Paris. Lutecia, to the Romans. The City of Love to foreigners today. But La Ville-Lumiére (the city of lights) to those who know and love it best. And to me?
To me it still seems uncertain and murky – my allumeur has not yet arrived. Because at the beginning, it was terrible. I arrived in the city when the sky was overcast and it was raining, and my mood turned dark like the clouds. I repeatedly told myself that I was finally in Paris, that I should lighten up and rejoice. “You’re living a dream!” I tried to tell myself. But it only got worse once I reached the hostel and settled in for the night.
The bed creaked. The pillow was lumpy. The see-through curtains were full of holes. And the repetitive clicking sound coming from the fridge, which I thought would be good white noise to help me sleep, ended up preventing me from falling back asleep when I woke up in the middle of the night, jetlagged. The whole place seemed – and I’m totally setting myself up to sound like a brat, here – unclean.
When I woke up that night at 4:30am, I tried for an hour, to no avail, to fall back asleep. For the next hour I was on my phone, scrolling through Facebook and texting my mom. By 7am, I was crying. I hated this hostel, was disappointed by the city, was worried that all the cool kids were hanging out without me (a legitimate concern), and I wanted to go home.
So a few hours later, when I saw that the sun had come out, I decided to pull myself out of my misery and go outside – my spirits lifted immediately. I got out and explored a little on my own, and jumped at the chance to speak in French with anyone and everyone. I ended up at the Jardin du Luxembourg, where children were yelling and sailing miniature boats in front of the palace. Being there felt so peaceful – not necessarily quiet – just peaceful. There was activity everywhere, and yet the entire garden felt frozen in time and space, like a Renoir painting.
From there it got better. I have been to Paris once before, when I was 9. I was not impressed. This grand city that everyone gushed about just seemed overrated to me. So I was pleasantly surprised when, last night while picnicking by the Seine, I saw the way the light touched the rooftops and transformed the city. All of a sudden, I knew I was in the right place.
And then, just as quickly, it got worse again. I found that as much as I love exploring on my own, I get upset when I find out that the others in the group are doing things without me. I need time to myself, but I also want to meet people here. I can’t go through this entirely alone.
Everyone says that study abroad changed their life, but even after just three days here (has it only been three days?), I’m beginning to see that it may not be one constant whirlwind of adventure. It has its ups and downs, just like anything else in life. And rather than feeling too happy or just depressed, it’s about finding the peaceful moments, learning to accept things you can’t change, and taking risks. And I’m learning that it takes time to adjust.