Coming back into Paris after a month of traveling through 7 countries was a shock, but a welcoming shock. I came home to a snowy Paris but it felt like easing into a warm bath rather than diving into a frigid stream. Paris was already home and I already loved it, and no amount of traveling or new food could change that.
In addition to coming back to a snowy Paris as I had never seen before, I came back to a nearly brand new life. I moved from Neuilly Sur Seine to the 10th arrondisment, and my first destination of the plane was my new home with a new French family I had never met before. A quick note, my old home was in a suburb just outside of Paris, one that was very calm and rather modern. I now live in the heart of the city in a neighborhood that I consider to be quintessentially Parisian. I’ll write more on it later, but it is an area that has both the classic Paris Haussman feel and the cosmopolitan flurry of contemporary Paris.
Moving into a new family didn’t faze me, I was comfortable with my French and had not jet lag so I settled in easily to the home and neighborhood. Its the rest of life that quickly became shocking.
It wasn’t unexpected, rather I didn’t know how to brace myself for what had been to come. My program here in Paris is composed mostly of students who stay for a semester, with seven other students such as myself sticking around all year. Most of my friends were gone, replaced with new students. I’ve got no problem with meeting new people, but its a strange situation. It gave the program and Paris the air of a cover band that hadn’t quite gotten it. They were still cool people, but just not what I was used to. Regardless, I came in excited.
We had the fortune of heading to the Loire Valley for a two day orientation trip. The Loire is to the west of Paris and famous for its beautiful and grand chateaus, oftentimes used as hunting lodges or ornate celebration venues. Like many other parts of France, its also known for its wine. We went to the Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Blois, and tasted a white, rose and red at a Domain winery – one which does every step – from growing the grapes to bottling and distributing.
Based on the idea that experiences bring people together, the trip is perfect. Take a group of excited students who don’t know each other to a region of awe-inspiring architecture and give them a lot of wine and they will become friends. It works really well.
After some wine had been consumed, and new friends had been made, a friend who had also spent the past semester in Paris and I got to talking about the oddity of our situation. We both share the mindset that there are new friends to be made, or at least, new relationships to be cultivated wherever we go, and its important to be open to that. But we disagree a bit on relationships past.
I’ve got many friends dating back 15 years to 2 weeks that I treasure dearly and wouldn’t give up for the world. But there are some relationships that I feel need to be left in the past. Some friendships run there course and it is futile to continue them. I have nearly 1800 Facebook friends, but if I were to leave just those who are important or present in my life for some reason, the number would be a fraction of that. Its not to say we didn’t share good times together, or that I don’t find meaning
Living a life on the go has provided a lot of backing for this mindset. Any travel is accentuated by the people you share it with. As great as some of these relationships may be – do you take them with you for the rest of your life? It sounds horrific to say, but I feel as if some friendships are time-stamped. These are the people you meet at a bar or at the hostel or on the train. It doesn’t invalidate the experience by not continuing what could be an impossible friendship, rather it enriches the memories.
Too often we constitute a quick chat on the internet as communication. Since when does typing out “hey, whats up I miss you – life is good I went to Berlin this weekend…” suffice for contact? I believe these lingering attachments diminish certain friendships through their superficiality.
Friends are so special because we share great times with them, and it isn’t rational to have a friendship based on FB chats if your experience together was an epic three days of exploration in a new city.
But there’s a positive end game to it all. Its the moments together that count, a real friends can pick up the pieces wherever they left off, be it three years later or a continent apart from the last meeting place. A hypothetical German friend now always has a place to stay in CA or WA, even if we don’t talk every day.
Present-mindedness lies at the root of it. The past happened and surely influenced us all, but we can’t let it slow us down. Good and powerful times will be remembered, and good friends need not be mitigated by superficial conversations.
I think back to history, when close friends would go years without seeing each other, and letters would go unread for month long journeys. It didn’t weaken friendships, it probably strengthened them. We can learn from our heroes of old. New people come into our lives every day, it takes welcoming them all and finding the ones worth sticking around for.