There are people who study abroad once and make it their whole personality — and I’m no exception. How can you live in a completely different country without your close circle of people and not change at all — not even in the slightest?
And I could attempt to encapsulate six weeks of hard lessons learned, cherished moments made and stories worth telling, but to do so with only so much in my vocabulary would be an injustice to the experiences I’ve had. So, instead of reliving the past, I want to write about what lies ahead, because I firmly believe that all good things onward do not end with this summer.
Thus, I present to you the non-literal things that I want to bring back from Paris (mainly because I brought one carry-on suitcase and a backpack with me and didn’t have the room to buy much).
1. Conversations at the dinner table
If there’s anything I would like to reiterate about what I’ve learned from Parisian dinners, it’s that it’s absolutely incredible that no one even glances at their phone. No phones are out at the table. Eye contact is mandatory. No waiter is rushing to bring you the check. The chairs often face the street, and all people do is chat and de-stress. If there’s anything I’ve been craving for the past year, it’s been a decent conversation — one that extends beyond gossip and meaningless rhetoric. I’ve never felt so entirely present in my life. There’s so much fulfillment you can find in just conversing with someone, sipping on a nighttime beverage and learning about someone’s life.
2. Fresh starts and freedom
As someone who spent the past year desperately searching for the perfect mold to fit into, to find ways to blend in and slip among the masses unnoticed, I’ve felt quite liberated recently. By being away from school and even my hometown, I felt like this fresh start was handed to me on a silver platter. I could dress like whoever I want — and while there are times I look like Wednesday Addams or even a big, giant blueberry — that’s just how the story of my life goes. There’s something special about living in willful bliss (partially because I don’t understand that much French). I don’t feel weighed down by increasing pressures to live up to the expectations of how other people perceive me. I love to surprise and to be surprised. I mean, when will I ever get to be 19 in Paris again?
3. The ability to just exist
Some may say I was born with the gift of productivity. And others get concerned with how nonchalant I’ve become in the past few years about showing up to the airport not early but on time, wandering the streets of a foreign city and being able to go about my day with basically an empty head. I’ve learned to sit through endless metro rides and wait alone in long lines with just me, myself and I. I love discovering things that I would have never noticed had I not found the time to truly look. Getting from point A to point B, well that’s the easy part. But discovering things on the way from point A to point B, well that’s just learning to be a human being.
After experiencing language barriers and non-language barriers but stark differences in morality, I think I just want to live to be kind. When we’re younger, we aim to be the smartest, the prettiest or the best. Maybe that’s some sort of superiority complex that’s been ingrained in us. Yet, I’ve realized that there’s so much more value in being a good person. I’ve come to the conclusion that the most judgemental people are the ones who live some of the saddest of lives — so consumed with what others think of them and how they think of others. And as someone who is sometimes not on the same wavelength as the average person, I’m inevitably going to mess up. What matters more is that I’m trying to do better. What matters in the end is that I’m aiming to be kind.
These are the non-literal things that I want to bring back from Paris because those are my favorite gifts. I’m just embodying happy-to-be-here vibes. The end.