Recently, I was browsing through all the pictures taken since I’ve been living abroad. Pictures full of beautiful places, great people, and unforgettable memories. But soon, these thoughts were overshadowed by one thing that I noticed, something negative that consumed me. To the point that I couldn’t think about the positives.
I’ve acquired a taste for wine and beer, both of which I never cared for back at home. And granted the two are cheaper than water here, I have definitely consumed it often. I’ve discovered some amazing restaurants with some great food: Chicken focaccia with mango chutney, or spaghetti vongole (just €5!?) at Steve’s around the corner from campus, ricotta pastizzi at random hole in the wall vendors, rabbit pie at Rexy’s, Nanna’s ravioli at Cafe Jubilee, linguine calamari at Zeri’s, margherita pizza at Piccolo Padre’s, calamari and FRIED BRIE (to die for) at Bianco’s, BANOFFEE pie from Cara’s! I’m obsessed, that’s obvious.
Obvious and visibly evident.
Thanks to the combination of 1.) All these amazing places to eat here in Malta, plus 2.) all the food there is to try when traveling (obviously carb-heavy Italian food to try in Italy + wine and lots of gelato, traditional goulash with a pint of Pilsner in Prague, seafood in Marseille) and 3.) bread and pasta being my daily, main (cheap and easy) staples here in Malta.
Uh oh, I was starting to gain a little pudge. In my stomach, but in my face and my neck especially. I’m a small girl with a small frame, so although I don’t gain noticeably in my arms, hips and legs, I really notice it initially in my face, which kind of sucks, because you can’t really cover that up in a photo. I mean I suppose you could argue the downside of weight gain to any area, but everyone’s going to disagree — grass is always greener, right?
Anyway, it made me uneasy and insecure. All I could think of was the fact that Spring was almost here, and it is already starting to get warm here in Malta. Spring break is coming up, meaning so is my 9 day cruise, aka 9 days that I would definitely want to take hundreds of pictures during, not to mention the fact that I’d planned to be living in my bikini the whole time.
So I went into crazy mode: healthy(and a lot less) eating, hardcore working out.
Then I had a visitor, my friend Christina from my hometown of Santa Clarita. I had my healthy portion of oatmeal with raisins and soy milk for breakfast, then headed off to the airport to meet her.
Let’s just say that was the last healthy, generously portioned meal according to my psychotically strict eating plan I had, as it was thrown out the window for the next week while she was here.
I had to take her to all my favorite places, and eat all of my favorite (fatty, carb and calorie-loaded) foods with her. But tell me why I would feel completely guilty following. And to make matters worse, the chub face haunted me with every picture she took of us together in the scenery around us.
I was pissed, I got grumpy. I didn’t want to be in any more pictures, I didn’t want to eat any more. I drudged along, in a terrible mood and resenting this new pouch of flab under my neck that had become my personal past-month’s photobombing bully.
Meanwhile, Christina was in complete awe of her surroundings. One of her first nights here, we walked along the waterfront at sunset, and she was speechless, enamored. With one of her (many) genuine gasps of disbelief at the postcard-worthy scenery that lay before our eyes — pink sky, turquoise waters, last rays of sunlight illuminating the old buildings of Valletta with a warm orange glow — she managed to break my spell of negativity for a second.
Her reactions to all that she saw during her stay reignited feelings that I’d seemed to have lost. From the waterfront and Mediterranean Sea views literally around the corner from my apartment, to Cafe Cordina, the beautiful cafe a couple blocks from my school that I pass by every day. From the fortressed city of Mdina, to the cramped streets and unique mix of European architecture of the capital city of Valletta. From the 5000-year-old Ġgantija megalithic temples, to the Azure Window at sunset.
Everything we saw, everything we ate, everything we experienced, she was in love with (especially the pea mash pastizzi). It reminded me of how I was the first two months I was here. And I wondered where in time I lost that feeling of wonderment/appreciation for this gorgeous place that I live.
Despite my random spells of negativity surrounding this newly acquired double chin, I had so much fun being with and catching up with my old friend. I was sad to see Christina off at the airport when her week’s stay came to an end, but I’m so SO glad she was able to come.
The next day, a couple of friends from my program were throwing a rooftop barbeque for our classmate’s birthday. It was perfect: the rainy weather had subsided, and the entire week was gorgeous. Their apartment rooftop has the most amazing views of Balluta Bay over St. Julian’s.
I almost didn’t go. I had been feeling down, and knew that a million pictures would be taken. I didn’t want to look back and remember what European eating had done to my physique.
I’m glad I ended up going (the perfect weather helped persuade me). I ended up having so much fun. And looking back at pictures, I would have regretted it so much if I hadn’t gone.
I woke up this morning to another gorgeous day. The girls and I walked along the waterfront and relaxed with our Americanos and Cappucinos in the warm Malta sun at a nearby cafe at the water’s edge (our new Sunday spot, we’ve decided). Today, I have so much more clarity.
Look at where I live, look at where I am. Look at this once in a lifetime experience I have been given the opportunity to live out. I was so immersed in a couple pounds gained, that I wasted time. Time that could have been immersed, instead, in this truly beautiful position I am in in life. And I won’t waste any more of it.
Am I still going to carry on in my attempts to eat right and in reasonably-sized portions? Yes. Am I still going to continue working out hardcore? Yes. Do I still want to be in shape for my cruise? Honestly, yes.
BUT… am I going to pass up on one glass of wine, or one pasta dinner, or one infamously delicious slice of chocolate cake because I’m freaking out internally over what I look like or what I weigh? No. (Well, I’m going to try not to.) Am I going to pass up on getting together with my friends because I don’t want to be in a picture?? NO. (So absurd, right?)
Who cares if I gain a little weight? When else am I going to have real Linguine ai Frutti di Mare in Italy? When else am I going to enjoy a pint of Guinness in Ireland? And how often am I going to be able to have a glass of wine with my friends in Malta, on the rooftop of their apartment, overlooking insanely clear, turquoise waters?
Because it’s fine to enjoy everything in moderation. It’s ok to splurge every now and then.
And it’s not ok to let these things get in the way of truly experiencing and living.