I am currently writing this as I procrastinate studying for my first exam. Ironically, I am learning Spanish as my third language while I am in France, because French was my second language for INSEAD. So I thought I'd give a little recap as the time has already flown by.
First of all, wow. I was running along the Seine the other day and just stopped along a bridge, because it hit me suddenly - this is my life now!! It felt like one of the movie moments when the camera pans to an amazing, life-altering song. I don't care how cheesy it sounds, because this is a dream that felt so far away for so long that I am allowing myself to take in the moments that bring me tremendous joy, especially in a year that's hard to see joy every day. I can see the Louvre every day, the Eiffel Tower light up every night, and eat as many pain au chocolats as I desire until my jeans give way since I don't have the Parisian figure. I'm in awe this dream has actually come true, even if it looks a little differently with restaurants and cafes still closed due to COVID. The change of scenery from my parent's small town in Texas to living in the Marais in Paris with three wonderful humans who are quickly turning into best friends is quite amazing. I think I've laughed more in the last two weeks than in the last 9 COVID-frenzied months at home, with particular thanks to G's* Canadian lingo.
So how is learning in a lockdown in a foreign country with three people I only ever met through texting and/or Facetime? First of all, mom, no weirdos here, don't worry. Second, we're all around the same age - I'm the "baby" of the group at 27 whereas everyone else is 28 so we all are at some level of maturity where no one argues over who takes out the trash, etc. We go on walks together all around Paris, exploring beautiful sights such as Montmartre, getting the perfect instagram photos, and describing what we want out of life. For those of you who think all Parisians are as shown in Emily in Paris, please rethink. I have been lucky to visit Paris many times and never encountered a rude Parisian, but this time, it seems Parisians are going out of their way to be nice and make small talk. At a boulangerie, a store clerk even gave me the most prestigious remark known to Americans - she loved my French accent! So aside from Parisians making small talk and people not being able to eat or drink at restaurants and bars, it feels somewhat normal. A normal I have definitely missed, and I realize how lucky I am to even be able to say that.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been one hell of a year, but instead of throwing the entire year down the drain, I challenge you to reframe your perspective. I dubbed 2020 my "year of reevaluation". Throughout the year, I have been challenged more than I thought possible by work stress, long hours, inability to see loved ones, and constantly managing expectations for my future graduate school program I had dreamed of for so long. I count myself as one of the lucky ones that these were my problems, but they still provided perspective for me. Yes, some problems are larger than others, but every challenge and opportunity can provide insight if you allow. This year has allowed me to reevaluate my priorities - I was going 100 mph and knew I was about to metaphorically swerve off the road (according to my parents' perspective I may have crashed earlier this year) if I didn't allow myself to slow down. I was laser focused on my career, what I needed to get to the next step, and felt like my career was the one thing I could control in my life, the one thing that all based on my merit and not dependent on any other person. To clear things up, this is not true as you will always need other people in your career whether you like or not, and running away from fears towards a different goal will never satisfy you. So this year, I reevaluated and realized how closed off I had become from other people. I was terrified of rejection and not being accepted in all areas of life, even at the age many Gen Z'ers would deem "old" enough to not care. I vowed this year to not let my fears hold me back. It is time to appreciate who and what I have in life but to also never miss out on an opportunity out of fear. I'm not living my life if I'm not taking chances that could change it, and I vowed to keep that mantra this year. I've put myself in new situations that challenge me, I've faced some rejection, but I've also been able to learn more about myself and what I want out of life. Paris is the perfect backdrop to have this thought ever-present, with new challenges and opportunities around every corner. So remember, it's never too late to start taking chances and it's never early to start to change your perspective.
*Initials to be used throughout but feel free to stalk and see if you can figure out who it is.