Last night when I was sitting on the terrace to watch the sun set on Paris one last time, thinking a dozen thoughts, I saw that the sunset was softer than it usually was. It spilled baby blue, lavender, pink, and pastel orange onto the sky, and I felt a deep sadness sweeping over me. The colors got darker and filled the sky long after the sun dipped below the horizon. My camera couldn’t capture the view, and so all I have left of that sunset is what’s remaining in my memory. It was the most beautiful sunset I had seen throughout my stay in Paris.
While here, I have learned so many things about myself, other people, and the world. Some of these things can’t be put into words eloquently enough, but those that can, I’ll detail here:
1. French people are nice – if you are nice. If you walk into a shop and don’t greet the sales representative, complain that no one speaks English, or just act entitled in general, don’t expect to be treated like royalty. And even a little French (merci, au revoir) goes a long way, because once you get through to them, French people are incredibly kind. They will go completely out of their way to help you, something I have never experienced with an American.
2. I’ve learned how to dress well (a whole post about how to dress like the French is coming up soon).
3. As famous as France is for its food, it cannot produce anything but French food. I’ve eaten two Italian meals here, and both were dismal. If they can’t even cook food from Italy right, which is a bordering country, how can they hope to attempt other, more difficult cuisines? The problem is that the French are too set in their ways. I blame Louis XIV. Him, and the dozens of foreign countries that have invaded France over the years, instilling in every French person a deep-set xenophobia that, no matter how hard you try, you will never truly rid them of.
4. Finding peace with myself means that I can be just as comfortable in a group of people as I am by myself.
5. History matters. Just look at France’s history with the arts and education, and how that is reflected in today’s society. But think about America’s beginnings. Everyone started off the same way, and everyone was in the same boat (quite literally) to begin with. To succeed, it wouldn’t matter if you were educated or talented, because that wouldn’t make you successful. Hard work made you successful, and that’s why the USA values hard work, and has such a strong work ethic. France values talent and intelligence for reasons of her own.
6. Art should make you feel something (even anger, sometimes).
7. Sometimes, it’s okay to not obsessively plan, and to be spontaneous instead. You hear this a lot, but it’s totally different coming from me, because I usually plan everything down to the tee. But while it can be helpful to try to control everything, sometimes you just need to take life as it comes.
8. People are nice. Other people are not as nice, but I’ve learned when to let it go, rather than get angry.
I am excited to see my family, but sad to leave because I don’t know when I will be back. All I know is that Paris has left an indelible mark on my soul and changed me in a way that I would have never expected. Maybe someday I will come back here and be able to share my love for this city with my family, or my dear friends. But I don’t know when I will return, and so now I must say goodbye. À la prochaine.
Until then, we’ll always have Paris.