One Year

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2013

Today marks one year since I left Yardley for Paris.  Time has flown by, a blur of laughter and good food and new friends and a general sentiment of joie de vivre. It feels both as if I left yesterday and as if I've been here for years and years.  I continue to find new joys around every corner in this beautiful city, and Paris has yet to truly disappoint me.  Of course, life here - as anywhere - isn't always picture perfect, but it sure does come pretty damn close sometimes.

In so many ways, I feel exactly the same as the day that I left.  Most days, I feel no farther away from my friends and family; the benefits of technology mean keeping in touch is as easy as can be.  I think that if I picked up and moved home next week, I'd reintegrate smoothly and without issues.  But then, in other ways, I'm not so sure.  When I arrived here last year, I was reeling from several big changes.   Relationships were ending, friendships were evolving, and my undergraduate career at Villanova was over.  Everything I'd known and loved was in flux, more or less, and when I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport on the morning of September 6th, I had a lot of questions that I hoped to answer in the following months.  Now, a full twelve months later, I'm not so sure I've got all the answers.  But I realize, more than I did last year, that maybe having all the answers isn't the most important thing at this moment.
Life passes so quickly and if I've learned anything over the past year it's that sometimes the best way to enjoy life is slowly.  That's to say that while huge looming life questions are certainly important, there is also an insurmountable value to sitting back and enjoying the process of finding the answers, rather than being pushed to find them.

Paris is made for enjoying life.  While the Parisians might be seen as the experts of complaining, seemingly never ending bad moods, poor manners... At the end of the day, there are few in this city that don't see the value in sharing some cool rosé in a park on a sweltering August day, or lingering over a coffee on a bitter winter evening.
That all being said, this joe de vivre is surely an idealized image of Paris.  On the best days, my heart is ready to burst with the joy of knowing that I've eaten at the same restaurant as Hemingway, walked the same floorboards as Joyce, strolled the same gardens as kings and queens before me.  On the worst days, I want to scream with frustration over antiquated habits that have lingered - pushy Parisians in the street, technology that lags years behind most of the world....  But today, I'm all about the best days.

À la votre
There's something about living abroad that changes part of you, for better or for worse.  There are habits I've picked up here that won't be so normal if I ever go back home.  There are the linguistic tics - the ohh là làs and the sharp intakes of breath, the gestures that don't exist in the States and the tongue-clicking, French trademarks that I've integrated for better or for worse - but there are things that run more deeply.  There's a certain outlook, a je ne sais quoi that I can feel I'm absorbing but I still can't describe.  It's natural, it's to be expected, but it's funny to take note from time to time of the little things that this place is doing to me.

A year ago, I moved into the world's smallest apartment and thought my dreams were coming true.  I was delighted to have my own place, somewhere to call home in Paris.  Now, I'm living in the apartment more or less of my real dreams, the dreams I've had since my first visit as an awkward pre-teen: parquet floors, balcony in my bedroom, molded ceilings.  The past year has brought so much joy, helped me heal a lot of the pain and unhappiness that The Big Changes After College brought, and continues to form me in ways I can hardly begin to explain.  I can't even try to put into words the ways in which I love this city, this culture, this way of life.  I can only continue to live it, to enjoy it, all the while trying to learn from it.

However I've changed over the past year, though, it has to be said that I continue to rely on so many people at home that have supported me from afar for this whole time.  As much as this year has been about "finding myself," it wouldn't have been half of what it was without the love of my parents and my two sisters.  It's incredible how close families can remain despite the longest distance.  What's more, I was lucky enough to have made an incredible group of friends during university with which I feel as close as the day I graduated, even from all the way over here.  As wonderful as Paris can be, there are days when I need to feel home.  I feel so lucky to have people that can do that for me, and I can't thank family or friends enough for the love they send my way every day without perhaps even realizing it.

Eiffel tower view from Tour Montparnasse.
Tonight, to celebrate, I had a delicious dinner (which included escargots, steak, AND chocolatey dessert!) and then finally went to the top of the Montparnasse Tower. Paris' only skyscraper, I've long wanted to see the view from the top - and it didn't disappoint.  Sipping champagne on top of Paris, it was hard not to feel on top of the very world.  I'm so grateful for everything I've been lucky enough to experience this past year, and I really can't wait to see what the next year in Paris brings me.  As my mother always says, "We're here for a good time, not a long time."  Though I don't know how long I'll be here for, I can only hope it continues to be as good. xo

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