I'm pretty sure I was in Rome when I got the call. Or maybe it was Florence. Either way, we were in the middle of a group tour somewhere in Italy, and for the first time since I'd left the United States, my cell phone buzzed from my back pocket. Ever so subtly, lest the tour guide think me rude, I pulled the warm iPhone out of its cozy home and snuck a glance. The caller was from New York City. Strange, I thought. Must be a wrong number. But there was a part of me that knew better.
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The beginning of 2014 saw me antsy to rebuild my life from the ground up, preferably somewhere new. I had just graduated from college, moved back in with my parents, and started working part-time in a corporate office -- something I finally convinced myself was the smartest thing to do while I planned out my next big step. Over the course of six months, I sent out job application after application, only to find the rejections roll in. VSCO, Verily, Kinfolk, Popsugar. Denver, NYC, Portland, San Francisco. No, no, and -- you guessed it -- no. Exhausted from trying and failing, I decided to focus on what I knew would make me happy. I decided to travel.
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I would find out only a few days after the Italian city tour who tried to get ahold of me that afternoon. The second time my phone rang in three weeks, I was sitting in a hotel bar in Paris. Despite being nervous about racking up a hefty phone bill, my curiosity won out.
"Hi, may I please speak to Emily Almon?"
>>> Seriously, why is it that everyone overlooks the "e" in Alleman?
"This is she."
"Good morning, Emily. My name is [...] and I'm a recruiter with Oxford University Press. We’ve reviewed your application for the Marketing Assistant position, and if you’re still interested in the job, I'd love to set up a Skype interview with you sometime this week."
I hung up only a short few minutes later feeling more hopeful about my future than I had in months. And yet, I never made the interview.
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On a warm July evening in Rome, after a long day on foot, Kristen and I shared dinner and dessert in one of the quieter corners of the city. Outside of the Italian cafe, at a little two-person table, we rehashed once again all of our wonders, fears, and hopes for the years ahead while strangers filtered through unnoticed. Three hours into our conversation, in between sips of my lukewarm cappuccino, I blithely expressed a simple yet powerful intention that would ultimately change the course of my life.
"I'm going to marry him someday."
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Turns out, this particular job I had applied for back in April or May (and then somehow forgot about) was in the publishing company’s East Coast office. North Carolina, to be specific, the same state to which I'd felt some sort of random calling since my junior year of high school.
It suddenly felt like everything I had worked for throughout my three and a half years of college all boiled down to that one moment, sitting in a hotel bar in the middle of Paris. Determining my entire future over a glass of white wine. This kind of rare opportunity—a fresh start, a change of scenery—was what I had been praying for all along.
Given the choice between staying and going, most people will tell you to just go. Do what you've always dreamed of. Take a risk. Don't look back. And nine times out of ten, their genuinely kickass advice will be worth following. But every once in a long while will come a wild chance at something that, if taken, might mean losing something indescribably better.
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Back in the States, after the dust had settled, it became all too clear the reasons I wanted to run away in the first place. Curiosity, sure. But also, validation. To gain the approval of a society that values ambition over love. And to convince myself I was strong enough to do it all on my own.
When the "dream" you've been chasing becomes more about everyone else's perception of you than it is about your own aspirations, the whole idea begins to lose its luster. And it seems so obvious, the choice you
If only I could have seen the truth when it mattered most, when the long, pregnant pause on his end of the line sounded an awful lot like a silent plea to stay by his side for good. If only I could have realized right then: Rome held the answer all along.