Things I learned in Rome.

I'm starting to go through my pictures from this month's trip to Europe, where I had the good fortune of somehow finding myself in Brussels, Bruges, Paris, Florence and Rome. The funny thing about it is that as soon as I got off the plane at LAX, I knew: I have now been to these places. It was just so matter of fact. "Oh, yes, I've been to Rome." And... you know... that was that. But when I began to look through my photos, I realized, that wasn't that.

I'D BEEN TO ROME. I'd touched the wall of Vatican City. I'd stared up at the once-bronzed statues of the Altare della Patria. I looked at my camera roll and remembered the feeling of wandering the streets of Montmartre in Paris and giggling with my old roommate, Rachael, as I took a selfie pretending to pick my nose at the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence. But when I was there, I remember feeling exhilarated yet somehow disconnected. I guess it all just rushed by in this wave of excitement and overwhelming wonder.

And I looked through my pictures and I started to compare this feeling to like, LIFE. There were times during our whole "Euro Fest 2014" that I felt tired and crowded and irritated about one thing or another. But I don't look back and remember those moments with much consideration for them. And I can't help but ask myself, now, Is Life Just One Big Travel Album?

I flip through my mind and thumb through all of these moments in my life that I know happened. "I've been through this experience," or "I've seen this place," and I know, you know... that's that. But then I begin to look closer and I realize: that isn't that. I'VE BEEN TO THESE PLACES. I've been through these experiences and they were real and they were great, or terrible, or mediocre. But more importantly than anything else- they were real, tangible, audible and moreover existent experiences that I sped through in a flash of excitement and wonder.

The funny thing is that I have all of these little mementos of my life (so far): photographs, books, letters and trinkets. And I see them every day without a second thought of what they felt or looked like or meant when I was there. I have a pair of diamond earrings that a boy gave to me when we dated 5 years ago. They're the only precious jewelry I own, and I never, ever change them. But I long ago stopped staring at them in the mirror as something that I felt honored to wear. I guess I just forgot that moment in my life and how valuable it was. I wont go on to list a bunch of "things" that I own and don't appreciate, because it's embarrassing. The point is- my life has run on auto-pilot of "this is what's happened," and I often forget to appreciate that good or bad- tired or frantic- alone or with company, it's been pretty remarkable.

The thing is, I know that this is common for everyone. What, so every time I look in the mirror I'm supposed to stop and guffaw over a pair of 5-year old earrings? I'd never get anything done! But... well... let me tell you about two little moments that happened in Rome that put things in perspective for me.

One was when we first got to Rome. We'd been to about 30 amazing places in about 6 days, and I'd been trying to save myself for Rome. We stopped at every monumental attraction in the city, each met with wide eyes and a dropped jaw. But by the end of the day, our cries of "That's SO awesome!" were starting to slowly fade, and finally my friend Amy hit it on the head by saying, "Honestly, it's not that these aren't amazing. But how many times can we see something that's 'SO AWESOME' in two weeks?"

The next 'perspective' moment for me was when we got to the Trevi Fountain. I was tired of walking and, quite frankly, overwhelmed with it all. I've found in my travels that it's been my quiet moments I've appreciated the most. The times when I've gotten to sit and just marvel at the grandeur of something. And as we all tried to muster up the strength to talk about how amazed we were about something remarkable, I made a small request. "Let's all just stop and take 30 seconds of silence to just stare." And we stopped talking. And we stared. And the noises of The New invaded my ears as I heard foreign languages interpret the word "awesome," and the water flushed from the fountain and every single movie and photograph I had seen where someone had made a wish in this very place flashed before my eyes as I stopped and just... absorbed the moment.

And, well... I guess that's what life is. It's a series of "SO awesome" moments, happening on fast-forward. I guess that's what Ferris Bueller meant when he said that if we don't stop and take a look around once in a while, we'll miss out on life. It'll still happen. But we'll have gotten so caught up in the rush of each rapid-fire moment that we'll forget what it felt like, smelled like, sounded like and even tasted like- when we were standing in that space. And whether you felt great or tired, whether things ended spectacularly or whether your heart was broken by the turn of events, there was a flash of time in there that was pretty amazing. And I guess what I learned in Rome this year was that I'm always in Rome. Every place, every moment... it's all Rome. And it's always SO awesome.