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 café, 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 éclairs, 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.
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.