Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pep-talk for Paris

Sometimes I wonder and think what they'd have done in Paris. What they'd have done in any paradise, even if it wasn't paradise, and what I'd do if paradise existed. I should have done my field study in New Orleans. I should have gone down there and been a volunteer, helping rebuild something, somewhere. I should have asked people about jazz. I should have read Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston at night. Is it ridiculous to say that my mother would probably be more nervous about me going to New Orleans than me going to Paris? Not to mention, Caitlin would never forgive me.

It's funny, that I'm less than a month away now, and more than aware that I'm doing the craziest thing I've ever done before, but also aware that this is just a stepping stone for doing things that are crazier in the future. I was watching The Music Man last night with some friends, and I realized how good it was for me that I wasn't born in a small town. The old women talked of the librarian in a way that I realized people would talk about me if the people from where I'm from weren't used to people hauling off and doing crazy things. For most of them, moving to LA from wherever they were from was the crazy thing. So me going off to Paris is surprising, maybe, but not unexpected, if they know me, which many of them do.

My mom says she's afraid I'll never come back.

I'm not afraid of that, though it wouldn't upset me if I found a reason to stay somewhere.

Going over culture shock again I realized what I'm most prone to is holing myself up in whatever apartment I get or wherever I'm living, reading, writing, but never going out because it means I'll have to go out on my own. That's how I am at home. I love getting in the car and driving somewhere, but I always have to have a purpose, and directions. But then again, I am prone to wander. But wandering for me usually comes with the need for comfort--not total comfort, just an understanding that I can control myself, or...something. I haven't figured that one out yet.

I wanted a way to "mitigate"--I hate that word--this issue. I hate the word because it's so impersonal, and it means nothing to me. It's just meaningless. Anyway, I've decided that I'm going to chose one place that I have to visit every day. Not the same place, a new place. Something to get me out of the apartment. When I went to London, and realized I had no idea what I was doing there, and I didn't have alone time, and it was brand new, and I'd never been abroad, I got an email from my father telling me to go to St. Paul's. Honestly, to make him proud, to tell him I had gone, to write back to him about it, was all that got me out that first weekend. And that was all I needed.

I'm not afraid of the romanticism of Paris. I'm afraid that'll all melt away as soon as I'm in that city alone, and part of me wants to just sit on a park bench for two or three days after Kate leaves and force myself to realize that this city will be kind. I think that's why I might need Langston Hughes with me, to keep me company. I may have found something to love. But which love? And in which life? Kate says that God let me listen to the music, enter those speakeasies and listen. I feel I can remember asking, please let me go. Please. And I imagine God rolled his eyes at me. But it makes me wonder if perhaps I've been to these places before, and if I have, then why be nervous?

I remember thinking when I was in Heathrow for the second time, so nervous because it was such a big airport, and that taxi driver had just cheated me out of about £20 and I was angry at him (and will not be speaking for him in the trials of heaven) and I was afraid of never getting home. Getting into JFK airport was like coming home. You could feel America in the soil, coming up through your feet. Everything clean and in straight lines, the shops on the right in the left, rather than circling around you, and I knew I'd get there. On the plane to JFK they gave us these horrible airplane pizzas but on the cover of the pizza box was the Coliseum, the Eiffel tower, and the London Gherkin, all of which I had seen and been to, if not inside of, and it occurred to me that 4 months ago I hadn't at all been to those places, just seen pictures of them. This wonderful sense of accomplishment came over me. The boy sitting next to me laughed at me, and I explained. He said he was going on holiday to Florida with some friends. I thought that a very odd place to decide to go on holiday, but didn't say so. All of this goes back to the point that I said to myself, "If you can get through Heathrow, you can do anything." I honestly believed that, because I was nervous about it, and I was afraid, and it seems a ridiculous thing to be afraid of, if you've done it, but I hadn't. So when I got back home, an occurrence I don't actually remember, Heathrow had been done. And I knew I could do anything.

Why shouldn't that apply now? Why can't I use that as my reason for going to Paris alone on a Field Study? Gosh I'm crazy, but going crazy--so I've been told--can be a fun experience. If I just let it happen. Damn. I've been through Heathrow! What can't I do? Learn and speak a foreign language? Sure! Travel a foreign country on one's lonesome? Done! Live abroad for as long as a tourist visa will let you stay? Not a problem. I mean let's be clear about this: Heathrow is 10 miles in diameter. 5 terminals. Outside of London. It's got really circular design, so its easy to get lost, and there are a trillion people so it's easy to not be certain where you are. It's only when the plane is going to board that they actually tell you where your gate is, so you have to stave off sleep while you wait for the board to update your gate, meanwhile you may be on the other end of the terminal from your gate. That's not nerve-racking at all.  (In another time-continuum, by the way, Jennifer is still sleeping in Heathrow; she missed her plane and just became an illegal immigrant of the UK.) My question is, if I've been through Heathrow, what can't I do? Well, honestly, I'm aware there are plenty of things I can't do. Like speak Romanian. Or French, for that matter. But you know, people have been doing this for centuries. Americans have been doing this for centuries. What really is the problem?

If you haven't figured it out, this is my pep-talk. Because it's easy to tell yourself its all going to be fine when you've got 3 months until you go. But now it's a couple of weeks, and I really have to do myself some convincing.

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