I don’t remember how my obsession with Paris began but gosh, I wish I did.
In the same way my genes have programmed me to eat, talk, laugh, etc., I do believe there’s some escargot-shaped chromosome that spikes my blood pressure at the sight of a baguette by the Seine or Emmanuel Macron at a podium.
At 6 years old, I vowed to save Nana’s $20 birthday checks until I could move to France. As I told the family video camera, I’d own two dogs, buy a house with a window box and eat croissants for breakfast. I had a dream.
At 11, I sold my soul to public school French class. This may sound precocious, but all it meant was watching “Finding Nemo” with French subtitles and practicing cheek kisses with a tissue box.
In high school, I re-watched the Paris episode of “Gossip Girl” before every French final. I’m not sure how much this helped, as I was never really quite good.
Actually, I was kind of awful. It took me two years to learn that “excité” didn’t just mean excited. It was another word my teacher warned was hopefully misused or otherwise very inappropriate to say around her tutoring students.
But what I lacked in language, I made up for in enthusiasm.
I whisked chocolate mousse like it was Easy Mac. I taped French quotes to my bathroom mirror. I celebrated every Bastille Day by flipping more crêpes than Julia Child.
Most embarrassingly, I collected copies of “How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are” after multiple people saw it in bookstores and bien sûr they thought of me!
Now, the moment my 6-year-old self dreamed of is right around the corner. Come next week, I will be travelling to spend the semester in Paris, France.
I’ve made arrangements to live with a retired couple in the 8th arrondissement. I’ve signed up for an art history class that meets at the Louvre. I’ve applied for funding, booked a flight and even checked that, yes, my apartment has a window box.
All things considered, this trip is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember.
And now that it’s here, I couldn’t feel more underprepared.
My laptop’s history shows countless Paris travel guides and ticketing information that I haven’t actually read. Family members and friends keep sending over great recommendations, but I keep refusing to write them down.
My bedroom floor is a disaster and will be until the hour I leave for the airport. I try on ridiculous amounts of clothes just to run downstairs and ask my mom, “Does this dress make me look American?”
I have an email written to my French host parents that’s been in my drafts for the last week. It’s only a few sentences about when I’ll arrive and that I’m excited — not excité — to meet them, but I can’t bring myself to send it.
Truthfully, I’m terrified because the French romantic my genes wired me to be is wildly unprepared for the reality of getting off that flight.
When I get to Paris, I’m nervous I won’t be able to communicate in a language I don’t fully grasp. I’m anxious I won’t be able to express my sense of humor in an accent I can’t pull off. Above all, I’m worried that I’ll spend this next semester challenged beyond my abilities.
But for all these reasons I’m terrified, I’m thankful.
Paris has always been the city I’ve loved for reasons I couldn’t remember. But now, it will be the city I love for making me into a woman who gets off the plane and enters the unknown.
This semester could be the most formative experience of my life, and I look forward to sharing it all here.