Posts Tagged ‘home’

Lost in Paris

June 11, 2011

As we landed in Paris, my head was between my knees, a travel pillow pulled tightly over my ears. I was motion sick.

After one glorious week in Rome amid the talking, smoking, singing and smiling Italians, I was back in Paris. Paris. Paris.

I spent five months in Paris as an undergraduate, living at the Cite Universitaire in the 14th Arrondissement, attempting to learn to speak – and be – French, only to discover that both tasks were largely out of my reach.

Now, I’ve returned. Not really by choice, but by chance. I’m spending these three weeks in Europe as a teaching assistant for a small, lively group of journalism students from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Rome, Paris and London. We’re spending one week in each place, learning about European media and seeing the sights.

On our flight from Rome to Paris, I listened as the woman behind me jabbered away in rapid French with my head between my knees. I cringed when I heard the flight attendant announce our arrival at Charles de Gaul.

Merci de voyager avec AirFrance.

Merde.

I stared at the floor between my feet. If I hadn’t realized it before, I did now: I seriously resent Paris.

Paris, to me, is that girl. You know the one I’m talking about. That impossibly beautiful girl who has long, luscious hair, great style, a family with money and the most strikingly beautiful eyes you have ever seen. She is also probably smart and she is definitely popular. You’ve hated her from the moment you met her – whether it was in elementary school or grad school.

She is perfect and no one should be allowed to be perfect and, so, you hate her.

The only problem is, you can’t. Because, most annoyingly of all, she is also incredibly sweet. She is kind, caring and unassuming. In short, she is unbelievably deserving of all of the wonderful things she has in her life.

Paris is that girl.

Paris is perfect. The City of Lights, full of women who eat bread and don’t get fat, straight men with great hair who wear scarves and children who should be in Ralph Lauren ads.

Last night I saw an old French friend who lived in the U.S. for six weeks with my family eight years ago and still speaks English more correctly than I do. He is incredibly kind, smart and successful. He has gotten better looking with every year he ages. Of course he has: He’s French.

Au revoir, merci! The flight attendant chirps at me as I walk off the plane. I’m still nauseated from the flight, my hair is piled on top of my head and my makeup is running down my face.

Merci I say back. I look at her and immediately feel fat.

As an American in Paris, I was hopeless – except I looked like I was merely helpless. I could dress like the Parisians, walk like the Parisians, I could even talk something like the Parisians – but I could never do any of it perfectly. And I don’t particularly like doing things that I can’t do perfectly.

I would walk briskly through the metro tunnels, order espresso and drink only red wine, but I could never shake the feeling that I was 5 years old in my mother’s high heels. I felt like a fraud in my scarves and knee-high boots. I had lost myself in Paris.

That night, after I’d recovered from the flight, I left our hotel at midnight and started walking. I couldn’t remember how to navigate the city at all, so I started walking in the only direction I recognized, toward the Seine.

I wanted to get lost. I had managed to lose myself in this city for five months in the past. Why not let it take me again?

I was already feeling frustrated and every beautiful couple I saw on the sidewalk made me more so – every gorgeous windowsill and every perfectly organized park.  It has been three years since I lost myself in Paris and I was still angry about it. Even now, Paris still made me feel like a fraud.

I walked and walked that night – until I lost myself in Paris again.

I got lost in the lights, the curving streets, in the bend of the river, the sidewalk cafes and the fluttering lilts of the language floating in the air around me. I got lost in the memories that arose as I skipped across streets and turned corners. I couldn’t escape that unmistakably French feeling of déjà vu.

I’d laughed at that café, drank too much wine at that bar and ran for the last train at that metro stop before. I’d been young and stupid in this city before and, yes, I’d tried to be something that I wasn’t in this city before.

Walking in the city that night, I think I figured out the problem with Paris and me: I will never be Parisian. I like open spaces and big skies. I like to drive. I like the sunshine, girly country music, my VW convertible and hiking with my dog.

Paris forced me to finally accept something I spent all of middle school, most of high school and at least some of college trying to fight: myself.

I walked along the Seine and down Rue de la Huchette and down Boulevard Saint-Michel and past the Pantheon and down Rue Clovis to Rue Monge. I had lost myself in Paris again.

Then, I turned a corner and, to my surprise, saw our hotel. Finally, I had found my way back.

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Post-Grad: Part 2

May 22, 2011

Well, it’s official. I’m a graduate. Again.

Last week, I stood on stage at Gammage Auditorium as Associate Dean Marianne Barrett placed a graduate hood over my head. I walked across the stage in ludicrously high heels and shook the hand of Dean Chris Callahan and then made my way to my mother, Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, who handed me a diploma — and a very big hug.

After two long years of writing, shooting, laughing, crying, running in heels and sometimes falling on my face, I now have a master’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

My post-grad life is about to restart. And so is my post-grad blog.

I will wake up tomorrow morning, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot lately. I think it has something to do with this impending reality — not the coffee, leaving Phoenix. See, there is nothing I want to do less.

Last month, I found myself sitting in a tiny room inside a shop in Sedona with my two best friends and a woman named Ashiko. She had a vague Eastern European accent, round glasses and three decks of Tarot cards. Now, as a Catholic, I don’t believe in this kind of thing — fortune telling or auras or palm readings. But, as a Catholic, I was also raised with an innate respect for — and fear of — anything that hints of the supernatural and superstitious. So, as I should have expected I would, I believed every word Ashiko said.

She read me like the open book I am, and we spent the majority of our time talking about my career. Where will I go when I graduate, she wanted to know. I did too. So, I pulled a card for each place I might end up — New York, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans. They were all promising, she said. There were cards with words like “Power” and “Prosperity” on them. Nothing ominous at all.

Then, I asked Ashiko if I could pull one more. “What if I stay in Phoenix?” I asked, and flipped over a card.

There was a picture of a Gollum-like character on it gripping onto the bars he was trapped behind. “Clinging to the past,” the card said.

Out loud, I laughed at the cryptic message on the card. In my head, I was shouting at Ashiko and all of her supposed wisdom about my life. My life. What did she know, anyway?

I left the shop secretly devastated by that card — not because the card would somehow force me to leave Phoenix, this city that I love with its mountains, heat, space and my friends and family within its boundaries. I was devastated by that card because I knew what it said was true.

Tomorrow, I will wake up, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ll spend the summer in Europe and New York City. I’ll become a Carnegie fellow at ABC News under Brian Ross’s investigative unit. I’ll apply for jobs all over the country — the world, really. I’ll convince myself I’m ready for another adventure and I might actually be ready for one by the time I start it.

But, all the time, wherever I end up in the coming months and years, I’ll know that I was devastated when I saw that card.

After a lifetime of moving from place to place, the last occupied always became my new answer to the question, “Where are you from?” In Oregon, I was from Louisiana; in Phoenix, from Oregon; in New York, from Phoenix; in Paris, from New York. Then, I moved home. Now, I will always be from Phoenix.

I was devastated when I saw that card because I knew what it said was true.

That’s how fortune telling works, after all.

My Dad does my laundry.

October 1, 2009

Dad2-copy

I probably shouldn’t admit that. Especially online, to the 25 people who read this blog.

But there it is — the really hard thing about insisting that I move out of my parents house as soon as possible.

(The other really hard thing about it is that I have absolutely no expenses right now — except for shopping and lunches at Matt’s. And those don’t count.)

As soon as I decided against taking out another $50,000 in loans to go to Medill last Spring, and that I’d come to ASU — in Phoenix, where my parents live, where I  have a bedroom full of stuffed animals and soccer trophies and porcelain dolls — I immediately insisted that I would NOT be living at home.

Then, my potential roommate lost her lucrative nannying position and I decided to wait to move out. Rents are too expensive alone.

Then, I started to get used to my Dad doing my laundry.

And now, I’m realizing what that really terrible Sarah Jessica Parker movie was about (the one with Matthew McConnaughey where he’s 30 and won’t  move out of his parents house.) It’s just so easy!

I have only one excuse for this that might make me seem a tiny bit less like a 22 year-old baby: I have the best Dad in the world. (I know everyone says that, and I’m sure you mean it too, but mine is really the best.)

He quit his job when I was a baby and has been a stay-at-home — cook dinner every night, make lunches every morning, put side ponytails in our hair, coach the soccer team, drive us to swim practice — Dad ever since. When my sister and I were kids, my Mom would come home from work to find my Dad cooking with painted fingernails. His big nails were so much easier to paint than ours.

Now, as I’m finding myself with more work than I’ve ever had in my entire life (yes, I know I thought that after high school and then after college, but I’m serious now) — I have to admit it, it’s a huge relief to have a back-up to my alarm clock when I turn it off in my sleep, coffee ready when I get up, and it’s really nice to have someone to do my laundry.

I know this can’t last forever. I know that I have to move out sometime soon. I know that, in the end, I’ll have to do my own laundry again.

But there is one consolation to this inevitable future: My Dad’s really terrible at doing laundry.

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