Today’s post will be a different one.
I was initially so excited to share the first set of photos I took in the city of lights while there last month but then Friday’s tragedies struck. Innocent people lost their lives, our very humanity was attacked and a city I hold so dear to me was suddenly under siege.
So today, instead of waxing on about the outfit in this post or telling you about my weekend, I want to share these photos alongside the backstory of what Paris has meant to me personally. Why Friday’s attacks left me reeling like so many (as you may recall I just returned back from Paris two weeks ago…)
I first fell in love with the city when I was just in elementary school. My family was living in London and took a trip to Paris. I remember it taking my breath away. I had never seen anything like it.
I’d be lucky to return on several more occasions and over the years through the study of the language throughout middle + high school, my interest in the culture and history took on more and more meaning.
It became my mission to study abroad in Paris when the time came in college to begin pursuit of that opportunity. However I was dealing with some personal and health-related struggles so my parents were cautious about sending me to a foreign country. I made the case that the challenge and the independence would be good for me.
In the end, they listened. And I’m grateful to this day for it.
You see, studying abroad became one of the most defining chapters in my life. The sense of independence I discovered, the challenge to live in a foreign country with a host mother who didn’t speak a lick of English, meeting a friend who to this day is one of the most important people to me, feeling lost and anxious and yet excited and exhilarated all at once…it was unlike anything I had experienced.
I remember my last night in Paris back in 2005. I had spent the day shopping for Christmas gifts for my family and stopping by all my favorite places. I walked towards Place de la Concorde. I stood looking down the Champs Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe. My mind seemed as though it was on rewind. It was replaying the past four months and I was struck by what a defining time this life in Paris was for me. I had embraced the unknown. I had gone out of my comfort zone. I had been challenged. I had been surprised. I had grown. And I knew that when I left the next day the city wouldn’t know I was gone and it wouldn’t be any different for the time I spent there.
But I knew what the city had changed in me. I felt as though I had a new lease on life. I was so excited for what lay ahead and I vowed I would find as many future opportunities to return to Paris as possible.
And you know what? I started wit & whimsy right after returning from Paris. The city and experience inspired me so much that I ended up creating a little corner on the internet that would later enable me to return to my beloved city on numerous occasions and be reminded of how it shaped my future.
When I am lucky enough to return, my heart is overwhelmed with a sense of peace and joy. I’ll never be able to fully put it into words…what this city makes me feel and how it has affected me so deeply, but I know my study abroad experience was a large part of defining what Paris means to me. The city, to me, represents so much of what is beautiful, inspiring and magical in this world and is a place I would wish every soul had the opportunity to experience.
I know Paris has touched the lives of so many. And sadly at this stage in our lives, horrific attacks like Friday makes it feel as though nowhere is safe. But what I do know is that we can pray for peace and for strength and for kindness. For one another and for the world. And we can be grateful for the experiences we have and know that life is too short and that it should be lived. I know Paris will rise up and be restored of its magic. Its people are strong and it will go on to enchant and excite its residents and visitors from around the world.
So I will end this post with a quote… “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently” – Maya Angelou
…and the wish that we may all start this week practicing a bit more courage, kindness and love <3.
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[Photos thanks to L’Amour de Paris Photography Par Stacy Reeves]