I’ve lately started to listen to my mom and so when I told her this story recently she said I should really write it down so here goes:
I dont remember the context or why this happened but in my first 8-10 months living in Paris there were more than enough things that enraged me to the point where I wanted to go screaming “asylum! asylum!” to the front gates of the american embassy. (Though I didn’t know where it was until a month ago when I had to get signatures notarized for my US mortgage). But something, and most probably something that has today become an ordinary occurrence, sent me over the edge about two years ago and literally had me fleeing for the boarder.
A little backstory: I come from a couple of “collectors”. I mean this in the nicest way but my parents are self-proclaimed pack-rats. Always things of quality but my mom is constantly complaining that she has too many things, someone is always bring something new and interesting into the house and I picked up the habit of always keeping things “in case” or “for some special occasion” and partaking in the occasional lucrative dumpster-dive. And before I moved i had a whole house filled with things that I was setting aside or convinced that I would need at some point. So already when I moved to France I packed way too much and mostly everything wrong.
First of all I came from a balmy Louisiana April to a Paris Spring where I learned for the first time what my mom meant when she talked about “spring coats”. So i was unprepared and froze my butt off for the first four months I was here. Then there is a thing i wish i had known about when you move to a new place is that inevitably you begin to find a new style, rediscover and define yourself and all of a sudden you find your favorite clothes just aren’t you anymore. This doesn’t need to have anything to do with fashion or trends but simply the fact that when you become utterly lost and disoriented you are forced to consider who you are versus who you want to be. I was a new person, my own person and this event really defined all of that for me.
I had had enough with Paris. I had a one-way, open ended ticket and was ready to use it. All i could think was GET me out of here. I was ready to sleep at the airport and get on the next plane out of there. I called up a taxi for the airport and packed my bags with only what I wanted to take home at that instant, only what I thought was important; crying and cursing the whole time rapidly skimming through my belongings and throwing excess into one corner of the room. In 15 minutes I was done. I had literally skimmed my life down to two suitcases and less than 80 pounds of luggage in a quarter of and hour. I wheeled my suitcases out into the hallway, fuming and red-faced, trembling with frustration and the exhilaration from the speed and energy this previous task had taken of me. I walked back into the room of the apartment and looked at this mound of excess that I had managed to overlook and toss aside so easily. I figured with the extra 30 minutes before my cab arrived I could do the man who was putting me up a favor and bring all of this down to the street corner. After I had done this I looked at my two wobbly, uneven, black four wheeled suitcases on the second floor pavilion. I had a sudden and absolutely overwhelming sense of freedom. I realized that there was nothing at all preventing me from hopping on a flight the next morning to Louisiana, the choice was totally and completely mine. And that the most important things to me, the sentimental objects i had collected, my comfort items like my favorite sweatshirt, photos of my family, my journals: had been so easy to weed-out from the surplus. The purest thought came to me: “this is all I need in my life and nothing more”. It was at that moment that I was able to say that I was in Paris for ME. I was no longer there to prove anything to anyone back home, or to escape for a situation I didn’t know how to handle: Paris became my choice, for better or worse. A physical and metaphorical anchor had been lifted. I wheeled my suitcases back into the room, called and canceled my cab and spent the rest of the night carefully unpacking.
I’m settled and happy in Paris and have no desire nor plans to leave. This is my home and I love it here. But every now and again I go through my studio and say to myself “what would I throw into my suitcase in 15 minutes?” It helps me stay realistic and really remind me of the things in my life that I hold dearest and I always remember when my adventure in Paris truly became my own.
Out to dinner recently with a group of friends