Paris: La Rentrée
After four incredible summer months at home drinking in as much of the salty ocean spray, thick foggy nights, deep redwood soil and golden rolling hills as I could, it was time to return to Paris. I am acutely aware of my situation, and how lucky I am to be in it. After a scramble to pay wayward bills from lazy summer months, renew immigration papers, and fix my defunct French phone number, I found myself strolling across the Seine, Eiffel Tower stoic and stark in the distance, on my way to meet a friend for Asian-fusion burgers followed by African drinks at a defunct consulat-turned-bar in the Canal St Martin. It was beautiful out, temperate, the sky awash in that pink glow and speckled with those textural impressionist clouds you only see in Paris. I felt utterly in love with my life, with this anomaly of a city that I belong to even though I can barely get a handle on its language, with the cobblestones and the distinct identities of each neighborhood, with the fact that I discover new things every single time I step outside my door. I was grateful.
Going home for the summer with the intention of returning to Paris for another year meant a lot of questions of a certain nature. “Are you happy to be home? Do you miss Paris? Are you excited to go back? How long will you stay there? Are you fluent yet?” (my least favorite). Constantly being asked about my life in this way revealed a habit that I am trying to combat, a habit which I think many people, especially younger people, are guilty of: compensation, excuses, an acute awareness of the other person’s perceptions and stereotypes and previously harbored opinions. I found myself qualifying everything, which I hate. I felt guilty for living a life that so many people professed envy for; I felt guilty for being fortunate enough to be able to lead this life.
I came to Paris for the first time in 2012 and fell in love. I left it vowing to return but not really believing it would happen for many years. Now, three years later, I have lived in this breathtaking city for a total of 13 months; I am working at the Parisian office of a global advertising agency; I am completing the final courses for my master’s degree; I can speak significantly more French than when I first stepped off the plane, but significantly not enough to be fluent. I did all of these things myself. Luck, fortunate circumstances, and generosity played a part that cannot go without acknowledgement; but I created value and opportunity for myself. When I first studied abroad here I had no goals for the future, no career aspiration, and no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Moving to Paris was more than just a fortunate circumstance of situations that fell together - it was a calculated, strategic step in my life that turned out to be the greatest thing I have ever done for myself. It pushed me to figure out what I want out of life. It forced me to grow. This experience has given me my future, showed me what I value, given me purpose and direction.
The next time you are feeling lost, directionless, confused, or dissatisfied, be brave enough to take a risk and make a change. Other people may not understand, may even outright disapprove. But listen to yourself and know that no step forward can be a mistake if you learn something from it.