A Personal Tale: Inspiration, or the Lack Thereof
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Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Personal Tale: Inspiration, or the Lack Thereof

Paris France
This place...

I wonder what Fitzgerald or Picasso did when they felt like this. I mean, I could drink more, or go to a brothel. I just kind of assume that’s what these guys did back in the day when they needed inspiration. Maybe not. In any case, you’d think a city that spawns so much art, fashion, design, food, and literature would be a gushing spring of inspiration for me. But sometimes it just seems like a dusty old well, with only Timmy’s bones at the bottom (you know, that time Lassie got distracted).

I know, I know. Paris is beautiful. Its streets are bustling. Its people are gorgeous. Its monuments are monumental. I am lucky to live here, blah, blah, blah. I know. But right now, I just am not feeling it. Stuck between finishing a PhD thesis and waiting hopefully for citizenship, the joie de vivre and cancan dancing that usually mark my days has faded to the background, allowing (gulp) real life issues to come to the forefront.

I know I shouldn’t complain. And I’m not, really. But being in Paris is not the one-size-fits-all cure that many people think it is, and sometimes I don’t want to be here. As a tourist, sure, Paris is a stellar vacation spot. As an expat, however, it comes with its price. Especially in a post-Charlie world (a thing we seem to have forgotten), living with extra security checks and vamped up military presence while strolling the quaint streets is a chilling reminder that this city isn’t perfect. It’s rough.

Sitting in a caf√©, enjoying foie gras with a client, a beggar started asking for money (awkward). While hoping to enter the Galerie Colbert, the security guards said that new security measures prohibited tourists from passing through (sad). While buying my favorite √©clairs, several armed military men stood outside the Jewish school across the street. And now I'm back to thinking about how to renew my visa should French citizenship not become a reality. While relatively good problems to have, it’s a weird place to be, when all’s said and done.

This is just the city where I live, and these things don’t inspire much in the way of writing or new ideas. For tourists, as I see while tour guiding, all of this is new and exotic, because they get to return to their own familiar problems. For me, it’s a daily routine. Those Roma on the corner might seem quirky and bizarre for you, but for me they are permanent fixtures on my way to the metro.

Paris France
Just not feeling it...
The baguettes are still warm and fresh. The wine is still cheap and delicious. The museums are still teeming with exhibits and shows. But I just can’t find the spark to enjoy, to discover, to write. Chalk it up to keeping my head in the books, but I’m stuck.

While I regret not one moment of throwing myself into the expatriation thing so young, I’m starting to feel like it’s aged me. Sure, Hemingway moved to Paris at 22 as well, but those were different times, and he didn’t come with a student loan from NYU (my bad).

What does one do when Paris no longer excites? Can I get my Paris groove back? Who will be the Taye Diggs to my Parisian Angela Bassett?

Is it possible to hit a Parisian wall, beautiful and 19th century as it may be, and just give up on this place?

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll get a second wind sooner than I think. In the meantime, I’ll depend on chocolate almond croissants to keep me pushing through. If that’s not a reason to appreciate Paris, then, well, I’m out of tricks.

8 comments:

  1. Re: al lthe security.Now you know how we feel in the old country. I was thinking of moving over there, then Charlie Hebdo. No escape from the fear and its expressions. I recall troops with big guns in the airport after 9/11. Fear rules.

    Hope you get your groove back soon. Chocolate almond croissants and cheap but good wine remind me of better days in that fair city. Try to enjoy them til you find inspiration.

    Bon chance.
    Marje

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    1. I'll get past it for sure. The sunshine and warmth are helping, as well as some wine :)

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  2. I think we have certain "caps" that we (expats) pass through. My cycles seem to last four years before I start dreaming about returning to the States. When I was younger, it was feasible to act on these cycles. Now, mid-fifties, with children having come through the French education system, and a good job, I can't pull out and return to the States just because I'm Over The French.

    I wish I had done so, however, ten years ago. I don't see any real professional possibilities for my children here, and I hate to see them turning into Parisians, with all the classist attitude that implies.

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    1. Aiy! Well the US is always there for them to move to -- and then you can visit, right?

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  3. Nothing a summer picnic on the Seine can't fix. Now that the sun's out, what are you doing this weekend? ;-)

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  4. So you mentioned waiting for citizenship... I too am an American PhD candidate in Paris, and was hoping to request citizenship by naturalization (having done my masters in France). I was just worried about some dual nationality clause on travel.gov site (http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/legal-considerations/us-citizenship-laws-policies/citizenship-and-dual-nationality/dual-nationality.html) about it being considered as intent to give up US citizenship. Did you look into that at all before requesting citizenship? Do you have any insight? All the expats I've managed to contact about it got dual citizenship through marriage, which is a different story.
    Thanks for any thoughts on the subject!

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    1. Well it says "if they perform certain specified acts voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish U.S. nationality," but I did not apply with the intent to relinquish anything. So I'd say no need to worry. We're not the first non-married foreigners to apply for French citizenship :)

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    2. That's what I was thinking too, there was just some clause about considering the request itself as intent... but I believe supreme court decisions have ruled against that. I was just wondering if you had information I didn't, because it seems like a pretty scary unintended consequence to get kicked out of your home country! ;)

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