I’m staring at the blank page and biting my lip, trying to force some sort of closure, trying to formulate words that can somehow summarize my feelings about France and my time here. The truth is I’m not ready to let go just yet. Transition has always been a painfully slow process for me. I’ve grown accustomed to crossing borders and shifting accents, to packing boxes and nonchalant goodbyes. My physical body goes through the motions habitually, but my heart and mind lag behind, reliving moments and experiences, having pretend conversations with people I may never see again. I’m not ready to leave a place that has started to feel comfortable and familiar. I’m not sure what to do to ease the sadness I will inevitably feel, I don’t know how to emotionally or mentally prepare for the closing of another chapter in my journey.
I’m supposed to be in Seville right now (but that’s another story). I arrived in Paris three months ago and was expecting to fly from Marseille to Spain days ago, ending my tour of France for the time being. That didn’t happen. Instead, I’m standing on top of the Arc de Triomphe in breathtaking awe of this.And this.
Three months ago I was sitting in the Las Vegas airport nervously eating pistachios and chocolate, scared and intimidated by the next transition, anxious for what might come. (Freaking out is probably the more accurate way to describe my state of mind). I was terrified of traveling in a country where I couldn’t speak the language, knowing it would be a stark contrast to the previous month I’d spent in Mexico. Even though I’m still leaving France (thanks again, Schengen zone) it seems fitting that I should circle back around to Paris where I celebrated my birthday and first said hello. It’s been an incredible three months…
Today I spent the morning walking through the Bastille market and eating ice cream as I strolled along the Seine.
This man and his monkey stole my heart! Paris, France
Poor unlucky lobster! Bastille Market, Paris.
Today I remembered all of the good things about Paris and tried to envision myself creating a new life here. However, when my aunt asked me what my favorite things about Paris were, I couldn’t tell her. They’re not things, they’re moments. The moment I got lost and stumbled upon a gospel choir singing African hymns in the park and felt goosebumps. The moment I watched the Eiffel Tower light up just as a ship passed underneath the bridge full of people holding sparklers. Or the moment on my birthday when I sat along the Seine eating a baguette in the rain and listened to Joe Purdy sing about this City of Lights. The moment I spent my last night in Paris biking through its dark and deserted streets at 4am on my way home.
What are my favorite things about France? I love the brightly colored macaroons and the way the people say “yeah.” I love the quirky roundabouts and the villes de fleuris overflowing with hydrangeas.
But my absolute favorite things about this country aren’t tangible or repeatable. They are moments and the people I’ve shared them with. When I think about France and the last three months I will remember rushing through the crowds to hear The Lumineers play my favorite song live and the boy ahead of me, pushing through the people so I could get a better view. I will remember sitting in the backseat of a car playing tic-tac-toe and Hangman with a seven year old girl named Laura who wasn’t intimidated by the fact that we spoke different languages. I will remember feeling the wind tussle my hair as I stood along the beach with tears in my eyes, grateful to be in such a beautiful place after saying another heart wrenching goodbye. I will remember spending my mornings and afternoons sitting outside of a Tabac store, practicing my French ‘r,’ drinking espresso and smoking a cigarette as people bustled by. I’ll remember sharing glasses of wine and philosophical conversations with friends much older and wiser than I. I’ll think of riding a bicycle past fields of sunflowers and finding quiet moments of reflection in an old cemetery. I’ll think back on the kindness and hospitality I’ve received, of the friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.
Southern France really is full of these beauties!
Tasting absinthe in Barcelona with these lovely ladies in the same bar Hemingway used to frequent!
I’m ready to leave Europe, to experience a reality that includes earthen roads and eating food with my hands. I’m ready for a new color palette that includes vibrant floral patterns and brightly painted houses. I’m ready to spend my days doing something more significant than eating pastries and getting lost. I’m not the same girl that arrived in Europe this summer. I’ve changed and grown in my ability to release control over my circumstances. I’ve gotten thicker skin and practiced being more open. I’ve learned to stand up for what I really want and to protest when people abuse that same openness.
But I’m not ready to close this chapter. I’m not ready to tie everything into a nice little bow, I’m not ready for final conclusions. I’m not ready to leave this part of me behind. I’m not sure how to navigate transitions that don’t include finality or resolution. I don’t know how to say hello to a new place and a new experience built on half-hearted goodbyes. So, I’ll leave the page earmarked to not lose my place with the promise of return. I’ll write the ending in forgiving lines of pencil and I’ll resist the compulsion to compartmentalize my heart. I won‘t say au revoir, instead I’ll whisper a soft à bientôt (see you soon).
“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”