Today, I leave Paris. It’s not quite time to go home yet, since I’ll be jumping across the Channel to spend a few days in London, but the time in the City of Light has drawn to a close. With the possible exception of a visit last November, this is the first time I’ve been sad to leave Paris.
It’s not that I didn’t have good times to savor in the previous eighteen times I left the city – it’s just that it was, well, time to go home. Like I mentioned in Day Two, Paris is a hot-and-cold relationship for me. For everyone, I think, given enough time.
But this time, I wasn’t sure that it was time to go. I miss home, and God knows I can’t keep this up forever financially – it’s a whole different mindset when your bank account only moves in one direction – but I was still savoring every hour of every day, up until the end. It really didn’t even register until I was waiting on the Eurostar platform at Gare du Nord that I was actually leaving; subconsciously I was just seeing going to the train station as something I had to do that day, I hadn’t given much thought to what it meant.
As the train picked up speed and entered the French countryside, I finally viewed the month from the outside looking in. It was, honestly, almost perfect. It was everything I had hoped it to be, and possibly a little bit more.
More than anything else, I quit my job because time was going too fast. I would look at the calendar on a random day at work, and realize that months had passed since I last stopped to think about what day it was, within the context of a life lived. After those months had passed, if you asked me “what do you remember from them?”, the answer would be hard to manufacture, and depressing when I ultimately did. Maybe one or two good nights with some friends? Maybe I went to a concert? That would be the extent of it, though. Ninety days gone, and a sparse handful of things to smile about when I think about them.
As a non-parent, I can only speculate, but perhaps the satisfaction that comes from having kids is that it, by default, imbues each day with a certain meaning, an importance. It seems that if you ask a parent what happened in the last few months, their answer will be as long as you can tolerate; ask a single guy the same thing, he’ll likely shrug and say “um, stuff?”
That is what my dear Paris does for me. It slows down time. It gives more weight to each day. It creates a lasting, lifelong memory almost every day I’m there. There’s always a new view of Eiffel, a new park I didn’t know about, a new restaurant I hadn’t tried, or most importantly, a new person to meet. I live here for a month and leave with a year of memories.
Again, she knows she’s beautiful, she knows she does this for you, and she also drives you fairly nuts – that’s why I know that the magic of these visits just isn’t sustainable. It isn’t the same if you live here, it just isn’t. Then again, that’s true of anywhere – the minutiae of the everyday will weigh you down regardless of locale. But once you free yourself of that burden, you have to find a way to make the most of the new opportunity, and for me, at least, there’s no better place to do that than Paris.
So what now? Well, that’s the game at hand, isn’t it? How do you take that deeply satisfying happiness wherein when you wake up and smile every day and look forward to what’s coming, even though you don’t yet know what it is?
In short, that’s why I quit, to go find out how to do just that. To start down the path, I needed to shake loose of the everyday normal. I needed some inspiration, a muse. Thirty days after arriving, I leave Paris able to thank her for being exactly that, exactly what I needed. That’s one good thing about her – she’s always available when you need her.
I learned a lot, reaffirmed some aspirations, and made some new connections. For now I go home and see where that takes me, see my family, and rest up for the next step. Soon enough, I’ll be visiting her beautiful sister just down the road.