As I packed each box, I typed up a list of its exact contents and taped it to the top of the box. I was heading to Paris for an undecided amount of time.
My father said, "just go."
My brother's now ex-wife said, "I have an apartment you can live in."
I thought, "I have no other plans."
So I bought the tickets and left the return trip open ended. Then I packed some ten odd boxes of everything I owned in the world less a few articles of clothing and shipped those boxes to a friend in Boston for safe keeping. My family members laughed when they saw that I was headed to Paris with one large suitcase. In Paris, I thought, I can be anyone I want to be. The big problem was that I had no idea who that might be. So I packed things a Parisian might wear. Jeans, white t-shirts, an Hermes scarf, a few black basics, and some shoes. I didn't want to overdo it.
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That first walk up the three flights of stairs to the perfectly appointed apartment on the Rue du Cherche-Midi made my heart pound--I was woefully out of shape which didn't combine well with my anxiety. The double set of heavy wooden apartment doors were hard to open. I fumbled with the key, dropping it twice and each time looking around to see if anyone was watching the stupid American girl try to open a simple door. It would be three days before I could sleep at all. I finally found sleeping pills near the Monoprix where I bought my groceries. That first night's sleep took the edge of anxiety off a bit. I began to look around, but only occasionally.
My best friend Anna called to ask if I was seeing Paris through the window of my apartment or if I had ventured outside once or twice. I laughed as I sat in the window she was referencing and looked down at Poilane bakery where the most famous croissants in the world were baked every day, but I had yet to taste them. Anna knew me well. I am not who people think I am. I spent a lot of time those months in Paris reading, knitting, and watching Dawson's Creek episodes subtitled in French. I did have a few adventures, but I'll save those for another time.
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I learned a lot about myself in Paris. I learned that there is no such thing as a geographical fix. You must bloom where you are planted. I am not currently living in the town of my dreams. There is no quaint downtown. I have no view of the mountains or the ocean, two of my loves. I am far from a true city with diverse people and interesting cheeses or wines. Instead I am writing and finding interesting recipes to cook for children who would prefer Annie's mac and cheese. I am applying to a PhD program so that I can do the research and writing I crave. I am drinking hazelnut coffee with half and half from a Keurig machine instead of cafe au lait from a perfect apartment above a beautiful city. It is not that I don't crave those things sometimes, but I recognize that they don't make me who I am. I am blooming in a way I didn't know I could and that has made all the difference.