If this year was a rollercoaster, today would begin the set of ticks that precede the silent inertia of the pinnacle; that moment when everyone aboard holds her breath and the car seems to stop before the inevitable plunge downward.

Il sabato scorsco, abbiamo fatto la festa per il mio compleanno (Last Saturday we made a party for my birthday), e oggi mangero la cena al ristorante Spinasse con i miei parenti e il mio caro amico, Tomaso (and tonight I’ll eat dinner at Spinasse with my relatives and Tom.) The purpose of tonight is not only to catch up with my out-laws, but to celebrate an official 30 days left before I leave for Civita.

The time for procrastination and hazy dreaming of the future is over. Time is coming and I am going.

As I make my “final arrangements,” so to speak, I’m discovering a new sense of purpose and a lessening of fear about how well I’ll do in Civita. I’ve begun to sketch a dizzying list of topics to consider on site—from weather and temperature to food access and topography to architecture and services to language, conversations and the balance of public/private life in Italian culture.

When I consider that list, I can’t help but think about those elements in my life here, especially the balance of public and private worlds. Writing this blog is a perfect example: never before have I shared my thoughts so nakedly with an open audience. It surprises and delights me when friends quote me back to me, saying how they are able to identify with the thoughts and feelings that I capture in these essays—which have admittedly begun to trend farther away from a technical analysis of the urban realm to more of a gestural analysis of the relationship between place, time, people, food and life.

I’ve realized that the tone that I’ve set over the past few months in Seattle has laid the groundwork for my time in Civita—the result of which will make my study truly come from emotional and personal perspective. When I wrote my proposal, I wasn’t sure how I would find that voice, but now I’ve set a framework that will honor yet achieve very different results from everything that has come before.

Questa mattina, la mia amica Kim and I abbiamo bevuto caffe a Caffe Ladro, our last before she leaves for an extended vacation and we don’t see each other for three months. Having a friend with whom one can laugh, cry, and hug unabashedly in the middle of the sidewalk at 11 am is a rare thing—a mix of public and private lives—and something that I’ll miss dearly while I’m away.

We’re both leaving things behind in the search for ourselves this summer, so that when we return we can layer over the past to make something newer, stronger, and more true to the people we’re about to become. As we shared our current struggles, our hopes and dreams for the future, and even a few tears, people came and went around us, sat down next to us, and struck up conversations with us.

At some point, I noted how much of a earful that our seatmates were getting as we bared our souls and slurped iced lattes in our Adirondack chairs. Then, I realized that we were using that [very] public space as our living room, just as the Italians do. To enter into an Italian’s home is something usually reserved for family or intimates. Business relationships, friendships, courtships—these interactions occur in public spaces and are therefore shared by the whole community.

As I walked the steep grade home, I realized that I’ve already begun to live the Italian way: living my private life in public, donning sundresses and fabulous shoes in warm weather, and making the trek up a steep hill after a refreshing coffee and pastry treat alla cittadina.

I may not be packed yet, but I sure as hell am ready.