At the beginning, my study abroad journal was a way for me to feel like I had some control over my new life here. Writing about what I did on a daily basis, complaining about how difficult the bureaucracy of the French education system is or giving an excessive play-by-play of a weekend in Brussels – a lot of that was because I was scared of adjusting. Nothing a baguette and brie couldn’t fix. Then Paris became easy for me, but never less thrilling. The idea of writing everything down became less appealing. I managed to humiliate myself, laugh at myself, cry (quelle surprise), get pissed off, get over it, get pissed off more, and then at the end of the day, realize that I’ve become a more whole version of myself.
Trying to express the changes that I feel while wandering the streets of this romantic and tragic city wouldn’t do them justice. I think that those feelings are too sacred to share here. Recently, the thought that wakes me up in a cold sweat every morning is coming home. It’s a day that’s coming sooner than later, and I do not think that it will be the right time.
Could time slow down for a second?
Thinking about leaving is making me think about Home – about what Home means. Before I left, the night we exchanged Chrismukkah gifts in my beloved apartment, I read my roommates an excerpt from one of my favorite essays, which reads that Home cannot possibly be a place. I read that to them because I was scared of leaving them, of leaving the people I feel safest around and can run around without a shirt on and a towel around my head.
I think I finally have an answer.
Home is absolutely a place. Home is every place. Home is every place where you get a chill down your spine, home is every place that makes you weep in your bed. Home is every boulangerie where you taste “the BEST sandwich I’ve ever had, you GUYS!” Home is sitting in the jardin with your best friend of 17 years, talking about how cool it is to be abroad together. Home is making out with French guys at a club then wondering why you thought that would ever be a good idea. Home is stopping at a beautiful overlook in Prague, hearing Chasing Pavement by Adele with Sara at a vineyard overlook. Home is sitting on the beach in a random sleepy beach town in Normandy with new friends, mesmerized by miles of sand and wild horses. Home is finding the most perfect family to nanny for and falling in love with those kids like they’re your own, unsure of how you’ll ever leave them. Home is seeing Livio’s eyes light up when you enter his daycare, babbling in his baby talk about how his day went. Home is getting way too excited about gelato flavors with Jill in Rome. Home is going on a run around the Cité and not paying attention where you’re going so ending up 4 metro stops away. Home is sitting at a café, smoking a cigarette because you think it makes you look French and cool. Home is spinning around with Julie on the bricks in front of the Pantheon like that one teacup scene that everyone knows in Uptown Girls, the sunset of the Latin Quarter setting into eerie purples behind you, wondering if you’ll ever feel as free as you do in that moment. Home is also Connecticut. Home is taking Tazio to ride his bike at the park and bargaining with him about how many pain au chocolats he’s allowed to eat before dinner. Home is not being sure how you feel about someone you’ve grown so incredibly close to, someone you would give anything or do anything for. Home is laughing so hard on Rue d’Aligre until it hurts with a group of new friends from all walks of life, wondering how you got so lucky to meet some of the kindest souls in the entire world. Home is realizing that not everyone you considered close to you before you left is going to stay that way. Home is realizing that people have other priorities, other ways of looking at friendship. Home is a bagel in the Marais on a Sunday night. Home is sitting in Shakespeare & Co, listening to your favorite guy play the piano, writing anonymous love letters to a potential couple that one day might pick up the book. Home is a long French dinner. Home is a sunset over Notre Dame. Home is sleepovers with Conner. Home is missing Kelley more than ever, but home is also finding pennies on the ground multiple times a week and then looking up to the clouds and hoping that she’s smiling right back down. Home is looking at your wall of pictures from home and feeling an aching in your heart. Home is knowing that Abby will make you coffee every morning next semester and the semester after that. Home is telling everyone how you have the best roommates out of anyone on your campus, and how your nail polish collection could knock anyone else’s out of the park. Home is having falafel with Kevin and home is waiting for MaryAnn to get here. Home is trying to read 5 different books while you’re here but being too preoccupied with everything hauntingly beautiful around you to be able to focus. Home is a villa in the south of France. Home is your friends holding your hair and rubbing your back when you have a stomach bug in a villa in the south of France. Home is being able to tell your deepest darkest secrets. Home is smelling rose hand cream and thinking about a bus ride to Mont St. Michel. Home is missing your dad and your brother more than they’ll ever know. Home is your room at the Cité that once felt bare, but now is anything but bare. Home is your drawer full of ticket stubs, boarding passes, receipts (why you keep these is unclear – ask your father – he hoards things, too.) Home is your shampoo bottles labeled in French. Home is the light show on the Eiffel Tower still taking your breath away, drunk, stoned, or sober. Home is taking the time to miss your grandma, who would have loved to see you in Paris. Home is also appreciating Rachel for teaching you how to do this, for teaching the gift of how to accept sadness in a time of loss is something that only someone wise beyond their years can teach. Home is having muscle memory take you and your car to the Wetmore’s pool house every summer. Home is barbecues with the Adams in the summer. Home is being with the people you grew up with every summer. Home is holding a conversation in French with a taxi driver and finally feeling like you belong here, because hey, you’ve always belonged here. Even before you were here, you belonged here.
Home cannot be one place. Home is people and moments in time that we wish we had known were happening before they happened to make sure that we take the time to open our lenses and capture them before they’re over. Home is the RER B and the Franprix and cigarette smoke and your black pea coat and knotty hair and combat boots and Jean-Gabriel and Professor Semmer and Kandinsky at the Pompidou and the sandwich lady and bowls of Easy Mac in your room because you want a taste of home and coca light. Home is being alive in the age of worry because there’s just no other option.
Home is also bottles of red wine. Yep, definitely bottles of red wine. And cheese. Maybe not so much brie anymore…I’m more of a gruyere girl now.