I write this as I prepare for my first solo overseas journey. Finally, after studying French for at least 15 years — including a minor degree in college — I will board a plane Tuesday that will carry me from Chicago to Charlotte to Charles de Gaulle.And I will spend an entire week, toute seule, in Paris, the city of my dreams.
I booked my flight at the beginning of February; I was a different person then. I was sad and angry and ready to escape the existence I had established the summer before. I bitterly detested men and was fully prepared to join a convent and never return to the disaster area that my life had become. And May seemed ages away, leaving me plenty of time to plan every second of my trip and everything I would see and do while I was there. (It's the Worthy way.) And all those things — the food, the wine, the art, the monuments — would help me forget about the men and my choices and the drama.
But February flew by, and March and April had passed before I even knew what had happened. Valentine's Day came two weeks after I bought my airline ticket; I spent the evening with friends, gorging myself on pizza and homemade cookies, chugging white wine and impressing everyone with my Warrior II post in Wii Fit yoga. Easily an improvement over last year's public Dance Dance Revolution spectacle at City North and subsequently mortifying (and amazing) screening of Step Up 2: The Streets. Hopeless romantic heart-shaped-chocolate-box and roses-in-cellophane girl that I am, single for one of her first Valentine's Days ever, it was probably my happiest.
And life has kind of continued that way. Things are looking up. I'm slowly but surely weeding the bad seeds from my life: the cads, the boozehounds, the people who stay up too late and keep me up with them. And the friendships I've been seeking since I (apparently) began my "adult life" after graduating from college, where friendships were defined by proximity and shared classes, are beginning to take shape and solidify. There are, of course, bad days. Quite a few, actually. Days where my focus is in tatters and I accomplish nothing at work but a few hundred Twitter posts and repeat viewings of the same YouTube video — because it's the only thing that will make me smile. Nights where a bottle of wine and a few misinterpreted IMs reduce me to tears and drive me to demolish a batch of raw chocolate-chip cookie dough. And leave me wondering which one really caused the final gag reflex. BUT. I think I can say now that they're outweighed, once again, by the days where I look back at bedtime and think, "Wow. This is my life." The rainy Fridays — "April showers bring May flowers" is a crock here in Chicago — where I'm running on four hours of sleep and the hem of my jeans is soaked to my knee for most of the day, my umbrella shredding in the wind as I walk to Starbucks for caffeinated sustenance the second time that day? Immediately dwarfed by days like yesterday: A warm, sunny Saturday that flooded the sidewalks with shiny, happy people with Maclarens and well-groomed family pets in tow. Unnecessarily huge iced chai in hand, my best girlfriend picked me up in a shiny orange MINI Cooper ZipCar. A two-hour reservation for a no-frills trip to Target for travel necessities and house-cleaning supplies became, after discovering the convertible button on the ceiling, a windblown joyride up Sheridan Road with Girl Talk's Feed the Animals blasting through the car's speakers. The sunshine was a drug: We sang along to the music, I danced in my bucket seat like I was in a car commercial; we honked at strangers, looped around circle drives on the Northwestern campus twice because we could. We were the two happiest people alive. We owned the world yesterday.
So here I am, four months after booking my flight to Paris looking to escape and regain control of my life. Every week leading up to this, I thought to myself, "Next week, I'll get to planning this trip." But that hasn't happened. Instead of stressing myself out trying to structure every second of my time in France, I've decided to spend my time there the way I live my life in Chicago: with spontaneity and openness to whatever opportunities present themselves. Travel guides and bookmarks and obsessive list making were for the girl I was in February. May Paige heads across the pond with a notebook and pen, the French I remember, a new haircut, two cameras, a great pair of flats, the dress of my dreams and an insatiable appetite for wine, cheese and life. Le monde m'appartient.