Paris after traveling felt completely different somehow. My mentality prior to leaving had been something like this: Paris has everything, so why would I ever want to leave? But after seeing Spain and Morocco, Paris just didn’t quite measure up anymore. It’s not that Paris was bad, necessarily – it’s just that it no longer had everything I needed. I understood the scope of the world and what lay beyond Paris because the rose-colored glasses I had donned upon my arrival in August had been left behind, not taken along on the voyage, and now continued to rest untouched.
The night I returned, I just felt tired of Paris. I felt tired of the city, tired of its people and even tired of the language I had failed to fully grasp. I had a feeling things were going to be different. And not only that they were going to be, but that I wanted them to be. I had made a journey that in some way changed me, and if things didn’t naturally shift upon my return, I was determined to change them myself in order to reflect this inner alteration – because to live without any difference would discount both the journey and the adjustment within.
I guess the biggest way in which my life was different after this was the way I chose to divide my free time. I became more selective about who I spent my time with, because, with all due respect, I simply didn’t have enough of it to squander with those I didn’t care to spend it on. I threw myself into the city, taking in as much as I could, growing my mind and my spirit. I knew that in just a little while, I would be leaving Europe and coming home, faced again with having to reconcile myself to the life after a great adventure.
I dreaded the day of my departure. I felt like I was going to come home and everything was going to be exactly as before, and that my time abroad would be meaningless as my vivid memories faded and I slipped quietly back into the skin of the person I had left behind. The haunting fear of this stagnation hung over me even as I recounted the things I would be glad to acquire again, such as the presence of my family and friends and the comfort of a life that I already knew. But I fended this fear off with the promise to myself that I would continue moving forward, knowingly different than before, and that I would carry with me always an autumn in Paris spent losing myself in the mess of tangled boulevards and listening to the watery whisperings of the Seine.
On December 21st, I returned home.
It’s been just over a week now and I am already quietly reassured that things are not the same, and they will continue to be new and different and beautiful, just as I longed for them to be.
I re-invented my hair today. My former dirty blonde locks are now dark-dark-dark-almost-black brown, five inches shorter, and accompanied by some fringy bangs. I threw out a bunch of the clothes in my closet. To reduce is to expand for new posibilites. I’ve been keeping in touch with the friends I acquired abroad – after the last four months, I now know people who live all the way from Paris to L.A. to Oxford to Barcelona. Talking to the people who were part of the experience helps keep it alive. I’m even undertaking the ridiculous task of finding Paris “replacements” in Minneapolis – some of my solutions include trading in the Metro for the Light Rail, the Seine for the Mississippi and the Louvre for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
And finally, I just feel different. I feel more myself than I ever have and I know things are only going to keep improving. I know I’ll find my way back out of this country again soon – there’s simply too much left to explore. To make a journey is to make a passage “from one stage to another,” as the dictionary defines it, and to make a real journey by physically traveling can’t be done without making a journey by traveling mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. That’s what I did in my last months of 2012. And that’s what I’m going to continue doing.