wow... Being abroad feels like a world away now. It's almost as if it was all this crazy dream and I've woken up again. But it was all a real part of my life. I really was in Europe for a long time so it's impossible to come back and pretend that didn't happen. It would be crazy for me to say that I don't miss any of it at all, but at the same time, I couldn't be any happier to be home. There's the little things like how I'm so happy to sleep in my bed every night in a comfortable(bigger) bedroom or having my cat back to just pick up and hug whenever I so please. On the other hand, there's things I miss about Paris like late nights sitting on an empty metro after a really good day or walking being the number one mode of transportation. I'm sure the list goes on and on, and since my blog here has been mostly a collection of lists so far, might as well end it with one last list. What I miss the most about Paris and why I'm crazy happy to be back in the states.
Now a quick disclaimer: I did not become fluent in French by any means. I can read almost anything and understand most – if the French person speaks slowly – but please don't expect me to have a full conversation in French because that isn't happening. That being said, I miss the French language. After living every day with everyone around you speaking another language, it begins to feel more normal than the language you speak. For me personally, I would have to really focus to listen and understand the language, so in moments where I didn't need to have my translator mode on, it was so easy to just tune out the world around me. I could make everything just turn into background noise, as weird as that may sound. The language difference gave me this strange sense of privacy in the most public of places. I felt like nobody could be peering over my shoulder or listening on my conversations(most Parisians speak English so this wasn't true at all, but hey it helped). Another cool thing about being in a French speaking country is that every time I heard someone speaking English, which was much more often that I was expecting, there was an instant connection. This was true especially when it was English in an American accent. I met a lot of really cool people just with the conversation starter "Hey, where are you from?" Meeting someone from your home country while in a different country just feels crazy, so it's a cool opportunity to share stories about why you ended up in Paris. So yes, I miss French, but for some really strange reasons.
I strongly believe that Southern California has the BEST weather the world has to offer. Now that I have experienced another place in the world that gets much more of a "seasons" feel to it, I can only believe this even more. It just makes me feel much luckier to have grown up where I did. I wore a dress without tights on Christmas. I was able to go to the beach twice in December. Speaking of the beach, can we talk about the views? Home has so much more open spaces and beautiful views that I get to see daily. I can walk along the Pacific coast and watch the sunset. I wake up in the morning and look out the window to see these perfect looking mountain ranges. My drive to University is through a gorgeous canyon where every turn is a new view that still leaves me in awe. I could brag about the place I live and things I get to see all day. Yes, Paris had all the fancy old buildings and its own secret views in that sense, but there's nothing like seeing God's work in action on a 70 degree day.
I don't really understand how, but time moved differently when I was abroad. Days were shorter, but they moved slower and I was able to do so much more. The concept of time wasn't really something I felt like I had to think about. A 45-minute metro ride wasn't a big deal at all, I'd just go do things all the time without letting the clock determine if it was a good idea or not. I could walk half the city or go to a few different museums and still be back in time for dinner. I don't know how I did it. I'm a little upset with myself for going back to questioning if the 30-minute drive to Anaheim is worth it. Time moves fast again and days feel wasted if I don't get out of the house early enough. I miss the time warp of Europe and every day feeling like an adventure and a chance to make the most of every minute.
Yes, the metro system was nice and convenient, but I'm from Southern California where we don't have public transportation and my car is my best friend. I missed driving so much despite the traffic and the annoying things that come along with it. There's no feeling like driving down PCH with the music blasting. That's what I was excited to do when I got home. On the metro, I'd listen to music too, with headphones in to pass the time, but you can't sing along on the metro. It feels great to be back in my car singing my favorite songs at the top of my lungs. It's my favorite and something I couldn't ever do in Europe so it feels great to have that back in my life.
Since I've been back home it's been a whirlwind of getting coffee with this person or lunch with that person or dinner with someone else. Don't get me wrong, I love it all. It's so great being able to reconnect with all of these people I love so much and missed when I was gone, but I haven't really had many moments to myself. That's what I miss the most about Paris. In Paris, I had so much time to myself. Time to read. Time to wander. Time to think and write and do the things I love to do. It became my favorite part of the experience and something I wanted to bring home with me, but during these first few weeks I remembered why I didn't have that kind of experience before, because it's so much more difficult here. I live a fast paced life and I need to put in more of an effort to slow down. As I'm sitting and writing this post now, it's honestly the first chance I've had to really sit and think to myself like this and I still have plans to meet up with more people in about three hours. In Paris I would do this every day, just sit in a coffee shop and write. I guess most of my free time in Paris was due to the lack of responsibility like a job or copious amounts of homework so it was easier to prioritize time to myself because there was just so much time. I miss it a lot, so now it's just more of a new years resolution to get that back while I'm here.
I love the people in my life way too much. I don't want to admit to the amount of money I spent on stamps to send letters back to every single person I missed back at home. It only makes sense that the people here at home are the main reason why I'm so happy to be back. First off, my family is the coolest ever. Like I mentioned before, my favorite week in Paris was the week my mom came to visit because she's just too cool for words and the best travel buddy a girl could ask for. After my long long LONG day of travel to get back to the states, I pushed through the jet lag and sleep deprivation to go see my dad and brother who had a gig that night. My dad is also the coolest – thus why my mom married him – and my brother is my best friend whether he knows it or not. Then most of my winter break was spent reconnecting with friends. My old coworkers at Disney treated me like a celebrity when I came to see them all at work. Walking around deck, giving so many hugs, I was too happy to see them all again. I feel so blessed to have amazing people like that in my life. The number of friends that genuinely cared and wanted to know about my experience made me realize a lot about friendship. I have friends that I've had in my life for as long as I can remember that I now feel even closer to because of this experience. Friends that I didn't think I'd miss that much, but made me so much more excited to see them again. I'm even starting to miss some of my abroad friends already, so that's going to help fuel my stationary problem and fill their mailboxes with letters. My abroad experience put a new perspective on the people in my life and gave new meaning to the word friend.
Overall being back is a bitter-sweet, but for me, there's no place like home. Home is the familiar. Home is the people. I have a little list of places that feel like home to me, and yeah, now I think I can tack Paris to that bottom, number four position. I look forward to the day when I can afford to go back and show it all off to someone I love, but for now, I'm happy to be back in home number one.