Monday, May 28, 2012

American in Paris, Part IV: Epilogue

A brief note: the italicized portions below were taken directly from the journal I kept during my trip and on the flight home.

I've tried to write this a dozen different ways, searching for a way to express what this trip meant to me. I keep coming back to four words: I fell in love. I realize how silly and trite that sounds, but it's really all I've got. I found a place, a routine, a complete way of being, that suited me unlike anything I've experienced before. It was entirely new to me, from the urban environment to relying on public transportation to viewing the city through a pedestrian's eyes, and yet it felt so comfortable and familiar and right. It felt like home.
"I've decided I really do love it here. The walkability and good mass transit make it easy to get the feel of each part of the city. Each neighborhood café and patisserie feels truly local and special, even if they do all sell more or less the same menu of goods. I love that within a few blocks you have your local cheese shop, butcher and pastry shop, with produce markets rotating through a few days a week. It feels like a more intimate way of living - actually interacting with the people who make and sell what you buy.
"It all seems to lend itself to a deeper experience as well. Walking everywhere forces you to move through the city more slowly, allowing you to notice more - which blocks have more bookstores, which cater to specialty foods, which are tourist meccas. And while I'd say people aren't overly friendly here, walking past people on the street at least allows for interaction. None of that is possible in a car, where you're hermetically sealed and protected from interacting with other people between destinations."

"I love the food culture here: a belief that one should be allowed to linger, savor, enjoy the nuances of the meal. No one rushes me, no one even brings the check unless I ask. I'm allowed to sit and digest, and write, and I love it."


I was a different person there.

No, that's not true.

I was a fuller version of myself there. I thrived on being immersed in such a rich, vibrant environment. I soaked it up. I reveled in it. I felt adventurous and stimulated. I was fearful and brave at the same time. I felt like I was really living life. I felt happy. Really happy.
"I have mixed feelings about returning home. On the one hand, I miss Juliette and my friends, though I haven't once been lonely here. And I'm eager to get back to roller derby and all that fun. I'm sure that if I stayed more than a few more days I'd begin to get bored and/or lonely, without a job to go to every day or friends to chat with. I wonder if all the things I find so endearing about this place - the way it lends itself to wandering, the leisurely afternoons in cafés, the lingering over a meal for hours - would fade away if I had the demands of everyday life to attend to here. It seems possible, even likely. And yet I also wonder whether I could cobble together a life here that lends itself to all those things I like. Freelancing would allow me to work from cafés, and I could make a point of seeking out new spots in various neighborhoods. Trips to neighborhood patisseries, markets, etc. would satisfy the desire for something local and walkable. That's what I speculate, anyway. I have no idea whether it would be true."
My heart tells me it would be true, that I would be happy and fulfilled there in a way I didn't know before.

"This trip was never about anyone else; it was only about me. In that sense, it was an entirely selfish endeavor, and it couldn't have been more successful. I have a clearer picture of what drives and thrills me now. I know myself better now, in a way I never could before. But I also wouldn't have been ready for this trip before. I needed the loss and heartbreak of failure, to have put myself back together again in a new way - the same pieces, but rearranged - in order to get everything I've gotten from this experience. It all had to come first for this to come now.
"It is so disgustingly Eat, Pray, Love that I could vomit. 
"We're in the air now. I'm going home.
"I'm already there."

The requisite fine print: if you click on the final link above it will take you to, where you can purchase the book. If you do purchase the book using that link, I will get a small commission for referring you to the site. I did not, however, receive any compensation for simply including the link. Disclaimer done.


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