a year ago today, a terrified, doubtful, cautiously hopeful little natalie boarded a plane. little natalie knew this experience would change her life, but she did not plan on enjoying it. she cried in the airport hugging her parents and sister goodbye. she timidly told the sweet 80-year-old man next to her about her plans and repeatedly thought about how absolutely ridiculous of an idea this was.
little natalie’s plane landed in paris, france at 8am on september 14th. she facebook messaged her family and friends to let them know she made it safely. she timidly and nervously followed signs in the airport as best she could, all the while panicking about finding the person who was supposed to meet her. she wheeled her huge suitcase through customs and prayed that nothing would go wrong.
she found her person with no trouble. in her first few hours of being in paris, she experienced her first “security scare” and nearly passed out in the airport from dehydration while waiting for the train to start running again. she rode the trains and tram for the first time, totally unable to absorb all the new things she was experiencing because goodness, was she tired.
entering her new apartment, the first things to impress themselves upon natalie’s memory were the wonderful natural lighting and the welcoming smell of peaches from her new roommate’s air freshener. such little things, but nothing could have made her feel more comfortable in the moment.
life from then on for the next two months was a whole lot of ups and downs. but that’s not exactly what the story is about today. today is about the “since-then”. that’s not a real term, but i’m using it anyway.
it’s so easy for me to remember only the good moments. to look back at everything with rose-colored glasses. i know life wasn’t always sunshine and roses. i remember the nights i sobbed in bed because i just desperately wanted to hug my daddy or lay my head in mama’s lap while she prayed with me. but i wouldn’t trade those sad moments for anything, because they gave me a true appreciation for the happy ones when they did come.
looking back, though, i do have regrets about how i spent my two months. i think i knew in the moment that i would feel this way, too. some people would say that they wouldn’t change a thing about such an experience, but i would. i’ll probably always hate myself a little bit for them. and today, i’m thinking about my regrets.
i wish i’d taken more photos. man, i just want to jump back a year, shake myself by the shoulders, and say, “quit being afraid of being a tourist. take the dang photos.” and natalie, you idiot, why didn’t you take more photos with people? when i think of the after-church escapades into the city eating supper and walking around paris with some of the greatest people i’ve ever met, i hate myself for not documenting it better. i know i’ll always remember the time ben told us about the “gargoyles” (that aren’t really gargoyles) on notre dame or the night before my birthday when my beautiful paris people bought my food and gave me tons of floss and we all ate gelato in front of notre dame, but i desperately wish i’d taken more dang photos.
and possibly more than my first regret, i wish i’d invested more in the relationships i made there. i have memories that will never leave of times when i could have said, “hey, let’s go get coffee together and just talk” but i was too scared of potential rejection so instead, i said nothing and tried to pretend that was just fine. sure, it made leaving a little bit easier because i had less deepened relationships, but i would take the pain of leaving people i love dearly over shallow relationships any day. and yeah, i’ll always remember that day i knew i was supposed to ask someone to coffee and i didn’t. that memory will remain long after the memories of austin telling me all the strange ways he’s gotten injured have faded from my mind.
those are my two biggest regrets. they haunt me because i know i’ll never get those specific chances again. i can go back to paris and finally visit the inside of the louvre. i can actually buy a book at shakespeare and co. i can visit coffee shops and try different pastries and eat all the strange french food everyone assumes i ate the first time around. but i’ll never get those chances again.
all that being said, i miss france. i miss it desperately. i can’t believe it’s been a year since it all began. i would go back in a heartbeat.
*this is a sad post. i know it. i know it’s angsty. i know a post about all my favorite moments would be nicer. but this is what i have today.