Even after the 4-weekers finished their programs and headed home, it didn’t hit me for a few days: I only had 2 more weeks. And by the time this is posted, I’ll be down to just a few days.
I’m still somewhat in denial. A small, dreamy part of me wants to stay in Paris for the foreseeable future, and put my ‘real life’ on hold. But deep down, I miss my family and friends. And frankly, I’m running out of cash. Plus, college is pretty important to me, y’know, I guess…
I’m trying not to let the fact that my stay is ending get me down. I’ve had an incredible, unforgettable summer. I’ve lived a different lifestyle. I’ve changed.
Today when I saw my reflection in the metro doors, I realized I’ve become a totally new version of myself. I’m confident and I’m adventurous. I’m independent in a way that I never realized I could be. I feel like in Paris, I became my truest self. I vividly remember my first day here: standing on the metro, sweating like crazy and pulling two suitcases along in the midst of a heat wave. I was self-conscious. I was scared.
I’ve always felt I was pretty good at putting forward a positive version of myself. In the past, if I wasn’t confident, I pretended I was. So my earlier blog post about culture shock, where I admitted to some pretty intense emotion, was a big step for me. Once I admitted how anxious and overwhelmed I was, I found I was able to overcome it. Not just my fears about studying abroad, but my fears and anxieties about life in general–because those issues that scared me so much, like fitting in and making friends, go beyond studying abroad.
Since that day I’ve gone through experiences and I’ve accomplished things that have changed my identity on a fundamental level. The way I see myself has changed completely, and I’ve accepted and embraced the qualities that I once viewed as faults. Now, I really do have the confidence that I always used to fake. I finally feel like I am, on the inside, the person that I’ve always projected on the outside; the person I’ve always aspired to be.
What I wonder now is, do I have to leave that behind? Does this fearless, powerful self only exist in Paris?
The change I’ve observed in myself hasn’t been exclusively thanks to my environment; it just took some powerful circumstances to make me discover a better way of being myself. I wrote last week that I want to make “explorer” my permanent mindset, and I’m determined not to let the influence of a familiar environment change that when I get back to the US.
So in the end, I think that the answer to my question is no; that my newfound strength is as much a part of me as my caution and nervousness once were. I’m proud of who I am today, after all that I went through to get to this point. Just like I said weeks ago, I’m still moving forward with positivity and curiosity. Soon, I’m going home–but that doesn’t mean I’m going backwards.