Over the last year, my thoughts and feelings about Paris have been all over the map. Just under a year ago, in August, Paeis was just the city I was going to be living in for a year. I had chosen it yes, but it wasn’t quite my first choice and I didn’t think about it in terms of its’ dreamy and Romantic reputation. Frankly I thought it didn’t live up to the reputation.
But that all changed, and thanks to this blog there’s a record of that change. But I don’t need to go back to see when exactly it happened, I know, because and I know this sounds corny, you remember how you fall in love. Hopefully future me finds that sentence more sweet than groan worthy.
In January my friend was visiting her sister in Paris. For her last night we went to an open mic night at a Scottish pub practically on Pont Neuf. Hurrying across the bridge back to the metro at around midnight we all took a moment to stare out at the city. The best views in Paris are from the bridges, and at night they get even better. There were five of us then, two of us had been there for five months, one for a month, another for a week, and the last for nine plus years. We all stopped and stared, because there are some things you just don’t get tired of.
I came home and I wrote a blog post about Le bise, and about how I had remembered that night how lucky I was to be in that city.
Later that month I went to a bistro in Pigalle with a friend for dinner. On the way home I imagined living there, it was the first time I’d pictured a future for myself in Paris, so when I got home, I wrote a blog post. I remember very clearly that I was formulating the ideas very passively, thinking things like, “If I had to move to Paris for my job, or my boyfriend’s job I wouldn’t say no”, and I still made sure to emphasize that Paris and France were not places I could see myself in way down the line.
And then I was facing down the end of the program in April and May. And suddenly there wasn’t enough time left and even though everything was in order I wasn’t ready to leave. It was almost desperate how much I squeezed into my last weeks, sentimental trips to the Louvre where I mentally said good bye to my favorite pieces, long walks along familiar roads and opting to walk instead of take the metro so I could drink in as much of the city as possible in my last few days. It was in those last few days that I realized that the ‘maybe again’ I’d been saying wasn’t going to cut it. I didn’t want to visit the city again, I wanted to live here, to become a part of it. I decided that I was going to aim to come back and live for a few more years in Paris. (And yes, I wrote a blog post about it)
Now it’s been about two months since I was in Paris. I have existed in a state of low key jealousy directed towards my friends who are still in Paris. Even though intellectually I know that it’s better for me and my goals to be here in Berlin learning German, the emotional part of me wants to be enjoying summer vacation in Paris. And beyond that I’ve been imagining more and more of my life in Paris. I’ve moved beyond just wanting to spend a few years in Paris, now I want Paris to be my home.
When I went to the U.S. For Christmas the TSA agent at the border asked me the usual questions, where are you from, why are you here, etc. and the one that got me was ‘Where do you live?’ I quickly ran through the options, not with my parents, not in New York, certainly not in Massachusetts, so I said Paris. And that felt good once I got beyond the momentary questioning of my entire existence that I didn’t know right away where I lived. I still want to study the Vikings so I will by necessity have some amount of my life based in Scandinavia, but I want to come home to Paris and come home to French.
Those Romantic notions of Paris are insidious, you fall for them before you ever visit but a short time there can dispel them, but once you get to know the city you learn that yes, the streets are dirty and smell like urine, but that Romantic charm is also real. It’s a city like any other with its problems (racism, homelessness, love locks) and virtues (architecture, history, culture) and you learn to take the good and accept to work on the bad because nothing is perfect but it can still be great.
So here’s my notice, the Paris Study Abroad program has converted another. There’s always a few who make their way back, and I’ll be one of them. The program has a long tradition of success in this area, in the archives I once found a bulletin from a survey conducted ten years after the program’s foundation (so around 1933) one of the alums was already raising children in Paris.