Dear Paris

How I learned to be in the moment.

Dear Paris,

I had so many questions before I met you. What is the best way to capture a memory? Can I take pictures and record video and still be in the moment? When I look back at a picture, can it change the way I remember the experience? How do I capture this study abroad adventure without missing the whole thing?

I was prepared to document every second of the trip. I wanted to remember every part of you. I bought a new camera, an extra battery and the largest SD card I could find. I even had a tripod with bendable arms that allowed me to attach it to pretty much anything, even a tree branch.

However, I began to second-guess myself when I watched my favorite scene from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on the flight over here.

Walter Mitty and Sean O’Connell are perched high in the Himalaya Mountains trying to capture a picture of the elusive ghost cat. Sean peers through the lense of his camera and the cat steps into frame. Sean pulls back from the lense and does not take the picture.

“When are you going to take it?” Walter asks.

“Sometimes I don’t,” answers Sean, “If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

“Stay in it?” wonders Walter.

“Yeah. Right there. Right here,” says Sean.

My visit with you was a tug of war. Being present in the moment vs. seeing the world through a camera lens.

Towards the beginning of the trip I took pictures and recorded everything. Is that a fat pigeon I see? Click. Is that the Eiffel Tower? Click. Oh look, it’s the Mona Lisa. Click click click.

The furthest away I ever got from being present in a moment was when I visited the Louvre. The Nintendo 3DS audio guide directed me around like mindless drones, flooding my ears with information about the masterpieces and distracting our eyes from the actual artwork.

I approached the deep crowd in front of the Mona Lisa like one would do at a Black Friday sale. There was a sense of urgency in the air. People shuffle their feet and push their way up to the front to snap a picture. I finally make it up to the front.

It’s one of the world’s most famous paintings and all I did was take a picture of it and walk away. I didn’t even look at it.

I quickly take a picture with the Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
I quickly take a picture with the Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
I’m sorry for not paying more attention to you in the beginning. I didn’t notice the sweet moments people shared in your parks. I didn’t notice how the light at sundown made your buildings glow. I didn’t understand your magic.

Feeling overwhelmed from the constant stimulation of museums and tourists, I escaped through running.

I could go anywhere, and I did. When I came to an intersection, you drew me in, like a faint whisper in my ear. I wasn’t worried about getting lost because I knew the metro could always get me home.

I ran by Notre Dame, through Luxembourg Gardens, past the Louvre and along the Seine. I dodged pigeons (most of the time), weaved through markets, and jumped over puddles hiding in the shadows of the trees. I ran with a huge smile across my face. I never run with a smile on my face. But, you reminded me why I love to run.

I don’t have any proof that this happened but I was there. I was in the moment and I will remember it forever.

Thank you, Paris, for showing me how to be there. To be here.



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