It was my first Friday night in Paris that I had a complete meltdown. I had been a week with no phone and limited access to wifi. I was staying out until what I felt was out of my comfort zone in the city with no phone when night would set in just so I could talk to family and friends at a café where wifi was accessible.
There’s a certain reality of loneliness that no one tells you about when you move abroad.
I thought I knew this loneliness. After not being able to count the the times I have moved on both hands, I realize the first few months are always the most difficult. Yet, all those other times I had my parents and my sister. The difference between then and now? I just have me.
Yet, through the loneliness, I still have loved this city.
My first Friday night was bad. I cried and bought a night’s worth of shitty wifi and cried some more when it did not work. I walked back and forth asking myself why I had done this, this was putting my mind in a darker place than it had been before arriving.
That next Saturday morning, with my tear hangover (you know… The one where you’ve cried so much your eyes still hurt the next morning?) I decided to stop being a baby and pick myself back up. I grabbed my keys and went out to Paris to find the Eiffel Tower. Taking the bus I had been told to, the last stop ended up at L’Arc de Triomphe. I sat dumbfounded as the lady I had sat next to started grabbing my arm (we’d had a little small talk beforehand) and telling me we had to get off. “Is that L’Arc?” I asked. She smiled and nodded. She told me if I wanted to get to the Eiffel Tower I would have to board the metro that was near L’Arc. After her nice directions I was on my way. It was the first time riding the metro by myself.
As I exited at my stop, I climbed the stairs and all of the sudden, there it was. It was not as romantic as people had made it out to be. Tourists were gathered everywhere and struggling with each other to take pictures and sellers on the streets coming up to you every three seconds trying to sell Eiffel Tower key chains for “a cheap price”. Most of all, it just seemed like pieces of metal that people had stuck together to construct it (days later, I saw it from afar and it was breathtaking during the day).
As I finished touring the grounds, I realized that I was lost and had no clue how to get home so I took a random bus. I ended up on Champs Elysees and walked around for a bit until I found the bus that led back home. It was my first tourist day in Paris and I had loved it and I was alone.
That week, I finally got my phone and limited data (which I found out after receiving a text saying I was about to go over my wifi limit). So, instead of passing the time in my apartment by myself, I call my mother and my friends but then it becomes late and the time difference catches up. At some point, I am forced to hang up and it becomes dark.
If you know me, you probably know I hate being in bed in the dark all by myself. I just do. I get carried away by my thoughts and shadows begin to play with my eyes in the dark. Here is what I realized…
Our generation does not know the meaning of being alone.
We are so caught up in sharing our moments and lives through the internet instantly, gaining likes and comments. We are in a constant hub of communication that being alone is so hard. What is being alone? Listening to your thoughts. Looking at the world around you. Realizing that, coming to a city and loving the noise of cars honking and people yelling is so special that you want to yell at the people who put their headphones on. I do not hate these past couple of weeks with no internet. I have learned to listen to myself and the ideas that float through my head, feeling that a stream of inspiration that is flowing through my veins.
I was so cut off from the internet that I started looking around, I started making random conversations with strangers and I made two random friends on the street… Two tourists that had happened to meet each other that same exact day as well. We got along so well in the ten minute street conversation we had that we decided to hang out that same exact Monday night. My first time being out in Paris at night. We met at St. Michel and decided to buy some wine and hang at a park by the Seine. Then I was told it was one of their birthdays at midnight and we explored the streets of Paris when finally the clock turned 12 and he officially turned 24. We found a random group of French teenagers to help us sing happy birthday. The next night I went out with the birthday boy and we decided to fulfill the one thing my dad had asked me to do for him, climb the Eiffel Tower.
We decided to go at night since I get off of work at 18:30. We met near my apartment and went out to dinner. The waitress spilled my white wine and the waiter that had taken our order had understood that I wanted a burger after my official one, salmon. I had not ordered a burger, but a red wine named Bordeaux before switching to the white wine. When I had said Bordeaux, he had understood burger. Then the waitress tried to make me pay for my white wine and I was like hell no.
After that whole mishap, we somehow found our way to the Eiffel Tower and this time, my jaw dropped. As I exited the metro stop and saw it, it was SPARKLING.
“I live here…” I was able to somehow stutter, and my friend laughed.
We found out that the top of the Eiffel Tower closes at ten so we decided to buy tickets to go the second floor anyways.
It was breathtaking.
There. Just. Simply. Are. No. Words.
All of the sudden, tears were filling my eyes. They were not those sad tears I had been having the past few weeks… They were tears of joy. I made it, and I can do whatever I tell myself I can do. There is no limit.
I can not thank those new friends I met on the street that Monday. I can not thank them enough for the kind words they told me and the pieces of advice on life that I received. They were shocked when I told them I was just the mere age of 19.
“I did not even know who the hell I was when I was 19,” one told me.
I do not either. This is why I did this. I know where I want to go… what I want to do… but this is me, figuring out how I can get there.
It is like the dark, unknown and scary.
Somehow, I know I am going to be okay. I am able to turn off the light now and I do not feel a sudden rush of anxiety.
I’ve got this.