Whenever someone would ask me over the last few weeks, “Why are you going to Paris?”, I’d almost always reply “to write”. That much is true, a big part of coming here was to get away from the habits and distractions I would face at home. The greater reason, though, was a little too personal to interject into small talk. On top of sounding a little too melodramatic, it would have taken about 20 minutes to fully explain to the asker, and I assumed they weren’t interested in a Tolstoy-esque reply when they innocently queried why I was leaving town for a month.
I came back here to search for happiness. I had to come back to Paris to find it, because it’s the last place I remember having it. I know, it sounds like a Lifetime movie. It’s not as if I was never happy after I returned home – of course there were good days and good times; I guess it’s the personal satisfaction equivalent of saying to someone “I love you, but I’m not in love with you”. It’s great to see friends, it’s great to be home, it’s great to see family again… but a certain deep-rooted sense of being at peace with things was missing.
And honestly, I don’t know what that sense was, or if it’s even out there to be found now – sometimes, all there is to eat is a shit sandwich. All I knew for sure is it was time to try to figure it out, and the best place to figure it out was Paris. That’s the funny thing about Paris – in small doses it is heaven and in larger doses it can be hell. I’ve always personified Paris as a beautiful, voluptuous, funny, brilliant woman – who also happened to be bipolar and bat-shit crazy. You’ve had the best nights of your life with her, and the sex is always fantastic, but you just… can’t…fucking…live with her. That’s why I always shake my head at people who have visited Paris for a week and dreamed of being with her forever. Sure, live with her for a year and get back to me.
Aside from its good and bad traits though, Paris was just where I happened to be when things finally came together. We all toil through our lives doing the ‘right thing’, hoping or assuming that some day it would pay off. After a year or so of struggling here with the language, the culture, and a boss who clearly sat at the right hand of Satan, by the middle of 2012 I finally felt like it was all worth it. Not just that the previous year was redeemed, but the previous fifteen. All the nights staying late at work because it was just the right thing to do, not because anyone was there to see it. All the times you were nice to strangers just because, well, you should be nice. All the times you did the more ‘responsible’ thing instead of the more ‘fun’ thing. When you’re getting paid well to live in Paris, with a host of new great friends, getting drunk on champagne with beautiful women from all over Europe, you feel like it finally was getting back to you. I even met the girl I thought I was going to marry, after a dating career that was roughly as successful and enduring as the Cleveland Browns.
We all know why it had to end. At that time, I had to be home – I wanted to be home. As time healed some wounds though, home started to drift back to what it was before I left, and it started to feel like a step backwards. Maybe I’m associating life satisfaction too strongly with a place and not enough with a mindset; that’s entirely possible, but it’s all I have to go on at the moment.
So, I know I’ll need to get out of here before she goes crazy again and leaves my clothes burning in a heap on the front porch, but in the meantime I’ll be enjoying Paris for what it is, and trying to find what I lost here. Even if I don’t find it, it’s a hell of a place to look.