I first decided that I wanted to go to France when I was twelve years old. I was talking to a family member while visiting Washington D.C. for another family member's wedding when I was asked where I'd most like to go in the world. Considering my grandparents had very generously gifted me a trip anywhere in the world for my eighth grade graduation, I'd been thinking about this question a lot. I replied saying I'd like to go to Paris, and the idea just stuck. After eighth grade, I wound up going to New York City instead, but for the four years I was in high school, I knew that come graduation I'd be on a plane headed to Paris.
Over the six years between deciding to go to Paris and actually going, the places I most wanted to visit changed. Now, if I could go anywhere in the world, I'd probably choose Ireland, Amsterdam, or Thailand. All three places have something I'd like to see, and I hope I'll get there someday. Still, even though in the last two years I've wanted to go to other places more than France, I still chose Paris as the city I wanted to go to after high school.
I think it's because, during those six years, the Eiffel Tower had become like a beacon of hope. I really like symbols, and the sheer symbolism of this beautiful tower made me want to visit. From the age of 12 up until now, I have dealt with anxiety and small bouts of depression, and hopelessness is a feeling I am well acquainted with. Even so, 9 times out of 10 I am still able to look ahead to what the future may have in store. For whatever reason, I always knew that the Eiffel Tower was part of that future.
When I was twelve and spent most of my time alone, I dreamed of a time when I'd go to France and feel like I belonged somewhere. When I was thirteen and fourteen and started feeling far more anxious than usual, I waited for the trip where I wouldn't have to worry about what was going on at home because I was somewhere I'd only ever dreamed of. In high school, I knew that the day I made it to Paris was the day I'd be able to move on, at least a little bit, from all the stuff that had been holding me back.
It is quite possible I had too much hope placed on one trip. Still, I had been looking forward to and dreaming about going to Paris for six, very long years. Obviously, my trip to Paris (and Marseille and Luxembourg) didn't magically cure negative thing I have going on, but it still reminded me of how far I've come. Going to Paris and climbing the Eiffel Tower reminded me how, six years ago, I was far too afraid of heights to even attempt climbing it. Going to Paris and navigating train stations reminded me, even though I was with my mom the whole time, how capable I am of traveling in high stress places like train stations and airports.
Going to Paris also reminded me how far I have to go. Ask my mom and she'll tell you that I didn't speak a word of French while we were there, and she's right. My perfectionist spirit still has a fear of messing up, and I didn't want to try speaking a different language because I didn't want to make a mistake. Obviously, this is something I have to get over. I'm registered to take French 101 fall quarter, so hopefully I'll be able to do all the talking and my mom can do her own thing next time we go to France, but that one instance isn't all I'm talking about. Being in Paris reminded me of my perfectionism in general, and how it's still something I need to work on. That's one of the cool things that travel does. It shows you what you can work on in order to grow into a better person.
I loved my time in Paris, and I can't wait to go back. Being there was a six year long dream come true, and I can't think of a better way to have spent the last week of July. If you ever have the chance to go, please do. And if you have a place you've wanted to travel to for a long time, I hope you get there. My twelve year old self used Paris and the Eiffel Tower as her symbol of good things, and I can honestly say to her that she got there, she got the good things, and her life got better.