or for worse.
And I know that I can’t live in that constant state of inspired. But now I also know that I can’t stop seeking inspiration. Too many times I’ve let fear force me into a state of unfeeling; the ultimate disservice to one’s self. I guess if nothing else (and there is sooooo much else), my return to Florence has showed me that it’s okay to be afraid of shit as long as you don’t let that fear control you. Those sad tunes may indeed be sad, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful.