Despite the successes happily noted in my previous post, I now sit happily on a train back to Geneva, exhausted after the past few days and quite relieved to be speeding away from Paris. Nothing has happened, no tragic event or upsetting experience. I have simply come to the realization that I would be happier spending this year differently.
Paris is a lovely, charming city, possibly one of the most enjoyable of its size to visit. The food is amazing, the sights beautiful and iconic, overflowing with artistic influence. It’s easy to get around in, hard to get lost, and full of a fascinatingly wide spectrum of different kinds of people and around-the-clock events. I even discovered a website, OnVaSortir.com, which lists social events going on in Paris on a daily basis – and the listings are practically neverending. I decided to attend one of these, a small gathering of young French people meeting for a quiet picnic in a park before an open-air showing of The Science of Sleep (weird, slightly disturbing movie, by the way), and yes, it was fun. If you wanted to, you could probably attend non-stop social events around the clock. Paris, it would seem, never sleeps.
After the initial desperation of apartment searching, however, the full impact of the city began to sink in. The constant noise, the masses of people, the stretches of endless concrete and buildings started making me feel like a wild bird trapped in a cage. All the breathable air was filled with smog, every walk through the city accompanied by an unnerving smell I can’t quite explain. There was nowhere to go, no mountains or ski trails to venture into, no ocean air to breathe, no comforting sounds of the wind in the trees and birds chirping in the early morning. I had known that precisely that was what I had signed up for, but I didn’t feel that I could handle it. I couldn’t stop thinking of Norway, of Alaska, of all those wild northern places I love so much, and I couldn’t stop thinking, Oh my God, what have I done?
It is also worth noting that on my recent trip to Lofoten and Narvik, I rediscovered how intensely I love Norway and how deeply I want to be there over anywhere else. This discovery raised questions about what on earth I was doing in France in the first place, when I would be almost guaranteed to never need French in Scandinavia. I had come so far, worked so hard to get my visa and physically get to Paris, but the further I came, the more wrong it felt. I found myself filled with intense dread when I contemplated the year before me, my nervousness about signing my rental contract escalating by the minute.
When I had been consistently miserable for 3 or 4 days, so distraught that I was beginning to feel ill, I decided to go home. It can be argued that I didn’t really give it a chance, but to properly do so, I would have had to pay an expensive housing deposit and commit to an entire semester of classes, and it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. I would rather save that money to instead spend on attending a school I really love, somewhere I know I’d really like to be. The applications for the schools I’d like to go to are extremely time-intensive processes, involving the production of a lot of creative works, so my current plan is to return home, get a job or two, and work on those projects for at least this semester (who knows what will happen later).
As for now, I have a baguette and some fresh cheese in my backpack, a comforting place to sleep in Lugano tonight, and a ticket to Oslo tomorrow to stay with my dear friend Natasha for a few days. Not what I had initially planned, but surprises keep things interesting, I suppose!