But now I am back... in New Jersey... in the environment where I grew up. This is reverse culture shock -- with all the same struggles to fit in and survive, but with none of the novelty.
Truthfully, life offers the same struggles. Make enough money to live. Get along with the people around you. Find some joy in your life. But somehow, we seem to struggle more here.
I don't know if its about higher expectations or stretching to reach a standard that others are unaware of,(or not interested in), but life here is harder. Yes, we have access to all the material comforts... 24/7 via the internet, QVC and 24 hour grocery stores. But for all that access -- all that material potential -- things just seem less pleasant. Crankier, faster, harder driving... Perhaps its that life is more complex in the US. The simplicity in Italy made it easier to breathe... easier to enjoy the small beats that make up the moments in your life. I can't put my finger on it yet. I suspect that I'll be trying for the rest of my life.
If I look at it objectively, I can find many of the same things that I loved about Italy here in the Philadelphia area. Every week you can find "festas"... granted, they are not in ancient walled cities perched high on hills. And we don't celebrate centuries old traditions of the harvest and the seasons in medieval garb. But there are traditional events that date back to the turn of the century. There are events that mark huge turning points in this country's history.. as well events that will forever loom large in our lives and imaginations (Halloween, Independence Day, anything to do with astronauts or cowboys.)
It just feels like there is so much going on around us all the time... so many tasks and responsibilties and expectations that making time for the festas is difficult. Each one is an appointment to be set and kept, a commitment with a capital C, as opposed to a celebration with a capital C.
Make time for the celebrations... life is too short to put off the good stuff.