Tag Archives: reflection

Ramblings: Returning to Arizona, Reflecting on Paris

The ease with which a person can put one life on hold and resume another astounds me.

Yesterday marked three weeks since I left Paris. In those three weeks I have slipped seamlessly into old routines, places, activities and relationships. I wear cut-off denim shorts and tee-shirts. I meet friends at the same coffee shops I’ve been going to since I was teenager. I drive my car through mountains and across deserts that have been the backdrop of my life story since the day I was born. My transition back into my American life in Arizona has appeared to be as painless as getting behind the wheel of my car—a fleeting moment of confusion; and then, keys in the ignition, foot on the pedal, go.

From Sunset Point, Arizona

I look back often into my rearview mirror. Flickering blue eyes, suggestive smiles, illuminated monuments that never lost their luster, the smell of baking bread before the sunrise—these images and sensations are still vivid and tangible, yet when I recall them I feel the disappointment of memory. These memories will never capture the true experience, and they are rapidly being replaced with new ones—laughter with childhood friends, the sun rising over the Rincon Mountains, lifting myself into eight angle pose for the first time.  If I am able to return to Arizona and fold so easily into my former life, how can I hope to preserve what I know of Paris and who I became there?

Yet, in my experience, transformation that unfolds under intense conditions in a short period of time leaves a much deeper mark than slow, gradual changes. I feel like I’ve changed more emotionally and spiritually in the past three years than I did within the entire first 18 years of my life. And I grew more during my year in Paris than I did in my first two years in Tucson. Of course, everything is cumulative, and the growing pains I had when I was 15, 16, 17 all added up, like deposits in my bank account, to get me where I am today.

So where am I? The place is hard to describe. There are small, visible characteristics: I no longer wear makeup, for instance, which I had done almost everyday since I was about 12. This tiny physical change indicates a much larger shift in my sense of self-worth, for, after the challenges I faced in Paris, I now put more value in my character than in my appearance. My posture is straighter, which, aside from being attributed to a year of regular Hatha yoga, also indicates my increased sense of inner strength. I carry myself confidently now, because I am proud of the person I am striving to become and of the life I am striving to lead.

What’s more is that I am finally in a place where I am more true to myself than I am to the system and expectations imposed upon me. For nearly three years I denied my innate desire to be a nurturer, a teacher and a healer. I told myself I needed to do something more practical with my life than help others, notably young women. So I tried on different hats—journalist, diplomat, politician, researcher, scholar. None of them fit, and I knew that, even as I was wearing them.

Now, after facing my demons for many a grey day in Paris, I can proudly and definitely say that I want to be a nurturer and healer of the human spirit. Concretely, this means becoming a yoga instructor, a youth mentor or counselor, and a teacher. I want to help young people become the best versions of themselves, as my greatest teachers and mentors have helped me to do.

Sunset Point, Arizona

My heart is open, my mind is expanded and my life feels, for the first time, like it is of my own design, a manifestation of my spirit. Here I am, in Tucson, Arizona, a better version of myself than I was when I stepped out of the métro and into the streets of Paris a little over a year ago.

Here I am, in Tucson, Arizona, and it’s the right place to be.

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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Letter from Paris: One Month Later

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Maastricht, which created the European Monetary Union, aka the euro zone. Oh– And it marks the one month anniversary of my arrival in Paris. No big deal.

Sitting here in my cozy studio, eating a crème brulé I bought around the corner and watching the sky turn from pale blue to grey, I can’t help but wonder how I could possibly feel as content as I do now. I’m wearing a gentle smile on my face. I’m carrying not a single worry or care. My mind is clear and my heart is steady. I am happy, and yet I moved to Paris only one month ago. By this point I expected myself to be huddled in the fetal position, covered in snot and tears, longing to fly back to Arizona. Instead, I’m glowing.

My sense of self-contentment may be due to the fact that I just gave my first oral presentation (en français) without passing out. And it may be due to the fact that my professor had not a single negative remark regarding my work. It may be due to the crème brulée filling my tummy, or the fact that I wore one of my favorite outfits today and felt supa sexy. But– I get the feeling my happiness is truly rooted in my ability to affirm that I made the right decision. With every passing day I love Paris more and miss Tucson less. I’m no longer afraid to speak French or make mistakes. Now, I seek out opportunities to speak this language and I learn from every fumble. I no longer resent Paris for what it doesn’t have– cactus gardens, wild deer, towering peaks. Instead, I love it for the things is has that other places don’t– French gardens, wild nights, towering monuments. One month later, I’ve embraced my present, and I know it leads to a meaningful future.

Still, my month here hasn’t been without loneliness or desperation. Everyday is a challenge, whether I’m giving a presentation in class or trying to set up a bank account. But every challenge teaches me a lesson, and I feel I’ve learned more in one month here than I did in two years of college. However, those two years were not wasted. As I prepared to move to Paris, I liked to think that leaving Tucson meant I could recreate my identity. I fantasized about what I’d tell people when they asked about my hobbies or my past. They wouldn’t know me, so I could tell them anything thing I wanted to. I didn’t have to be the Savannah I am back home. I could be the Savannah of my dreams. But here I am in Paris, and still I am– fundamentally– the same person I was one month ago. I still call myself a singer. I still smile too much. I still want to be a writer. The only difference is I’ve swapped my amethyst eyeliner for coral lipstick. Aside from that, I remain firmly grounded in the identity I constructed over the past two years. Coming here has shown me that I’m no longer a rough draft of the person I’m meant to be. I’ve built a solid foundation, and now I’m installing the staircase to the second floor.

Perhaps this is simply the culmination of the so-called “honey moon period” experienced by students studying abroad. The snot and tears may cover me yet. If and when they do, I’ll be sure to look back to this moment of clarity, faith and self-confidence. No matter how difficult this journey may be, I know now and always that I’m on the right path, baguette in hand, coral smile upon my face, heels clicking against the cobblestones.

C’est magique, la vie, et c’est la mienne. 

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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Filed under Paris, Prose