I’ve struggled since Friday night. Here’s a peek at where I went when I allowed myself to sit and reflect. There’s very likely more musings to come.
“I heard the news today, oh boy…imagine all the people, living life in peace…non, je ne regrette rien…”
The jumbled soundtrack blared in my head as images of heartbreak and horror flashed on the screen. I couldn’t hear what the newscaster was saying. The tears that rushed down my face seemed to rush out of my ears. Embarrassed by extreme emotion, I gulped for air and choked on my coffee.
She still has my heart.
I left a math degree after Multivariable Calculus whispered in my ear, “Go into business.”
The core of me itched to travel the world, to live and work in another culture, to become part of something else. A Finance degree seemed like an easy foot in the door to an international business career and travels all over the world. Oh to be 18 again with loads of youthful optimism to spare. I wrapped my brain around future values, internal rates of return, and return on investment. I ducked and weaved around the Black-Scholes model. I hung on for dear life with derivatives.
The universe rewarded me with an internship at Credit Agricole in Strasbourg, France.
I landed at Charles de Gaulle determined to succeed in a country whose language I had studied but by no means had a firm grasp, living by myself as a proper adult for the first time at the age of 20.
Harried Parisian commuters helped me get my bags through the Metro turnstiles in the middle of rush hour and pointed me towards the line that would get me to the train station. My clothes smelled of stale air and stress. I wanted to cry at each thirty seconds of generosity someone provided me.
France showed me the kindness of her people time and again. She gave me the deaf man in Strasbourg who stopped to provide me directions, the mentor at the bank who took the time to connect with me, the intern who encouraged me to converse more over lunch. She gave me the hair dresser off of the Champs Elysees who chatted about life while she gave me a stylish new cut and the truck driver in Paris who left me his ancient book of maps as I wandered the city’s arrondissements on a weekend adventure. She never laughed at my halting, heavily-accented interpretation of her elegant language. She only encouraged.
In the years since I’ve shared my loves with her. She in return dropped the retired French couple at the next table in Amboise to wait out a two-hour thunderstorm. She lent us the husband and wife restauranteurs in Orange who sat and drank verbena liqueur with us after all of their patrons left for the night. And she hinted good-naturedly that she might be tired of my heavily-accented interpretation of her language with the charming hotel manager in Paris who asked kindly if we would prefer English or French.
France has taken care of me as I navigated her streets, her language, her people. I have neglected her. I stayed away because I was afraid, helpless, sad, and overwhelmed. But a spark of resolve, determination, and hope has been lit. I cannot stay away much longer. Her light beckons me back.