Told you I’d be back.
I’ve been so inconsistent about blogging since I moved to Paris, but I noticed that I’ve been really great about journaling. Some things just aren’t the same when I try to share them with other people. So instead I leave details for myself, to read and find 20 years from now when I’m sorting through old boxes of junk.
I have so much free time here in Paris. I am taking three classes, but one of them is a directed study. I’m in a classroom for a grand total of five hours and 20 minutes a week. I spend my time traveling (in the Marais, in Paris, in greater France, throughout Europe) and cooking and journaling. Mostly alone.
This time has been like a honeymoon with myself. And while that sounds poetic and all, I’m actually kind of serious. When I’m in the real world, working and going to school and running magazines and going to charity events, I work myself down. If and when I get a short second to breathe, I write some blog post about renewing my commitments to myself, and I love me so much, and blah blah blah.
But instead of writing commitments, I’m living them. I’m free to do everything—stroll alone through London on a whim, read Hemingway on a park bench, sit in a church in a small French town, eat eclairs—and also nothing.
I listen to music a lot. I sit and daydream and waste away on Pinterest. I drink a lot of cabernet sauvignon. I’ve almost forgotten what stress feels like.
My entire life, I’ve been on this forward-facing road, with clearly (self-) defined directions and destinations. Graduate high school, go to college, co-op at Marie Claire, study abroad, have officer positions in any club I get involved in, graduate college. When I was a freshman, I made up a little calendar of the next five years—where I would be and what I had to do. It was color-coded (green for classes in Boston, blue for co-ops, pink for study abroad).
I planned everything perfectly. I was going to have two majors, I was going to co-op at Marie Claire and the Boston Globe and someplace international, I was going to study abroad in Peru, I was going to go to Egypt on a summer dialogue for journalism, I was going to be editor of the Huntington News. And when I graduated in 2014, I would go on to be an editorial assistant at a fashion magazine.
But planning isn’t doing. Those “going to’s” represent the person I wanted to be and the world that I lived in when I was 17, and so much has changed. Things fall apart, classes are cancelled, money is tight.
And dreams change.
When I came to college, I wanted to be a travel writer for a women’s magazine. And now? I have no fucking clue
I dropped my second major, I switched the semester and location (and language) of my study abroad, I joined other clubs, my career aspirations changed from travel to art to health to people. Most recently, I lost the opportunity to go to Egypt and opted for Turkey instead, I decided not to do a third co-op and instead graduate early. Then I realized I can graduate really early. Like in July.
Nothing’s set in stone (even when I think it is). I haven’t signed any papers or rented a graduation gown, but here’s my reasoning: I have zero clue what comes next. I have no clearly defined next step, nor do I have any new destination. I’m not sure journalism in it’s purest form is right for me. I don’t know what is. And maybe that’s okay.
When my mother’s college roommate taught her to ski, he put her on a lift to the top of the mountain. Once the lift dropped them off, there was nowhere to go but down the hill. I’m on that chair lift right now, and the peak is right there. I have no idea what future lies at the bottom of that mountain, but there’s only one way to go.
If I don’t know what I want to do, who I want to be, there’s little point in staying in school for the sake of being with friends, drinking alcohol, and sitting in classrooms. Why not just stumble my way down the mountain?
These are the things I think about while I’m doing nothing. And don’t get me wrong, the I-don’t-know-what-I-want thing is freaking TERRIFYING, but there’s no way to figure it out except to just start. So… that’s what my mental color-coded calendar is looking like for the next nine months.
It’s all this tumultuous, wild ride (kind of like marriage?). But right now, everything is simple and peaceful and beautiful. I’m on my honeymoon. If what I’m thinking actually happens, then this will be the last time I can be a lazy college student binging on cheap red wine. I’m soaking up every minute of it I can—being wild and reckless and spending money—because I need it to last me through to the next phase of my life, whatever that ends up looking like.
It’s scary to be in your fourth year at a $50,000 a year private school and suddenly realize that everything you’ve worked for for the last… 10? years has been more or less irrelevant. But it’s kind of amazing, too.
When writing isn’t a job, I finally get to see the beauty of it again, to remember why I love it. I write about the things I care about, and don’t have to worry about perceived bias or endorsements or journalistic “integrity.” I can be polemic. I can be sarcastic. I can write in poems if I want. No one has to read it, but I still want to write it.
And while I have no idea which door is next, by stepping off my narrowly defined former path, so many doors are open to me. I don’t know what I want, but I have options.
I’m using this remaining time in Paris to be a kid, to live as stress-free as possible. I’m enjoying the new-wave feel to it all. I’m pursuing projects (still a secret, sorry) and reading and loving myself more than I ever have. I call my family more, and they hear the happiness in my voice. I smile a lot, I eat a lot of veggies (borderline vegetarian again) and the occasional pastry…
It’ll be sad when the honeymoon is over, but marriage is it’s own adventure—difficult and wonderful and busy (or so I hear). And I’ll always have the memories of my little self-indulgent, full-of-self-love honeymoon to cheer me up when things get hard. So many adventures, captured there in the pages of my personalized journal.
By rushing to graduate, I a little bit feel like I’m rushing through my childhood, my wild and crazy college experience. But then again… when was I ever really a child? Children don’t color-code their five-year projection calendars.