Songs carry moments with them. They bring waves of memories of moments so precise, so clear that it is almost as if you are back in another instant of time. Sometimes they hit you unaware – you had forgotten that moment, that hour, that month. You weren’t prepared for the memories so tangible you can almost smell the way the air was on a certain day.
Absently I click on “Of Monsters and Men” this evening as I settle in for some low-key homework. But as soon as the first bars of the album start I am transported. No longer in my open and airy southern apartment, I am sitting on the floor of a sixth floor apartment in Paris. It’s cold there despite my thick and woolly socks, and there is no doubt about it, I am lonely.
In this memory I want so desperately to seize this moment, to make as much of this time abroad as I possibly can, and yet I don’t quite know how to do it.
Or perhaps it would be better to say that I don’t quite have the courage to do it yet. So instead of seizing the moment I sit, alone in this apartment with no furniture, and let a few tears slide down my rather small but pointy nose. I hold adamantly onto the idea that I am in the right place, am doing the right things.
Not only is it a surprise to be transported back to my first two weeks in France, it is a surprise to realize how far away this moment feels. Much farther than five months.
As you all know, the moments of self pity didn’t last so long. Quickly immersed in the challenges of speaking another language, learning how to rock climb and seeing every possible museum in a city filled to the brim with museum’s, not too many tears fell after these first two weeks. Turns out, it was easy to seize this moment, this once in a lifetime experience.
And somehow it feels fitting to be listening to “Of Monsters and Men” again now that we are in my last two weeks in France. There was a moment last week where I said,
“I didn’t do it all, what was I thinking? I didn’t go to Rome, I didn’t go to Morocco, I didn’t even go see Mont Saint Michel! I didn’t learn how to speak French well enough, I didn’t talk to enough people, I didn’t make enough friends! I didn’t try enough new foods, I didn’t go to enough parties, I didn’t find enough hidden treasures!”
It’s true, I did not do any of these things. But it’s also true that I went to Paris, Nice, Monaco, Florence, Strasbourg, Lyon, Avignon, Toulouse, Vimy Ridge and Marseille. I learned how to carry on basic conversations in French and ask for almost all of the things I need for existence. I learned that the best gift anyone has while learning another language is that you can’t hear your own mistakes (thank goodness!) I talked to shop keepers, teachers, roommates, students, and even a few trees. I did french tongue twisters, climbed to the top of boulders in the forest, saw castles, farmland and mountains. I’ve stood in the Mediterranean Sea, on top of the Duomo and in trenches from WWI. I made friends who welcomed me into their lives with wide open arms, who taught me how to order my hamburger rare en française, cooked me Mexican tortillas until I felt like I needed to be rolled home, and rolled dice late until the night just talking. I’ve walked what feels like a thousand kilometres across every city I have visited. There has been so much walking I’ve practically worn off the rubber heel of my boots. I ate andouillette, rillettes, steak frites, mussels, mushroom pasta, cured sausages, baguettes, croissants, falafel, terrines, crêpes, salad, spaghetti, pizza, quiche, sandwiches, cakes, confections, and even granola bars.
If I could go back to that self who let herself get pulled into the loneliness of an empty apartment I’d have to be honest and say that I didn’t get to do it all, but I’d also have to say that I’m glad it worked out exactly like it did. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll just have to come back. Or maybe I will go someplace else in this big wide world and discover other new things, other new languages, other new people, music, landscapes, and adventures.