I’ve talked about the surreal aspect of being published after aspiring to it for so long. And I’ve talked about the sometimes crippling effects of imposter syndrome. Brilliant people I never would have imagined struggle with the same feelings. Thanks go to Nikki Moore for the Neil Gaiman story link. If Neil Armstrong and Neil Gaiman have to wonder how they got there, then of course I can question how I managed to scramble up to this waaay less exalted perch. I can’t say I envy narcissists but I do fantasize about having a shred of that unshakable self confidence.
While I’m waiting for my cloak of invincibility to descend upon me (haha) and dog paddling in my version of self-doubt chowder, I’m wending my way through the end of Book Two. This is where I have, in the past, questioned both my sanity and my ability to do the thing. This time is different for two big reasons: 1) I have proof I can indeed finish a book and, 2) I have a small cheering section pushing me on (y’all know who you are).
The ending has given me lots of avenues (and some rabbit holes) to run down. There’s been lots of research and double-checking where things are on maps to refresh my memory and, oh my god, does all of that make me miss Ljubljana so much.
I have friends who are traveling and posting beautiful pictures. The Slovenia and Ljubljana accounts I follow on social media are splashing out during the height of the tourist season with their own gorgeous photos. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Ljubljana in the summer and there are so many things which only exist in the bright flash of the warm months. I’m checking in with Slovenian friends to say hi and pick their brains for tidbits I can’t find on the internet. I miss them, as much as, if not more than, the place.
No place is without flaws, whether they be political, social, environmental, or related to infrastructure. I know it’s a bad idea to idolize a real place to the point of glossing over those things. Doing so does a disservice to the people who actually live there. Having said all that, it’s not about escape to a fairytale, though given the news and the state of politics here it could easily be; it’s more about feeling homesick for a place that was so very briefly home.
Slovenia, and Ljubljana especially, have changed a great deal since the early 1990s when I was at university and walked and biked my way around town. Every time I go back, I find out about ten new things I want to do on my next trip. I guess because I don’t live there now, everything can feel new and exciting and not like the swirling hurricane of change it can sometimes feel like if you live in it or through it.
I can sit here and intellectualize this all day but I’ll still feel the same way. I’ll still be wildly in love.
If you’ve read the book, I hope you’ve fallen a little bit in love with Slovenia, too. I won’t be jealous.
Sunday I’ll be hurtling over the Atlantic on a return visit to Slovenia with my son in tow. I’ve got more research to do, an article on Slovenian microbreweries to write, and a need to show Julian the Alps he’s named for.
The thought of being there again still gives me this nervous, excited flutter in my belly.
I was a naif dreamer when I packed a backpack and took off to spend a year studying the language in 1992. The country of Slovenia had just had a war and was barely a year old. I was younger than Julian is now. (That thought is sobering.) Around the same time, someone said to me, not as a compliment, that I was the kind of person who would see a “road out ahead” sign and keep driving, sure in the knowledge someone would come to my rescue. I took it hard because I was still in a place where I believed other people’s pronouncements about who I was were truths carved in stone.
I do tend to take leaps of faith, though I’m not quite as brave as I used to be. It makes me a little wistful, because some of those swan dives into the unknown produced the best parts of my life. I never purposely jump into alligator-infested waters though I do occasionally land there anyway. I don’t depend on others rescuing me, but I trust I am not alone in the world and that some risks are necessary and worthwhile. Maybe that made me seem recklessness. Being certain there is always somewhere to go if the bottom falls out is an enormous privilege. I can attest to the fact that I didn’t get that until I got older.
I am no longer as naive as I was at 19 and I might not trust as easily that all will be well in the end. But I am still a dreamer. I fall in love hard. With people, with places. With ideas. Slovenia and I have had a torrid, on again-off again affair for more than half my life. Introducing Keifel to my great love was a bit like bringing your new boyfriend home to meet the parents. Taking Julian there feels much more complex.
The last two trips birthed Who by Water. I tried to write a nonfiction piece about my formative year spent studying in Ljubljana. It was clunky and awkward and made me feel like I was doing the place I loved and my time there a disservice. Roman Ljubljana, Emona, gifted me a vivid character and a precipitating event. A new story spun out from there.