These Are Days

I probably spend too much time thinking about what I should be doing in Paris versus what I am doing.  I haven’t been to the Catacombs yet and it’s hanging over my head like a dark cloud. Then there are the museums I haven’t been to, the restaurants I haven’t tried, the neighborhoods I haven’t spent enough time in, the parks I haven’t picnicked in, the Hermès scarves I haven’t bought … (Ahem. We’re all allowed our dreams.)

I shared what I now refer to as My Paris Guilt with one of my favorite new friends the other day and she concurred; as expats, we beat ourselves up all the time for what we’re not doing, and honestly sometimes our friends back home unintentionally beat us up too because their expectations of our Paris lives are just as big as our own. (“Have you been to an Alain Ducasse restaurant yet? Have you been to Champagne? Have you {insert grandiose Paris or European adventure here.}”)

To all those questions, from both my friends and me, I say this: I’ll get to it—all of it. I promise.

But.

One day—a day that I hope is in the very distant future—I will have to behave like a responsible adult again. I’ll have to get some sort of job that provides me comprehensive medical benefits and most importantly, a job that pays me enough money to fund my life and my 401K so I can someday retire for good.

On that day in the distant future, I will look out the window of wherever I am, and the memories of Paris I’ll go to first probably won’t be me going to the top of the Eiffel Tower or looking at the Impressionist paintings at the Musee d’Orsay. Those are incredible experiences, but they aren’t the first memories I’ll grab.

Instead, I’ll remember things like sitting on the terrace with my new friend on the first day of summer, eating banana cream pie, drinking rosé, and watching a thunderstorm roll in and then roll out while we solved some of life’s most important problems (dating). I’ll remember the smell of butter and baked goods, perfume and garlic, bus exhaust and body odor on my walk home from just north of Montmarte to my house by the Louvre. I’ll remember the café I stopped at and how I sat there with my café crème watching the world go by on a corner of Paris that I don’t even remember, loving the fact that I had no where to be by any particular time.

You could argue that these things pale in comparison to the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and you might be right. But the point is, sometimes the best memories are the ones that we don’t plan.

I’m learning a lot about myself in Paris. I’m learning that it takes a long time to unravel myself from the habits of that hardworking person who used to plan every second of every day around her job in order to get everything done. I’m learning that I need to appreciate the moment more. I realize that I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about what’s going to happen in the future and not doing as great a job at enjoying what’s happening right now. So I’m working on that, but it’s hard. If I’m dating someone, I always want to know where it’s going, and I think I’ve pretty much scared everyone interesting away with that. I planned my life in Paris meticulously which was smart and necessary, but my life after Paris is a big, fat question mark, which is probably a good thing, at least for today. For a person like me (maybe you too?) that kind of major life mystery is hard, unbearable even. But maybe even big things like who I’ll fall in love with and where I’ll live and work in a year are things I shouldn’t worry about today. Maybe it’s all just part of the adventure.

In the past 72 hours, I’ve lounged away two different afternoons with two old friends from San Francisco drinking wine on terraces in the summer sun. I listened to the Paris Orchestra play while I sat under the pyramid in the Louvre. I watched the sun set over a bridge on the Seine. I stood at a bar with a crowd of French people and cheered for France as they played Spain. Why would I look ahead and wish any of that away? Because all that is enough – more than enough, in fact. It’s pretty fucking incredible.

So I’m letting go of My Paris Guilt. Whatever will be will be. After all, if you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done – at least that’s what they say on Pinterest. So perhaps it’s time to let go of the reins just a little and enjoy the mystery that unfolds.

4 thoughts on “These Are Days

  1. “Sometimes the best memories are the ones that we don’t plan.” Amen! Props for letting go of the guilt; in the end Paris is just another city.

  2. YES, bravo! Enjoy the mystery that unfolds Rebecca. I’m SO happy for you!! I travelled to Paris many times when living in London and my favorite memories never included the list of items that I was supposed to, such as see all of the museums and monuments. One special day included just being at a park with my son: watching him play with French boys and talking with Parisian moms. And I always loved lingering at cafes, having long discussions and asking the locals where I should go next. Anyway, you’ve got the right idea. Lots of love! xo

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