Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Paris I Love You, but You're Bringing Me Down

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my snarky posts about Paris lately... and to be honest, it has been a tough week. 

This week, I saw an almost naked man, covered in blood at about 1am on the metro, I got an entire pint of beer spilled on my white blouse and tailored pants and blazer by a waiter who only offered me a free one after being yelled at by my friends to do so, I pay for an internet service that rarely works, I got scolded by a member of the supermarket staff because I committed the unspeakable sin of looking at the cheese when the store was about to close (in 38 minutes)... "madame, dirigez vous vers la caisse," along with a long string of other unfortunate events coupled with some other stressful situations I'm currently going through.

Now before I go any further, I'd like to say that I have hesitated for a couple of weeks to talk about Paris on here. For one, my family uses this blog as a means to see how I'm truly doing, and I never want to worry them about my current state of mind or any issues I'm facing. Secondly, my goal has been to make this space one of positivity and inspiration and encouragement, both for myself as well as for those who are so kind to read it. 

With this said, I also want it to be a space of honesty and transparency. I am in no way interested in portraying the perfect Martha Stewart-style brunch, or talking about my flawless beauty regime made up of expensive French products, or my fabulous Parisian life; because while life might sometimes be filled with fabulous moments, it is also filled with doubt, fear, disappointment, and other scary things. 

The world, and certainly the U.S, is envious and marveled by the French paradox: the idea that you can drink wine, eat bread, fatty cheeses, duck confit, pastries, and still be pencil thin. Of course, the secret is moderation, copious amounts of nicotine, and walking everywhere (also stairs, so many stairs). 

But there are many more interesting paradoxes in Paris. 

For example, the concept of "equality of the sexes" in which no man will ever help you with your heavy suitcase, or open the door for you when you're struggling with your bags, because you know, we're equal and you can fend for yourself. However, as a woman, you will get mansplained almost any piece of information by the opposite sex, you will get cat-called and harassed almost every day of your life, and you will feel in danger at least a couple of times a week. 

Or my favorite, being lectured about human rights and then being pushed off the metro so hard, that your bag is knocked off your shoulder. You'll be lectured about the environment, how huge American cars pollute, how the COP21 is important to lecture the other countries on the dangers of the environment, and then you'll be asked to mail 40+ pages of paperwork just to apply to continue your Master's degree, something that can be easily be done online nowadays. 

I've kept quiet for many months, upset by many of these paradoxes in order to avoid the stereotype of the American that hates Paris. You know the one, the American who wants ice in their drink, who doesn't understand why the water glasses are so tiny, who wants elevators and air conditioning, the comfortable American who is wasteful and gluttonous and will never understand the European lifestyle. When I listened to the horror stories, told by these Americans, I scoffed. Now, I must say that I understand your frustration. 

You see, it's not our fault. It's not Paris's fault. Gorgeous Paris. So full of herself that she is blinded by her own image, her ego, her selfishness, and her lack of heart. It's simply different, and you must ask yourself if it's worth it. Personally, I'm not so sure.

A couple of months ago, I started feeling particularly fed up. Stressed by my thesis, upset at the immigration process I was going through, blue by the endless days of cold and rain, I asked one of my closest friends why she stayed here, why she didn't go back to the U.S. We were sitting at a bar in Odéon, trying to stay dry under the outside cover of the bar, when she motioned at the street and answered: "this, all of this is why I stay." I looked around Odéon, and I felt nothing. I could be tele-transported away from the bar and I wouldn't feel the slightest tinge of regret, because to me, all this, meant nothing. 

To me, this is the biggest heartbreak of my life. Bigger than all the boys that have disappointed me, bigger than any failure. I have spent years of my life working to have the most perfect French accent, I have given Paris every single penny I've made, I've given it my love, my time, my devotion, and it spits it back to my face every single day that it treats me with disdain. 

Now, I don't wish for this post to be about the negative aspects of Paris, but about lessons and choices. I've had many wonderful moments in Paris, I've had professors who are brilliant and inspiring and understanding, I've made friends that I will be very sad to say goodbye to, I've had people there for me every step of the way. I've learned my lessons. I've paid my dues. I learned that I could truly do anything I set my mind to, and I can't let recent experiences let me forget my worth. I've learned that I have a lot more heart and that I do not wish to become the cold, ruthless person that seems to be needed to survive in this busy city. I've learned that museums and pretty lights will never replace the love and proximity of my family and loved ones. But mostly, I've learned that you have to try things out for yourself, and if the shoe doesn't fit, you need to find the pair that is just for you. 

Unfortunately, Paris is not the shoe that fits for me. 

I will stay in this city for as long as I need to in order to finish what I started, and I'm very interested in doing more research on gender representations on American television (more on this later). And I hope my story will not misinterpreted, I hope it will serve as a lesson. I wanted to tell you, in case no one had done so before. 

Maybe it's the rain, maybe it's my hormone treatment, maybe it's because once you get pushed against the glass of the metro doors enough times, you too, will have enough. In any case, there is good, there is bad, and we must take it all with a grain of salt... or a shot of bourbon. We will always have Paris, but it may not be enough. 

In better news, Napoleonnic will have a lot more posts per week, if you're into that sort of thing. Upcoming posts will include spring recipes to cheer up a rainy day, fun podcasts to listen to, and maybe a little back story on writing a thesis in Paris... 

{ Photo credit here }