Aging is wild. It's incredible to think of all of the versions of myself that exist in the past. Young-and-totally-confused Sarah. Young-and-totally-fearless Sarah. Move-across-the-world-alone-and-live-with-a-complete-stranger Sarah. Convertible-Corvette-driving Sarah. Expat Sarah. Working professional Sarah. Francophone Sarah. Young mom Sarah. And, recently, I feel like I'd reached the version of myself that could either be old mom Sarah or scared-of-everything Sarah. This version of myself that doesn't quite understand how to be alone for long periods of time without kids and schedules and routines and a healthy dose of chaos. 

But, I had no idea before late last summer that this was the era I was in, which explains why when my college-age nephew was traveling the world, I jumped at the chance to fly solo across the Atlantic and catch him abroad.  He was gallivanting across Italy for a week at one point, and since Rome is where I studied abroad several versions of Sarah ago, it felt like the perfect rendezvous point. There's a bit of pride that comes with being able to show someone you love a part of the world that feels like it's carrying a piece of your identity.

I cried a little in the Uber while waving goodbye to my sad-faced kids as I drove away to the airport, but I thought I'd get over these slightly-pathetic feelings once I got on the plane. My second flight being delayed by about six hours squashed any hope of that, but when I eventually touched down in the City of Seven Hills, it finally all turned into excitement. 

It's a thrill to get off a plane after several hours and find yourself in a totally new world than the one you left. I felt like a kid again while my driver swerved through roundabouts and up and down hills of terracotta and green. But, I can't say that the rush lasted too long. Seeing Rome through my current eyes, was to see it as an entirely new city. There was a raw and unfamiliar feeling of loneliness hanging above my head, and once I'd checked into my little B&B, its empty corridors only amplified the desolation. 

I'd checked in, thanks to my delayed flight, after 7pm, so decided that all I was emotionally ready for was a bite to eat and bed. Even finding food stirred up the anxiety. This seemed like such a ridiculous way to start this adventure, so I was looking forward to a fresh start the next day. 

As I'd hoped, my anxiety shifted in the morning sunshine, and I made it a point to get an early start to the day with a familiar ritual: finding my first cappuccino. I'd end up walking over 12,000 steps that first day in a pair of stupidly inappropriate footwear. But, it was a really soul-searching day that satiated my urge to flee and delivered enough fatigue to keep my mind from wandering too far in those pre-sleep moments that first night. 

Honestly, it took several days for me to find comfort knowing that I could set off each day and do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted without first making sure someone else knew about it. I can only explain it as feeling very overwhelming those first few days. Eventually, I found myself more settled into this feeling of uneasy freedom, and resigned myself to doing really and truly whatever I wanted - which, at one point meant sitting in bed with plate of pizza watching Italian news. 

When I met up with my nephew, I found myself back in the mom seat again, navigating where we should go, and being back in this comfort zone was a nice feeling that boosted my confidence. Throughout the week, as things became more familiar and my mind became less jet-lagged, I started to take advantage of the ease of maneuverability that comes with being solo and waiting for no one. Some of my rusty Italian got a good polishing, and I found myself finally savoring the city that felt both exotic and like an old friend's hug. 

In the end, my trip to see my nephew and visit that ancient town was more like a trip to revisit that one version of myself that I had not seen or heard from in far too long. I hadn't struggled through anything like that in a really long time, and I think the jolt of it all was what I needed to turn the page on old mom Sarah to this new era of Sarah - the one that eats multiple gelatos a day, jumps on a bus to nowhere when she's bored and upgrades her seat on the flight back home because why the hell not?