I had high hopes from Paris. Illogical, stupid hopes. I had a strong belief that I would, perhaps, find the purpose or meaning of life. In my head, it all seemed fair. Too many, literally, too many artists, writers, filmmakers have been to Paris, hoping to find some divine inspiration. And I was naive enough to believe that all the celebrated geniuses who had spent some time in Paris, were the only ones who had gone. Paris is perhaps the most visited city in the world and I am perhaps a stupid romantic who is way too much in love with the city to be sensible.
Paris is smelly, dirty, and scary.
The people. Don’t care.
The monuments. Surrounded by homeless refugees.
It is just too oxymoronic; for a moment you might stand, awed by the beauty of the Eiffel Tower, the very next moment you’d be walking into a crowd of loud, despicable tourists. There is a lot more going on than most people can take in. People come to Paris thinking it’s perfect. No, it’s not. You want perfection, go to Vienna. Paris is a mess.
And that’s when I understood, why Paris appealed to me. Paris is a mess. I am a mess. Most people who truly sought inspiration from Paris were a mess. Paris has nothing to offer to many. But if you seek something, with all honesty, Paris will never leave you out to dry. It all begins with the “why”.
Why did I want to go to Paris?
Because I could feel myself falling. I used to spend my time alone, trying to figure out why this was happening. It was just the feeling of being uninspired, not having a purpose. The only thing keeping me off the edge, constant rewatches of Midnight in Paris and incessant rereads of A Moveable Feast. But most importantly, hope. Hope that once I stepped inside the realms of Paris, by some mythical and inexplicable power, I would become happy. That’s all I wanted. To be happy. Was it too much to ask? Thinking about it now, maybe it was.
Paris did not give me happiness. But it taught me a great deal more. It was a catalyst of sorts. The change I wished to bring about was already in me, hidden obviously, and Paris helped me bring it out.
When I would walk around the city, late at night, and still see the sun shining, it would make me wonder if it’s ever too late. I haven’t figured out anything yet. What am I going to do with my life? What am I gonna study? Nothing. I am blank. I am passionate about somethings, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be successful doing those. But just walking around the city, I realized that it was fine to not have figured it all out. It was not too late. It’s never too late. Paris is awake late at night, allowing travelers to explore its beauty. So why can’t there be a bit of uncertainty in life too? Why can’t we be okay to take some time, and explore life, our passions, our choices, before committing ourselves? It’s only fair, to not rush in, and enjoy life while we can. Take some time out, drink a cup of coffee, beer if you like. Think about what you want to do, there is no rush.
If you ever walk up to the Seine, you’ll see many people quietly sitting on its banks. Most of them reading a book, sketching a scene, or just observing others as I was. It’s not laziness, to just sit somewhere and appreciate beauty. To seek solitude and being happy in it, is something many of us are yet to learn. Something, Parisians have figured out. Happiness is in there somewhere, and I realized that one doesn’t need anyone else to find it. One can find it themselves, a good start is to live in the present. And Paris is a great place to realize how beautiful present really is. With all its old buildings being a reminder of its past. All the renovations to preserve them for the future. Somewhere in the middle, I stand, where many before me have stood, in the present, enjoying every last bit of it. The funny thing is I never realized how precious present really is. Past is gone, but the beautiful things still remain as memories. The future is yet to come. But the present, that’s where the magic happens. The present slips away from us every passing second, and it is the only time we can actually make lasting memories for the future. Since then, it has become important for me to not dwell on the past or worry about the future, and just be molded by my present.
“If you are lucky enough to have come to Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”
– Ernest Hemingway
In Paris, every day seemed exciting. Not because I was visiting the place for the first time. This was a different kind of excitement. I would gaze everywhere with wonder, soaking in every bit of the image in front of me, knowing it would be the last time of my very first visit. I found the childlike wonder in me that I thought, I had lost. There was this want, sorry, need to explore the city. Sometimes I would walk around for hours at a stretch without stopping; other times, I would hop from one cafe to the other. But no matter what I did, there was an energy of sorts that only grew on me. I was falling in love with the city, more intensely every day, and it was the best feeling I ever had.
Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have come to Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”, and I think that I finally understood him. Pretty sure that right here, in this city, I am the happiest I have ever been. And as this city continues to stay with me indefinitely, I believe that the changes I have gone through shall last.