..Cynthia Pierce..

Paris in the Palm of My Hand

As a single woman, living in New York City about to turn, cough-cough, thirty, I wanted to treat myself to an unusual and memorable gift: I think I also wanted to challenge myself.

My favorite place in the world is Paris. Since I was a kid I've collected little Eiffel Towers. So, on a grim day last October, as I sat at the desk of my horrible temp job from hell, or HTJFH, as I so affectionately referred to it, I called my travel agent and told her of my scheme, I mean, er, plan. Within fifteen minutes she booked me on a short trip to Paris. Soon I would have a roundtrip ticket from Newark to Charles de Gaulle and a hotel room for one, with breakfasts included.

Two weeks to the day after booking my adventure/excursion I left/got fired from HTHFH. You see, I am a struggling artist and this job I had taken solely for sustenance had turned me into a depressed and uninspired Bridget Jones-like character. It seemed nothing was going right for me. I felt like major changes needed to be enacted, but what? And with whom?

I was so tired of working solely for sustenance rather than for substance. I cried to a friend, "I'm tired," I sobbed," I'm tired of working so hard only to get no results, I need something new: I think I may even move to Paris!." I mean I have always wanted to live there, someday. But at that moment, I was in a rut on the crossroads of my life and I had to make a choice: I chose Paris.

My birthday is November 21. Two great childhood friends of mine notified me they were planning a visit for the weekend of my birthday. I decided to book a gig with my band. I could do something I love and well, some rock n' roll is just generally good for everyone involved. They came, I rocked, we caught up and had a great time. They went home. I went back to my rut. However, it was only two days before my trip. Then came the flu. Yes, I caught the flu just prior to my vacation that I couldn't even afford to begin with. Still, I go to Paris. I see the sights I love: I get a tear in my eye at the Notre Dame, I get goosebumps at the Musee D'orsay (and no, it was not just because I was bi-polaring between feverish and the cold-sweats). Then there was the Eiffel Tower. In my opinion, the most beautiful thing ever built. I was alone, I was sick as a dog...but I was in Paris.

Prior to embarking, I had emailed a friend who lives in France now (alright, we kind of used to sort of date in NY). His reply was as follows: I'd love to have dinner and catch up but I haven't shaved in a while, so don't be alarmed. What did that mean, I wondered? Then, at the entrance to the Gare du Nord, I see my friend for the first time in over two years. He had a beard on him that would rival most late night Bin Laden impersonators. I say holy merde, ami, what's up with this? We have a bit of dinner (I had very little appetite due to the malade). We go to Montmartre, walk over to the Sacre Coeur and see all of Paris by night, absolutely breathtaking. My friend tells me here, in his shy way, that he's having a touch of a mini-midlife crisis, hence the beard. He had not been dating and he'd taken himself out of the jeu, as it were. I speak without thinking: But why? You're handsome, you could easily get a jeune fille interested in you; you're socialized. You have absolutely no reason to be sad. Now shave that hideous hirsute mask, get a girl and enjoy France!

Wow, it's so easy to preach to the choir, isn't it? By the last day of my short vacation I was a lonely girl. Yeah, I was there alone but also extremely sick I was not my usual adventurous self. I was ready to leave my little hotel room at Place d'Italie to return to my apartment, my friends, my cat, my various affiliations and my family. I was even ready to go out and get another job that I may not be very fond of in order to keep it all going: all my artistic endeavors, the creation of my own company, all my Urban Outfitter-induced needs. In other words, I felt on track. I felt as though I might just be able to keep going forward and enjoy myself along the way. You see, I'm not too bad looking myself (thanks to Mom and Dad) and I'm socialized, kind of. I also did not have a beard on my face that scares the little children: my beard was on the inside. I had let my anxiety and my fears grow and grow until I couldn't even see my own face when I looked in the mirror.

One holiday party I attended included a friend I hadn't seen in a while. At one point she very kindly said to me, Cynthia, you look just about as good as I've ever seen you. You look confident and glowing, has something changed since I last saw you? I said yeah, "me." I told her about my trip, my friend, etc. She said to me, hold out your hand -- that's Paris, right there. Whatever you're feeling now, remember it by holding on tightly to it now.

It was a wild ride last year, my 29th (cough-cough). I was unemployed for the better part of it and miserable when I was employed. I was dateless for the most part and had miserable dates when I did venture out. But so what? Initially I thought: what a cool thing to do, go to Paris alone. How chic and independent am I? But it was so much more than that. I discovered there that even in a rut, you can't give up and just stop living. That even in Paris, in the most beautiful place in the world, life is still not perfect. So, I'm not ready to leave the Big Apple for the Eiffel Tower just yet, but whenever I want it, it's right there -- in the palm of my hand.

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