The four days leading up to Wednesday were some of the most stressful of my life. I do not think I have ever been more scatterbrained and flustered. The reason for my all-over-the-place mental state was because Wednesday was the final day to drop/add classes for the semester, and I had had a previous revelation while on the field trip to the Medici villas that, as far as art in general is concerned, I really have very little interest, if any, in any other medium except for photography. We were walking around in the top floor of one of the villas, which had been turned into a sort of museum with a collection of still life paintings that the Medici family had owned when I had my revelation. As I listened to Helen talk about each still life in overwhelming detail, I could not help but allow the background chatter of my friends reach my ears. “Oh look at that one, the grapes look so real that you could probably pull them off and eat them!” “Look at how the neck of that dead chicken bends in such an (enter artistic word here) way, how incredible.” But the one that caused the panic lights to go off in my head and caused me to question my reasons for being here in Florence was when one girl made the bold statement that, “The Dutch still-life’s are better than the French still-life’s.” I thought to myself, ‘what the hell does she even mean? How can she tell the difference? All I can see at the moment is a painting of a bunch of flowers. I am not inspired by these at all!’ With those being the first thoughts to run through my head, I began to question if I had made the right decision coming here in the first place.
I had declared studio art as my major at the beginning of last year, but really only because I want to pursue photography. High Point is not big enough, especially in the art department, to offer a specific photography major so the closest I could get to one was studio art. I had never drawn, or painted seriously and just about every other kid here at SACI had taken all sorts of art classes prior to their coming to Florence. I had not taken any besides photography and as far as High Point and the requirements for a studio art major was concerned, I had taken all of the photo classes possible already. I was done with photography. As soon as I figured that out, I started to panic. I had committed to a year of art school in Florence, pretty much the art capital of the world, I do not enjoy art and I didn’t sign up for any photo classes this semester because they would not benefit my major! What was I thinking?!?! Ok, so maybe it was not that bad, but that was my initial reaction.
For the rest of the trip, and the ride back, I had a whole bunch of different thoughts running through my head. Unfortunately, most of them were aimed negatively towards art. I thought about switching majors and whether that would be a plausible thing to do this far along in college and if I were to change then what would I change to? I have considered for a long time now following in the footsteps of my mother and grandfather and becoming a teacher in either the English or History departments and so I thought maybe I would major in one of those two areas. However, because I was planning on being in Florence for a year, how would I graduate on time if I changed majors now? I am at a school that offers roughly three courses outside of the artistic world and I was already taking one of them, creative writing. If I were to change majors either one of two things would have to happen. I would either have to come home after one semester, which is something that I really wouldn’t want to do because I love it here in Florence. Or if I stayed, I would have to come to grips with the fact that I would be unable to graduate in four years. I would have to wait until I got home to change majors and then I would have to take all of the required courses for my new major and that would take more than two semesters. Neither of these options eased my mind in the slightest. I began to really stress myself out.
That night I skyped with Will “The Jet ski” and explained to him my predicament. I was reluctant to tell anyone at school how I was feeling because one, I was still unsure of my emotions and two, I didn’t want to potentially excite anyone at the though of me coming home early. I failed in both of those fields in one video chat session. Although, Will was very excited at the thought of me coming home early, he helped me to try and think logically through my options so that I would ultimately make the decision based on what I, and I alone, wanted to do. After our chat was over, I think I felt slightly less stressed but the lights were still going off and I was still very high strung.
Next was a skype appointment with the parentals. That one didn’t go much better. Well that’s sort of a lie, but it didn’t fix everything. I explained to them my situation and how I was feeling and they gave me similar advice. Advice you would expect to hear from parents but with a slight twist I guess you could say. They told me to not worry about fitting into the “graduate college in four years mold.” They reminded that I was twenty years old, IN ITALY, with an opportunity to stay for a full academic year and that I shouldn’t be worried about the next seventy to eighty years of my life. Given the longevity of life in my family, I think everyone is hoping I make it to the big 100! I know I am! They told me that I should be taking the courses I want to take, and not necessarily that I felt I had to take to meet my major requirements. I will never get this opportunity again and that I should not sell myself short because I am worried about how everything will play out as far as credits and majors and graduating is concerned. They told me not to worry; I will get my degree, in whatever subject I choose, in however long it takes. If I come home and change my major they so be it, change it and then we’ll worry about that when we get there. As far as academia was concerned, they told me to take whatever classes I wanted to take while I was here in Italy, that includes photography if I wanted to and anything else that struck my fancy. I felt slightly less anxious after we ended the call but now I had a different swirl of thoughts swimming around in my head.
For the next three days, up until Tuesday night, I was content although still not sold with the thought that I would not be graduating in four years. I had made my decision to stay in Florence for the year. That was an easy one to make. However, I was still having trouble swallowing the consequences. I hadn’t dropped any classes yet but I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I was planning on dropping Early Renaissance Art History, because I really have no interest in the subject matter even though I love Helen and admire her knowledge and I would still have to go back senior year and take Art History one and two if I continued down the studio art path, which I still have to decide. I was also doing to drop Drawing because I have no desire to improve on my drawing ability, but in doing so I would be prolonging my college career with that one drop, because beginning drawing is a perquisite needed to take painting, which as far as progression with my degree is concerned, would set me back at least one semester. In dropping those two classes, I would have the ability to pick up three because Early Renaissance counted as two classes. I was going to add a photo class, I wanted to add Black and White Photo so I could get back into the darkroom but that would conflict with my sculpture class, and I was going to add Italian because I am going to be here for another semester, would like to at least have some knowledge of the language so that maybe I could converse with some local ladies, or at least with people in the market. Drop Drawing and Early Renaissance, that was the plan that seemed to sit well in my head. I skyped again with my parents Tuesday night and they backed me on my decision, again telling me not to worry about time “constraints.” It was finally settled but I still went to bed that night not entirely sold on my decision.
Wednesday morning came straight out of a movie, or so it felt. I woke up and it was pouring, of course. I dressed in all black, and prepared to make my way through the rain to SACI, to attend the murder and funeral of my schedule. “Play Crack The Sky” by Brand New was the first song to come on shuffle as I walked out of the door to my apartment. How fitting I thought, that the song that I shed tears to the day before I left to come to Florence be the song to start the day that I have dreading so much. No tears were shed. I walked into Elizabeth’s office (the woman at the registrar) and I told her that she would probably hate me. She said she wouldn’t and then she asked if I was there to change my schedule. I told her yes. I sat down and then things happened very quickly. I dropped Drawing, Early Renaissance, and Sculpture. I added Color Photography, Black and White Photography and Italian 1. I breathed a sigh of relief; I had finally made a decision, and thanked Elizabeth for helping me out and she told me that I would have until 4:30 to make any changes. I left SACI and the rain had lightened up a bit and I made my way through the quiet streets back to my apartment. I had made my decision but something in me didn’t feel quite right. I sat in my apartment for roughly 45 minutes and then went back to SACI. I walked back into Elizabeth’s office with the biggest puppy-dog face I could muster. I dropped Black and White Photo, and re-added sculpture. I enjoyed everything about that class too much to drop it for a second photo class of the semester, especially one that I had already taken. I could always take Black and White next semester and I had already started my sculpture project, which was going well and I wanted to finish it. Finally, my decisions were made and as I walked out of SACI, for a second time, “Alright” by Darius Rucker started playing in my ears. I took that as a sign.
I had my first Italian class at noon and so I prepared to be thrown head-over-heels into a language class that had been meeting for two and a half weeks, taking a language that I only knew very select phrases of. I found out that there was a quiz on Thursday. Great, that’s the way to get off on the right foot, I thought. However, I picked up a lot very quickly and the quiz was only going to be on adjective endings, which are incredibly easy because they are so similar in every language it seems. Just look at the noun before the adjective and ninety percent of the time, they will end in the same letter. I left the class very excited to continue pursuing it over the course of the semester. The rest of the day went as planned with sculpture at one, I am very happy that I didn’t drop it, I really do enjoy it, and creative writing at 4:45, where Blair was not happy to hear that I dropped drawing, but she had no choice but to accept.
Unfortunately as the evening progressed, the feelings of uneasiness found their way back into my head, and I couldn’t help but question my motives for dropping drawing. I had felt all day, like I quit on the class when I shouldn’t have. I expressed this to some of the other kids in my sculpture class and Kayee couldn’t help but laugh while she watched me react to John, the drawing professor and also the intermediate and advanced sculpture professor, talk about how he had some of the sculpture kids in his class, “like Chris” he said. He always comes in during the beginning sculpture class because his class meets right after ours. Little did he know, at that moment, I was no longer in his class. I tormented myself all sculpture class long because I love John to death, I enjoy being in his class and when I thought about it, I didn’t really have a good reason for dropping the class. However, it was too late to switch. It was past 4:30 so I would have to live with my decision.
Good thing I had another skype appointment with my parents so that they could hear about what I had done in the morning. During our talk that night I expressed how I was unsure about my decision to drop drawing but how it was past the deadline so there was nothing I could do. I talked about how I thought I quit on the class and how that feeling had eaten away on me all day long and how now I wished I could change my decision. Elizabeth had said during the second time I was in her office, that if I wanted it, drawing would still fit in my new schedule. Unfortunately, at that point I guess I was just being stubborn in the way that I had finally made a decision and didn’t want to analyze it. Well I was wrong, I didn’t want to drop drawing, so while I was talking with my parents I formulated an email to Elizabeth, explaining how I was feeling and asking her if there was anything she could do to put me back in the drawing class. I sent the email at eleven at night so I would have to wait until the morning for a response. I hoped for the best.
The next morning, I had my first color photo class with Romeo, the photo professor who I have heard so much about. There are two of us in the class. The other student, a girl named Arum, had previously worked it out with Romeo that she would not be in class. “That is the nice thing about having such a small class,” Romeo said, “if you need the time for something else, just let me know and we can work around it because we can get so much more done so much faster with just the two of you.” Romeo showed me the ropes and gave me my assignment for the first project, which is what I had already missed, put together ten edited photos of my first impressions of Florence. That’ll be easy, I already had had it done before I was in the class. Then he asked me to put together a small portfolio of my past work, easy again, and finally he gave me my next project, which is to photograph people in crowds and have ten edited photos by class on Tuesday. This is easy again because Florence is constantly filled with tourists so finding crowds is no problem. I know I am going to like this class a lot.
In the five minutes that I have from the end of photo, to walk down the hall to my Italian class, I opened my computer to check to see if Elizabeth had responded and there was her name right at the top of the inbox. Moment of truth I thought as I clicked on the email. This is what I read, “When students warn me ahead of time, I do make the exception and would normally give you until 10:00AM today to come in and sign the form. However, I noticed that you have Color Photo + Italian. Italian ends at 12:50. If I do not see you by 1:30pm TODAY, you will NO LONGER be able to add Drawing. So please stop by AS SOON AS ITALIAN ENDS.” A wave of relief swept over me immediately, and as soon as my Italian ended I was off to the SACI main building to take care of business. I passed Blair on the way and she flipped me the bird, I couldn’t help but smile back because I knew I had a surprise for her. I walked into Elizabeth’s office AGAIN and as I was signing the form to pick up drawing again, Kathy walked across the hall from the drawing room to tell me that John was talking to the intermediate drawing class about me and how I dropped the class and how he would miss me. I looked across the hall and there was John, standing in the doorway, looking right at me and he waved me over. I quickly thanked Elizabeth and apologized profusely, I’m sure she hates me, and guiltily trudged over to the drawing room. I looked at John, explained quickly what had been going through my mind and then told him that I had just picked up drawing again. I received a round of applause from the intermediate class. Many of which, if not all of, are friends of mine, including Ben, Jacob, Kayee among others, and they all know that drawing isn’t necessarily my thing but everyone at SACI is so wonderfully supportive of everyone else that they just want to see me improve which is very nice. I told John that I would see him at four for our field trip to draw the statues underneath the loggia in Palazzo Vecchio, and that I was happy with my decision to come back. He agreed and told me that he would see me at four. As I walked out the door I could feel the urge building and once I got out into the street I let out a resounding “WOO!” that bounced of the buildings down Via Sant’Antonino. I had done the right thing and this time I was sure of it.