à Paris

I think, tonight, for the first time ever, I actually understood Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain.

At 33 I have finally begun to admit to myself that I am primarily an introvert. Not only admitting it, but accepting it has led me to a slightly better understanding of myself and the longstanding discomfort and disconnection I often feel in social settings.

Watching the thirteen year old French film this evening, for probably the thirty-third time, I discovered a deeper understanding of the film and the characters than I ever had before, even when I was Amelie’s own age of 23.

I have moved around a lot during my life, and have rarely found myself at home in my world. I’ve rarely been around people for long enough to feel I’ve done a good enough job being their friend, that we understand each other, that we can trust one another. The fact is, I don’t know how to connect to people. Perhaps even my closest friends. I want to be a good friend, but sometimes I just don’t know how. I’m afraid, or lazy, or selfish, or I just want to be alone. Yet, I crave that connection. 

Sometimes I look for it in locations as much as people.

In 1999 and 2003 I tried to experience the locational belonging I had felt through the pages of my high school text books, a connection I had sensed with the city of Paris, France. Both times I came back to the US feeling lonelier than ever. And very disappointed. Eleven years ago, when I lived, ever so briefly, in Paris, I was there with a study abroad program. I succumbed to depression and discomfort and left the program in February instead of at the end of the Spring semester. For over half the elapsing time, I felt like a failure. I think I am only now understanding that I didn’t fail. I just didn’t understand who I am.

When I lived in Paris, my apartment was just blocks from the canals where Amelie skipped rocks and that impossibly tricky continuous shot of her doing so was taken. I never took a photograph of those canals. I don’t know why. It just never occurred to me to do so. There are so many things in Europe I wish I had done, or seen, or photographed. Myself included. There are very few photographs of me from the last time I visited Paris. This is a common thread in nearly all my albums. Unless I request someone take my photo, there usually aren’t any of me. I love having my picture taken, but I’m the one who is usually behind the lens. Most of my photos are of landmarks, or classmates, or architecture, or the sky.

From my flat I could walk to street markets where everything from silk scarves to cheese to flowers were sold. People were friendly and helpful and smiled and patiently listened to my muddled French and gave me exactly what I had tried and sometimes failed to ask for. My flat was only about two train stops from Montmartre, and that is where I spent most of my time, especially after I quit the program. I’d walk a few blocks north, climb the stairs to the elevated platform, and then travel by metro up the curving track towards the hill above the city. I’d disembark, then wander the winding streets up towards the Basilica. Montmartre was a place of comfort, of familiarity.

If I could just allow myself to feel at peace with the comfort of being alone in a beautiful place, the whole world would feel like such a happier, homier, place. Through accepting who I am, I can be more comfortable being uncomfortable in social situations. I think that changes how we interact with others, knowing who we really are. Bizarre as it may be, accepting ourselves as loners may actually help us to connect with other people – other loners, other outcasts. Knowing who we are and not forcing it, but allowing that part of us to open up and connect to other singular, perhaps lonely, hearts.

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“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Le Petit Prince

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains
    May 23, 2014 @ 00:07:34

    I can really relate to this. I’m an introvert as well and throughout my younger life, I always felt like I had to talk more and exert myself more and be more interesting. It wasn’t until I spent a year in a school where I didn’t know anyone that I became more comfortable just being myself and being alone. I think learning who you are and learning to love that is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, and I’m glad that has happened, or started to happen, for you. 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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