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On Indecision and Decision

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This past week, we've been having a little heat wave. Paris isn't always very hot during the summer; last summer in particular I remember feeling underwhelmed by the few sticky days that we did have. This week, though, has felt like beautiful July weather all week long. Not too hot, not too humid, a little breeze floating over the Seine and through our windows. This week has been wonderful, and not only because of the weather.
Let's go back many weeks, to January or maybe to February, when everything was dark and gray and cold. Cold outside, cold inside, gray and unexciting all over and utterly blah. Me, Paris, everything, everyone. A few months ago, in the time between this post and the last, things were really and truly Not Happening. Nothing was going on, nothing was evolving, moving, changing. I felt very stuck and very frustrated. I had ideas for big plans that moved in one direction, towards New York, I had ideas for big plans that centered around Paris, I had lots and lots of ideas for big plans in many places, yet the realization of these hinged on several things completely and hopelessly out of my control. And so, I floated. I watched too much Netflix. I stopped running as much as I used to. I didn't do my homework, because what if it didn't matter? I didn't see friends often, because I might not see them again after a certain date. I didn't cook anything exciting, because it didn't really excite me anymore. I existed for long stretches of weeks just waiting and waiting and waiting, waiting to see where I'd go and who I'd be with and what I'd do.

I pushed my frustrations aside and continued to wait during the day, remaining unfazed and collected when people asked about my future plans, all the while lying awake for hours at night for weeks at a time through the end of March. I thought about "What if...?" and followed it up quickly by "Yeah, except, what IF...". Sleepless in my Haussmanian-apartment-with-a-view-of-the-Arc-de-Triomphe, I imagined myself in a Brooklyn-apartment-surrounded-by-family-and-friends-and-bagels, and my heart ached with longing in both directions so hard I thought I'd never feel fully satisfied no matter what happened.

All of this, on repeat, until one day last week, when I was riding my bike home from school. It was a Tuesday, after five, and so my classmates and I had assumed that the long-awaited admissions decisions for the second year of our masters program would be delivered the following day, the last day of the deadline. I stopped at a red light, and glanced down at my phone, and I saw. I saw for a minute, before I burst into tears, and peals of laughter, and fat and happy tears. I'd been accepted, I'd gotten the OK, I was good enough. Pulling aside to the sidewalk, and alarming several tourists who were unsure what to make of the crying laughing sweating person that I'd become in a ten second period, I called my family and shared the news. After weeks of standing at a fork in the road, I finally knew which way to turn.

And so here I am, looking down the barrel of 18 more months in la ville lumière. If I said my decision came without twinges of almost-regret, I'd be lying. I'd been so convinced deep down that I wouldn't be accepted next year, that I'd really and truly begun to imagine the life I'd create once back at home this summer, and for that possibility to be gone so quickly was, in honesty, a bit hard to swallow. A tiny part of me somewhere near my heart was disappointed to be accepted, disappointed to be handed this wonderful opportunity, because it meant that it must be taken and that the Return Date is pushed ever further away.

Today, though, things that had been falling into place over the past week under blue sunny skies finally settled down for good. I'm finding my rhythm again; spending time running in the parks in the morning, trying new recipes in the evening, using my time productively in between (well, mostly...). This afternoon, I found myself with a couple of free hours (read: hours I had set aside to do homework but then it was 80º and sunny outside) and so I hopped on a bike and headed to the left bank. I wandered down the rue Cler, where the smell of the rôtisseries and the fromagers and the boulangeries mix together to create the most insanely mouth-watering combination of scents that you can imagine. I bought ice cream and ate it while I tried not to trip over the cobblestones. I re-directed some hopelessly lost Americans, before heading to the Eiffel Tower hoping to find a bench to people-watch in the sun.
Instead, I fell asleep on the lawn for a few minutes, among the tourists and the locals and the men selling beerchampagnebeerchampagne (note: it's not actually champagne), and woke up more freckled than before. On my way home, I bought warm baguette from a neighborhood bakery where all the other customers said "See you tomorrow!" to the baker behind the counter. I stopped into a fancier-than-expected cheese shop and bought some extortionately priced (but worth it) comté. As I rode home in the golden end-of-day light through the commuters and the picnickers, past bustling café terrasses and over the sparkling river, my heart felt so full. After so many months of trying so hard to feel nothing, of feeling uninspired by the place I was in and after so much "grass is always greener"-ing, I just felt so content with the few hours that I spent soaking up Paris. It felt like (cliché warning!) making up with an old friend after a months-long falling out. Stopped on my bike at a red light crossing the Champs-Elysées, I took this nerdy picture to remind myself of how good this afternoon felt - I hope that next time things feel empty and unsure and terrifying, then maybe I'll be able to remember this afternoon and remember how quickly things can feel better. Onwards and upwards from here! xx

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Discussion

Sinéad Cloughley said...

so happy you are happy. even if i am counting down those 18 months day by day...