My time left in Paris is ticking away and I can already tell it will be the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say. I look at the cobblestones and the red awnings of the cafes and feel my stomach twist in panic. What will I forget when I go home? The blue street signs, the slate roofs, the beautiful-eyed crepe man? I snap pictures of everything, journal the details down and plan outfits to wear back home to remember how I wanted to dress when I was here. I spend every night with friends and fill my weekends to bursting so I don’t lose a moment.
Making memories has become my full-time job. Though New York is my home, I made a home in Paris and leaving it will be heart wrenching. I miss New York, but I am not homesick. I could stay, and that frightens me.
When I chose to study in Paris, I was aware of my history with the place: I fell in love with Les Miserables when I was twelve, toured and adored the city when I was sixteen, and yearned for the writer’s lifestyle of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I googled pictures of the beautiful city and made them the background on my phone months before arriving.
I took a risk when I decided to go: I may fall in love with Paris, but I would have to return to New York.
When I first arrived in Paris I had my forehead pressed to the window of the taxi and I tried to memorize everything.
I saw bridges with gold–leafed statues on them, brick streets and beige buildings. My stomach dropped even at the site of the blue street signs. I was in love and already panicking about not having enough time.
Two days later, I sat on the Champ de Mars with a boy and a bottle of wine. We talked for three hours and then he walked me home. We stood outside my door for about fifteen minutes, not saying goodbye but not not saying goodbye. I cannot remember a single thing I said.
The next day, he and I left a party early and wandered our way back to my neighborhood, where we sat on a bridge that overlooked the Eiffel Tower. Both laughing and nervous and a little wine drunk, he kissed me.
That was the second risk.
I spent my days with new friends wandering the city, eating crepes and reading amazing literature. At night this boy and I would walk through Paris. I really, really liked him. I could not wrap my head around the fact that I was having an “affair” in Paris. I’d also found in him a friend unlike any of my others.
It was not long before I started to worry. Paris was not permanent. This relationship had an expiration date, due to us living on separate ends of the country.
By the end of September I already knew I did not want to go home. My days in Paris were not perfect—that is an illusion that comes with the city and it’s a foolish one that belongs to people who have not lived here. But something about the pace of the lifestyle and the art worked with me. My day lit hours were wonderful and I learned more in them than in any of my semesters previously. At night, I laid in bed and panicked.
The word that comes to mind when I think of this semester is “parenthesis.” It’s a step out of my regular life and onto a B-side. That’s exactly what I was so afraid of.
I was terrified that this semester would be a dream, and I would go to New York and wake up.
I come from a very streamlined major where people have very difficult goals that require an immense amount of work. I respect that. I am part of that. But it doesn’t leave a lot of room for perpendicular lifestyles.
I almost closed myself off. The looming heartbreak of the impending goodbye the end of the semester could have ended the relationship we had started. I could have clung to New York rather than invest in Paris, so that I nurtured my homesickness rather than chanced sickness for a different home when I went back to New York. Remarkably, I didn’t do either of those things.
Living in the moment is incredibly difficult and I have failed at it time and time again. Every time the threat of the end reared its head, I would panic. Yesterday, the boy I did not hide from said: “We can’t live in the end. That will ruin everything.”
I’m writing this now because it is not the end. I have time left. The truth is that I do not want to go home, and I doubt that will change in twenty-seven days.
I will take home a different person. I can’t take home the cafes or the museums, but I can take home someone who chooses happiness. I take home someone who looks for beauty and who has relationships with people because of who they are, not how long they can be there. Perhaps the ticking clock forced me to take hold of the moment and milk it. Perhaps it forced me to fight my nature and engage with what I had, rather than try to create more.
I have one month left to let in everything I can. I have one month left to help the people I am with love their time here, and to fall even more in love with a city I am leaving.
It is the hardest thing I have ever done to continue loving when I know I will say goodbye. Over and over I attempt to throw in the towel, but I have twenty-seven more days to learn how to choose to love instead of hide. It only takes thirty days to make a habit, and I have more than three days under my belt.