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Seeing Paris (from the apartment window)


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.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.

Comments

  1. Ah, your post today really resonated with me. I love the optimism of blooming where you are planted and recognizing that "things" do not make you who you are. Good luck with your PhD program and exploring in other ways.

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  2. I love how the look back still provides lessons for today (and makes me a bit jealous of your Parisian experience!). "Blooming where you are planted" is pretty much the mantra of military brats, so I can empathize. I am excited to hear you are pursuing your PhD; can't wait to read about that journey!

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  3. Kimberly, this post grabbed my attention from the beginning to the end. As we look out into the world we can imagine what we want to be within the space we are. Your desires and hopes are being fed by the knowledge that you are comfortable where you are. I look forward to hearing more about your early wanderings and the impact they had on your today life.

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  4. Love your look at what was and now is. Wise and beautiful words. Lovely from start to finish, Kimberley.

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  5. I get this post. If I had ventured off to a strange city to find myself, I would have looked out the window most of the time. I've always heard that you take yourself with you, so why run away. When you are looking for yourself, you can find her in the mirror, or in the faces of your children, and in the words of other writers. Soul-searching is an ongoing process. This year I've decided to be present. Part of that presence is being content with who I am and where I am. Thanks for helping me see that I am blooming right here, right now.

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  6. You wrote so honestly in this, and I loved the view of Paris from your own particular POV. Jumping right in is not necessarily what we are all made of. Contentedness is what I read in the last part, and that is a good thing, isn't it? Best wishes in the PhD goals, awesome to think about.

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  7. As I was reading your words, I couldn't help but be reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert's beautiful story, "Eat, Pray, Love." I admire your bravery to pack everything up and move to an unknown place and also to pursue your PhD.

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  8. Isn't it interesting how we "find" ourselves in the places we least expect? As much as I loved reading about your Parisian adventure, sometimes it's the ordinary that leads us to extraordinary discoveries.

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  9. "You must bloom where you are planted." So true...and also the story of my life, learned the hard way. Love the voice in this, my friend, the humor and the steely determination.

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  11. I never thought I would end up being planted where I am, but sure I am glad this where I have bloomed. I can't imagine it any other way. Good luck with the PhD endeavor!

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  12. I admire your bravery to head off to Paris in the first place! Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures there, and about your PhD program. Congratulations!

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