I wrote a bit on my Instagram one night when I hit the 4-week mark of my program. I’m officially half-way through my stay in Paris and I’d like to continue the thought here.
To anyone whose thoughts have grown to be white noise, and you just want your brain back. Or to anyone trying to learn how to exist outside of your head. Or to anyone trying to build a home in themselves and find their peace in right now.
However, this is primarily a note to self. To step out of my head, come back down to earth, and put my two feet back on the ground already.
02:30, 16 october 2018
“i thought i’d go to bed early tonight- but it’s 2am here in paris and i, once again, can’t fall asleep. i find myself daydreaming a lot here. i wander throughout the city, stretching a 30 minute commute to class into an hour. sometimes taking the long way home after sunset, so i can walk through the park in front of the cathedral near my homestay, when it’s sprinkling and all of the streetlights make everything glow. i dream of people and places. i dream of things to do when i get home, when i go somewhere else, when i wake up tomorrow. everything is different. i’m less conscious about the space i take up here. my head is filled to the brim with all kinds of new things, good and bad. i’m forgetting a lot, remembering too much. i eat bread and cheese, drink coffee and wine, sit in clouds of cigarette smoke without batting an eyelash. i walk through city streets alone without worry. i play chicken with my sleep schedule and my coursework, yet indulge in long breakfasts, long journal entries, long walks, long phone calls. i’m counting down the days til i can go home, yet simultaneously am in no rush at all. my head and heart are in a lot of different places all at once right now. that’s not necessarily bad- it’s just change, and it’s different.
“i’m trying to be more present. i’m trying to more intentionally give my free energy and time to more loving thoughts, healthier acts, meaningful interactions, etc..”
I got on the Metro two days later after class and at the next stop, when line 5 suddenly emerges into daylight to cross the river, I immediately hopped off because I saw that it was sunset. I decided to walk half an hour back to my homestay instead. I called my mom and walked along the Seine, headed into Quartier des Quinze-Vingts to soak in the pale pink sky between the Hausmannian roofs, verbally unravel for a bit, and explore the district right next to my own.
I used to watch the sunset every day. I would ride my bike as fast as possible towards the end of the bike path to get a view of Mt. Diablo as the sky turned bright orange behind the clouds and all you could see were cars passing right in front of you over the old railroad crossing, an empty silhouetted field, distant cars on highway 4-west, and that endless blazing sky. I would sit on the fence and talk to the sun as if saying a prayer. Asking her questions and saying goodnight when she disappeared behind the mountains.
Eventually, I shifted from seeking out the sunset to simply watching the sky. Austin asked me where the best places on campus to see the sunset were, and I answered. However, I don’t go chasing after them like I used to. All I ever did was step outside and look up and enjoy any wash of color and light it painted the world around me.
“I would sit on the fence and talk to the sun as if saying a prayer.”
I rambled to my mom, that day along the Seine at sunset– happy, a bit deflated, and growingly exasperated.
I told her I’ve had a lot of time to think. That Quinn described the cumulative hour-and-a-half of commuting to and from class as a mandatory daily meditation. That I feel different from who I was a year or two ago, not necessarily in the best way. I feel distant.
I told her I feel guilty for not being present. I told her that I do a great job of romanticizing the past and the future, but hardly the present (Austin tells me that’s entirely untrue). I told her I feel guilty for not feeling happy all time while I’m abroad. Then subsequently realized that being in another country doesn’t make you immune to the regular anxieties and frustrations that you face at home (in fact, definitely more susceptible).
She told me that we both know that I have always been this way. She told me that it’s going to be okay and it always has been okay. She hopes that I’m writing. She knows that I know what she’s going to say next when it comes to feelings of guilt, regret, uncertainty. She told me that I think a lot. She told me it’s okay to say that it’s too much because thinking can’t fix everything. She’s right.
Through this art class I’m taking in Paris, I met this wonderful girl named Maelle. She asked me how I would describe myself and what some of the key traits of my personality are.
“She told me it’s okay to say that it’s too much because thinking can’t fix everything.”
Freshman year, I remember lying on Ian’s floor at 3 am and telling him that I didn’t feel like myself because I wasn’t thinking enough. I told him that I felt like I was running on autopilot.
I responded to Maelle: “i am very very thoughtful (i often overthink a lot) and i would say that is a huge part of my personality”
Writing, publishing, intently sharing every thought, realization, epiphany, for almost 20% of my life has brought me to a point where I am trying to be the author, editor, publisher, and main character of a story all at the same time. I stare at myself in the mirror, or at a blinking cursor, or at a lull in the plot, with four different perspectives, all at once. Thinking is no longer just thinking, it’s processing and trying to synthesize and create all the time.
My evening along the Seine, wandering through Quinze-Vingts, rambling to my mom at sunset. I was looking up at the sky and interrogating myself regarding what I enjoyed about my walk, when the last time I watched a sunset was, how much I’ve changed since that last time, if I was enjoying this particular sunset, where I could go to see the sunset better, why I would want a better sunset, if I should watch the sunset every single day for the rest of the program in order to further spiritually connect to a past self that I romanticize, etc. Just a bunch of noise! Droning on and on, a list of questions, self-interrogation, doubt– reaching and trying to grasp on to something poignant, tangible, beautiful. Anything.
“running away to paris for a few months isn’t going to solve your problems, but it will certainly give you the time and place to think about them, and start taking those steps towards finding a kind of peace that only you can create for yourself.”
I thought that being in Paris would good for me because on campus I would distract myself by keeping busy. What I mentioned to Ian, that my “auto-pilot” was disconnecting me from my brain. Avoiding the dark thoughts and insecurities and keeping myself moving, rather than standing still and tackling them head-on.
While that notion reads courageous and tragically beautiful: coping is coping, and if I need to keep busy, then let me be busy. Plunging myself neck deep into every thought I have, every abstract moment I can even dip my toe into is not always the best, the safest, nor the most sustainable course of action. Here, in Paris, I am given so much space to dive right in. Nothing much to keep busy with. What started out as a welcome free space to take a step back, breathe, and think, ended up polluting itself. This newly found free time and free mental real estate, ruined by unsupervised thoughts metastisizing into the doldrums of bottomless inquiries that I could drown in if I didn’t anchor myself to the surface.
Steps towards finding my peace are just that: steps. Movement. It’s the act of not staring at my peace from far away, but rather running towards it, like how I chased the sun when I was 15. It’s simply looking up and seeing that my peace is all around me, like how I found joy in the color of any sunset sky when I was 17.
I encourage myself to stop defining myself by my thoughts and start manifesting myself in my actions. My greatest joys are derived from moments spent here, right now, on Earth. Not just in my head.
I’m in a pretty in-between state right now. Not really sure what I’m in-between, but I’m on my way to the other side. Always moving towards balance, starting right now.
“but that all starts with going to bed, waking up, and trying again. will write more soon.”
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