One year ago, while I was living in Paris, France, I got my second tattoo. My dad has always told me that if I’m going to get tattoos, I should get them while I’m in cool places and different countries. My first one, “beloved” in script on my foot, I got in Lexington, Kentucky. So, I decided to listen to my dad and get a tattoo before I left Paris. I had something in mind that I had wanted for over a year. I had my artist friend design it, found a shop that would do it for a reasonable price, and got my second tattoo done.
I spent a few weeks looking for a tattoo shop that would do it for under 200 euros, which is about $226. I didn’t even want to spend that much, but I also knew that getting a tattoo in Paris was going to be expensive. Meanwhile, I told my artist friend, Anna Renaud, who was with me in Paris about my design idea and she did an excellent job coming up with a design. I am so honored to have her art tattooed on my body. She is an incredible artist, and you should check out her work here! I finally found a newer little tattoo shop called Infernal Tattoo Shop. They were affordable, so helpful and did such a good job. Getting the tattoo was painful at first, but my arm went numb after the first 5 minutes and the last 40 minutes were relatively painless. I had a whole group of friends there with me and it was such a fun experience.
The design that I had been thinking about for a while was a version of the “Perichoresis” symbol. The word perichoresis is a Greek word, περιχώρησις, that refers to the relationship between the three persons of the triune God, or more commonly called, the trinity. How I understand the triune God is not only that the three persons are in community and relationship with each other, but that all humans are included in this relationship. Or, as one of my favorite theologians, Baxter Kruger, says, we are part of “The Great Dance”. Writer and pastor Stephen Barkley explains “The Great Dance” in his review of Kruger’s book of the same name: “Kruger uses the metaphor of dancing…to describe the life of Father, Son and Spirit. This life is woven through creation like a great river. The goal of God is to draw everyone into this river, this dance.” The idea that we are all included in a dance full of love and communion with the trinity is the most hopeful and joyful concept.
“Genuine acceptance removes fear and hiding, and creates freedom to know and be known. In this freedom arises a fellowship and sharing so honest and open and real that the persons involved dwell in one another. There is union without loss of individual identity. When one weeps, the other tastes salt. It is only in the Triune relationship of Father, Son and Spirit that personal relationship of this order exists, and the early Church used the word “perichoresis” to describe it. The good news is that Jesus Christ has drawn us within this relationship and its fullness and life are to be played out in each of us and in all creation.”
–Parable of the Dancing God, Baxter Kruger
I wanted to have this perichoresis symbol on my arm as a reminder that I am included in the Trinitarian dance, the Great Dance. But, I also wanted it to be a reminder that, according to the theological standpoint I am coming from, every human that I come in contact with is also included in this dance and is treasured and loved. The reason that I chose a design that incorporated flowers into the symbol was to represent the idea of life. Flowers are one of my favorite things about nature. To me, flowers are the ultimate symbol of life and being alive. Life is found in the Great Dance, which is why I chose to intertwine the symbol with flowers and leaves. I love how delicate and simple, yet deeply profound and artistic my beautiful tattoo is.
One of my favorite sections from theologian, Baxter Kruger’s, blog is this:
The Father himself set his love upon you before the foundation of the world and predestined you to be adopted into the very Trinitarian life of God. And his own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, has come and accomplished his Father’s dreams for you and the human race. And even now the Holy Spirit is bearing witness with your spirit that this is the truth.
–essay Why I Left Calvinism Behind, Baxter Kruger
A year later, this tattoo still means so much to me. It’s something that I see every day and I remember that I am alive and loved by the Triune God and I am included in The Great Dance.
In light of the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing this week, I felt it only right to share my thoughts, as well as the thoughts of a friend of mine. The following words are not up for discussion. I will not engage in online argument on this topic. Assault is wrong and I will never change my position on that.
I sat in most of my classes for the past two days, watching the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing with subtitles, because to me, that was more important than listening to lectures. I sat in classes crying as I watched person after person verbally attack Dr. Christine Ford. I watched as they belittled her and addressed her as Ms. Ford, when she has earned herself a PhD. She is Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and she should be addressed as such. I watched her speak with a voice, both shaking with fear and filled with bravery. I watched a broken woman be silenced as she tried to use her voice. My heart broke watching the hearing. My heart is still breaking and I am still angry. Dr. Christine Ford sacrificed so much to speak out not only for herself, but for women everywhere. She is courageous and bold.
Most women can remember a time when they were sexually harassed, even if it was just verbally. Most women can think of that “one time” when they could’ve been or almost were sexually assaulted. Some women can remember the time they WERE sexually assaulted.
I could’ve been sexually assaulted that one time.
It almost happened.
I was lucky.
I am beyond grateful that nothing more than an attempt happened to me. I didn’t get away because I was smart or did something right. I got away because I was LUCKY. So many people are not lucky. My body shakes when I use my voice to retell what happened to me that one time. But, small as it may be, what DID happen to me should be believed. What happened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford should be believed. Survivors should be believed, no matter how small or large the assault. When the #MeToo movement began, I remember posting about it and being told that if I hadn’t been actually raped, I shouldn’t use that hashtag. But, any level or form of sexual assault is valid. Every person’s voice should be heard. Survivors should be listened to and believed. I can't even imagine the pain that comes from experiencing sexual assault. I only had an unpleasant taste of it. Survivors don’t enjoy talking about their experiences. Dr. Ford said it beautifully when she said, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
This hearing not only angered me because a survivor was not believed or respected, but because this happens all the time. The President of the United States has been, on multiple occasions, accused of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. Yet, these women have been ignored and he is still in a position of leadership. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was not listened to, and now Brett Kavanaugh is closer to a leadership position. A professor at my university made horrific comments and sexually harassed women, yet he still teaches classes on this campus, a position of leadership. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you sexually harass or assault women, you should not be in any position of leadership or authority.
My friend Tori made some comments on the events of this week in her blog post entitled “When will our pain be enough for you?” that I feel are extremely valuable. She said the following,
As a survivor of sexual assault, these words cut me to my core, even though they aren’t directed at me. Comments like these, and the treatment of women like Dr. Ford, are the reasons I didn’t report. The reasons I kept silent. The reasons I carry that painful story inside of me and can’t let it go. The reasons my heart is constantly being re-broken all over again.
I encourage you to go read Tori’s entire blog post. Her voice is so valuable and beautiful. The words that fill the pages of her blog are filled with a beautiful anger at injustice and treatment of survivors. In her post, she says that Dr. Christine Ford is one of her heroes, and I can say the same, but Tori is also one of my heroes.
On a more political side of things, if you believe that putting this man, Brett Kavanaugh, on the Supreme Court for the rest of his lifetime is a bad decision, I beg you to make noise. Senator Kamala Harris started a petition against the nomination of Kavanaugh. Sign it. Make noise. Use your voices.
Finally, this video re-posted by World Relief this week is both empowering and beautiful. My favorite line says, "We dance and fight for justice until every woman is free."
*None of the photos/artwork above are mine.
I came to the university where I am studying because I had scholarships and a staff discount because of my mom's job. I never loved it. At first, I was more optimistic and excited. But I don’t love it. Some days I wish I would have gone somewhere else. Other days, I know that someday I will be grateful. For anyone who doesn’t know, I go to a small, Christian, liberal arts university in the heart of Kentucky. I've been here for two years now. I'm graduating early, so this third year will be my last. When I started two years ago, I was timid, but full of opinions. I was used to being in a community where my ideas and thought and beliefs were at least acknowledged and listened to. But that first year of college, I felt more alone and ignored than I had ever felt before. I didn't agree with most of the staff, faculty, and students on politics or even theology. I still don't and it's lonely most of the time. At first, I thought that I could have opinions and be respected as a person, but it didn't really work how I thought it would. I ended up feeling alone and hurt all the time. I still feel alone in my thoughts sometimes, but I've learned that I have a voice and that my voice deserves to be heard even if no one cares to listen.
I should also explain that all these stories you’re about to read are from the past two years. But, there was a lot that hurt me in similar ways before I started college too. My family was extremely hurt by our church and I had a lot of teachers in high school who didn’t care to listen to my opinions and constantly told me that I was wrong. These stories below focus on the past two years of hurt, and it has been pretty bad in a lot of ways, but there is a lot more that has turned me into the person I am today.
I remember one time when I was studying with people and we started talking about theology. I started explaining some of my beliefs and someone called me a heretic. He said I shouldn't feel bad because the Pharisees called Jesus a heretic too. But at the time, it just hurt.
Another time, I was sitting in the campus coffee shop and a guy who didn't even go to the school, a sibling of a classmate, started arguing with me about something that I had said in a conversation with one of my friends. Besides the fact that he was entirely uninvolved in the conversation, he treated me like I knew absolutely nothing. I remember every part of that experience and how insignificant he made me feel. But, he didn't stop there. He asked my name and the next day, I got a Facebook message from him. He continued to argue with me in his message, tearing me down, and ultimately telling me that he would be praying for me that I would come to see the light (or some bullshit like that).
And another time, a student informed me that I would be going to hell for who I chose to vote for in the 2016 Presidential election. In case you can't guess, I voted for Hillary.
Still another time, I waited until after my Bible class was over to talk with the professor. I hate questioning professors in front of the class, so by waiting, I was attempting to be respectful. I had even brought in a book to back up my opinion and question. But, when I asked, the only reply I received was "No, that's wrong". That was the first time that I went out of my way to ask a question to a professor, and I haven't done it much since.
And still, another time, I stated some of my beliefs to a person I was trying to be friends with. He wouldn’t let me explain my beliefs and instead chose to make fun of me in the moment. The next day, he chose to ignore me entirely. He has yet to acknowledge my presence as a human being to this day. It’s been over a year now and I see him almost every single day.
I've been told countless times that I don't even know or understand what I believe, that I only believe what I believe because that's my dad believes, and that if I can't explain it perfectly, then I shouldn't be talking. These are not things people say to empower young people. These sentences and actions that I've heard and dealt with first-hand only tear people down. I spent the first two years of my college career being torn down for being myself and speaking my mind. It took two years for me to realize that I don't have to let people tear me down. It took two years to learn that I have a voice and it's louder than I thought. Because of all those experiences, I became voiceless and angry. I hid everything I believed and thought and just tried to fit in. But the thing is, I eventually learned that I wasn’t made to fit in. I learned that I had a voice and that I could use it without letting the things that people said to me or the way they treated me stop me. That doesn’t mean that sometimes I still want to hide. I still get angry and I still get hurt, but I also have a sense of peace in knowing that what I think matters.
We should be starting conversations. We should be letting people explore what they believe and not constraining them to one path. Now that I know I have a voice that matters, I can’t not use it. When people treat me like I don’t matter, I am not going to be quiet. Since I am here for this year, I want to be a person who helps younger students find their voice and realize that they deserve to be heard. Even if their opinion or belief seems as though it’s different from everyone else, they don’t have to shut up and hide. They can be bold and talk about what they believe.
To all the people who shut me down and made me feel like I didn’t have a voice, I forgive you. I honestly feel bad for you. We go to a school where we are taught to show Christ’s love. The fact that you treated me in such an un-Christ like manner makes me pity you. I want you to be able to have conversations and hear people’s opinions. I mentioned it in my last blog post; as humans, we desperately need community to grow. By shutting me down, you shut yourselves off to learning and growing from your community. I hope that you have changed. I hope that the next time a fellow classmate or student tries to share their thoughts with you, you listen. You made me feel worthless and no one ever should be made to feel that way.
To the students still at this school, specifically, I hope you know that I will always listen. Even if I don’t agree with you, I will listen. I will never mock you. I will never shut you down with such hate. I hope that you are never treated like I was. You are not voiceless. You have a voice. You deserve to be heard.
I bought some prints from Parabo Press the other day. They are incredible and use recycled paper! Check them out and use this code for a $10 discount: MLOBSL. I really love these square prints!
Well anyway, for these prints for my apartment, I decided to use photos I had taken in Paris and edit them all in black and white. Once I got them and laid them out to hang on the wall, I started thinking about how they may be black and white, but the in-between is grey. Not every picture was perfectly black and white. Maybe that's just how I edit photos, but it's how I like it.
There is something unclear and unfamiliar about the grey parts of life. But there is also something really unique and undiscovered about the grey. There is a comfort in knowing exactly what you believe or feel, but if we live life in comfort, we will live boring lives. In fact, I don't think that living in comfort is even living at all.
"A ship is always safe at shore- but that is not what it is built for."
If we always stay on the shore, or in the safety of comfort, we will never sail the seas, or have amazing experiences and learn incredible things. Likewise, if we never listen to other people's opinions, we will never learn anything new. Lately it's felt like people all think in black and white. They hold so strongly to their opinions that they won't even allow themselves a chance to learn. We have to start letting ourselves live in the grey. It's okay to not have everything figured out and it's okay to have questions. Personally, I don't think we should ever stop asking questions. When you let yourself stop learning, you close people out of your world. Humans thrive from learning from each other and being in community. So why is it that we stop asking questions and cling to either the black or the white? I think the answer to that question is the fear of the uncertain.
The same goes for our dating lives. Despite my not so lucky dating history, I love this topic. We let fear control us to the point where we lean towards one side or the other, when, in order to be in a healthy relationship, we should be somewhere in the middle. Let me explain. How I see it, one side is the shy, very unconfident person who feels as though they can never ask someone out or express their feelings. It comes from fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment...you get what I mean. The other side is the over-confident asshole that asks everyone out and flirts with everyone. We usually refer to these types as the, excuse my language, "fuckboys", "whores", etc. They lead us on and then end up not being able to express their true feelings. But again, I think the deep issue here is fear. In a very different way, it's still a fear of rejection, and maybe an insecurity in themselves and a reputation that they feel can't be lost. But, if we learn to live in the grey in our dating lives, we will be able to have much healthier relationships and live in a strong confidence that isn't overcompensating for fear.
Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing inherently bad with being afraid. For sure, it holds us back sometimes, but we are human. We can't change the fact that fear is a present thing in our lives. What we can change is how we deal with it. Living in the grey is scary. The most important thing that I've learned about the in between black and white is that I can't be there alone. You have to have people there with you. It has to be a discussion. The grey is lonely and impossible on your own. And even when you do have people in the grey with you, it won't always feel like they're there. You won't agree on everything. But, that's the point. Despite everything, there is a relationship built on love and communication. Anything is open to discussion and a there is a bond formed like nothing else you will ever experience. I may not have hundreds of these people, in-fact, I probably have around 10, but I have my people. And I didn't find these people all at once. Some of these people don't even know each other. But, I know who my people are. And I think they, whether I have told them or not, know that they are my people. And wow, am I grateful for these people. They have honestly changed my life for the better and introduced me to so many ideas and thoughts. They are incredible people.
I guess what I'm saying is to find your people. Don't let fear stop you from finding people to live in the grey with. Find people who encourage you to think and to think outside the box. Find people who you can trust completely, no matter what. Find people who love you for who you are, and who don't try to change you. Hold on to what you believe loosely and with an open mind. Never stop standing up for what you believe, but be willing to admit that you may not be right. This takes so much humility and my friends will tell you that I am not always the best at this, but it makes your life so much more beautiful in the long run when you can admit that you might be wrong. Live into your fear. Don't let it hold you back from living your life. Challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone, think differently, and live in the grey. Explore the unfamiliar and let yourself be uncomfortable sometimes. You'll find that you can do amazing things between the black and the white.
As I write this blog post, I am in a van, heading back to school after a four-day weekend in Chicago. Fair warning, this is about to get unashamedly real. The past couple months in the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky have been a huge personal challenge. From getting through reverse culture shock, to trying to be myself in a place where I don’t necessary thrive, it’s been difficult, emotional, and ultimately a beautiful learning experience.
I don’t love school, but I am good at it. I get shit done and I show up to class. The problem is that I go through each day, with a constant desire to drop-out and run away to bigger cities full of freedom and possibility. I feel stuck, and I want out. This is one thing that I haven’t figured out how to deal with or process emotionally. At this point, I just don’t see the point of being here at Asbury and studying something that I defaulted to just because I placed out of some of the classes. And besides, I am done with every class required for my French major at the end of this semester. So why am I here? Is any of this going to be worth it? Is it really necessary to keep paying money to an institution that it doesn’t feel like is teaching me anything? So, until I find answers to these questions, I will sit through class after class and be a responsible student like I know how to do. I have one year to go and maybe someday I’ll realize that it was all worth it.
Relationships with people have been tricky recently, but also have been beautiful pictures of grace and redemption that have been getting me through this semester. In the past, I’ve trusted people who said they were my friends, only to be rejected and hurt. None of that was necessarily my fault, but I didn’t love myself enough to realize my worth as a friend and as a person, so I let people manipulate and step all over me. I have learned so much from that hurt and I’m continually learning to love myself more and more. In the past few months, it’s been absolutely beautiful to see a broken friendship be reconciled and turn into an incredible support and encouragement system. So much joy has come from that healing. Other sweet friendships have grown into honest, real friendships and I am beginning to realize that I have real friends who care about and love me, and who I can trust. It’s hard to believe sometimes, but these friendships are so comforting and precious.
I love cities. There is a quote I heard once: “The city was alive and so was she.” That sums up exactly how being in a city makes me feel: alive, free and like anything is possible. I feel confident and feel like myself. I can see a joy in myself that I can’t see when I am anywhere else. I know who I am and who I want to be; everything is clear and I feel inspired. Last semester, I fell in love with the beautiful city of Paris. It changed my perspective on life and it gave me new and bigger dreams. It isn’t something that most people understand, but I will be back in Paris one day. It’s a big dream that very few people in my life know how to support. Not that people don’t believe in me, but they don’t understand and I can’t blame them. I’m only twenty years old, going around saying that I want to open my own specialty coffee shop in Paris, France. It sounds crazy, it does. But, spending this weekend in Chicago just validated and grew that dream for me, so get ready for me to sound even crazier!
This little weekend trip was a class trip for my Contemporary Art Seminar class, so we visited the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art while we were there. While those were interesting and good experiences, the places that I felt inspired were at a small, empty gallery and a photography studio. The gallery, called Patron, is run by a woman who graduated from Asbury and the encouragement that she gave to us was so reassuring. The photography studio belongs to a local food photographer, Kelly Allison, who had our class over for dinner and gave us a tour and talked to each of us about your dreams and goals. Her hospitality was much appreciated and she was so full of life and joy, but also realistic and down-to-earth. These two women had big dreams and they stepped out into the world with a confidence and determination that has helped them reach the place that they are today. They were the inspiration that I needed this weekend and I will forever be grateful for that. Along with these two women, my Professor, who lived in Paris with us last semester, reminded me of how proud she is of me and how she can’t see me living anywhere other than Paris. She is a huge support and encouragement in my life and I couldn’t agree with her more.
These little experiences in Chicago this weekend helped me to gain a clearer perspective on what my dream involves. The thing is that I want something to organize and manage beyond just a café in Paris. I want to help people with more than just their caffeine intake. I’ve started to realize how much I love seeing peoples’ personalities through their art. So, having a café that is within the confines of an art gallery is exactly what I want. I’ve seen it done as a photography gallery, but as far as I know, an art gallery café does not exist in Paris yet. I would love to be the person who makes this happen. Not only would I be able to meet travelers and locals through my café, but I would be making real connections in the art world in Paris, and potentially helping to support young artists. It’s a big, crazy dream, for sure, but there isn’t anything stopping me from trying.
When I texted three long paragraphs about my dreams and realizations to one of my best friends, his reply was “So now it’s time to chase this?” The answer to that questions is a resounding YES. Dreams are meant to be chased. It is a huge risk, but it gives me joy. So, to the people who support and believe in me, thank you. And to the people who tell me this is silly and unrealistic, you’re wrong. Let me dream. It’s only a crazy dream until it’s a damn reality. And you just wait.
As a coffee connoisseur, I appreciate a good coffee and I know what bad coffee tastes like. The iconic café atmosphere in Paris is just that: an iconic atmosphere. However, the coffee is actually horrible at the cute little patio cafés on the streets of Paris.
Along with the adorable atmosphere and traditional Parisian aesthetics, you basically have three options for coffee:
So, if you go to Paris, for sure go to a classic Parisian café like in the movies, and get the Café for the Instagram, but be warned. Once you do that, be sure to check out one of the newer trends in Paris: the specialty coffee shop. There are so many great, delicious coffee shops that use coffee beans that have been properly roasted at Parisian Roasteries. You can enjoy coffee in Paris that isn’t burnt and watery! I went to so many cute hipster coffee shops and I loved every single one. I even interned for one of my favorites!
Most of the specialty coffee shops in Paris are not owned or run by French, but rather expats (“An expatriate, often shortened to expat, is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than their native country.” –Wikipedia). So, within the community of specialty coffee shops in Paris, there is so much friendliness and of course some healthy competition. But everyone within this coffee community knows each other and it’s such a cool thing to see, especially in such a big city.
My two favorite specialty coffee drinks in Paris were:
Here are a few coffee shops located in beautiful Paris that I loved and frequented:
Le Peloton Café
4th arrondissement / 17 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe
This is my favorite coffee shop in Paris. I absolutely adore this charming little place that always has such a sense of community and is very welcoming. The name “Le Peloton” translates to the word for a group of bicyclists at the front of a race. So, the décor inside the café is complete with a bicycle hanging on the wall and many Tour de France posters. The tables and chairs are a bright yellow, and every day, fresh yellow roses are placed in purple accented wine bottles on each table. And the coffee is absolutely delicious. I went so much, that when I would walk in, they would automatically start making me a latte because I always ordered the same thing! Oh and their waffles?! They are to die for. Order them with Nutella or go with a salty version, complete with cheese, egg and ham. The last day I was in Paris, I stopped by to say goodbye to this lovely little café in Le Marais, and oh how I miss those lattes.
3rd arrondissement / 106 Rue de Turenne
This coffee shop is the definition of minimalistic. The simplistic black and white color scheme and basic decor is extremely aesthetically pleasing. Even the sign’s font, which is all lowercase letters, screams minimalist. Café fringe is a dream. When you walk in, the cloud like lamps make the atmosphere peaceful and calming. The catch-phrase “coffee food photography” perfectly sums up this lovely café. The hipster food, from bouddha bowls to fancy open sandwiches, are delicious and the coffee and tea is delightful! They have a number of vegan and gluten-free options, but they are still very tasty. And to top it all off, they serve refreshing sparkling water on the house! While in Paris, I would spend hours here, editing photos among the many photographers and others who stopped by for meetings and coffee breaks. The atmosphere was perfect for a young photographer living in Paris and the walls were always filled with different photographers’ works. Café fringe is a cozy place that I will be revisiting as soon as I get back to Paris.
3rd arrondissement / 40 Rue Chapon
I found this cozy place during the last month of my stay in Paris. I wish I had found it sooner especially since it is near my favorite contemporary art museum in Paris, Centre Pompidou, and the little tattoo shop where I got my second tattoo. The warm décor and cozy benches lined with pillows invite you into the coffee shop. If you walk further, there is a little room with comfy chairs and mirror walls where I would sit and read. Even further, there are big tables and couches in a room of beautifully patterned walls. The room is perfect for the hours of studying and writing papers that I had during that last month in Paris. Their café crème is to die for and their customer service is excellent. They also have different sandwiches every week and they are always so unique and delicious. If you’re looking for a great, cozy study spot, this is the place for you.
Matamata Coffee Bar
2nd arrondissement / 58 Rue d'Argout
This adorable shop was one I just happened to stumble upon. I immediately loved the bright red cups and the floral décor on the logo and the wallpaper in part of the shop. It was such an inviting little place, with cute tables out front and friendly people inside. I sat and studied that first day for a while, and enjoyed a delicious café crème, my typical order. I went back a few weeks later and it was just as lovely as the first time, all decorated with live plants on all the tables. I met quite a few travelers and people just passing through Paris from all over the world- it definitely had that kind of atmosphere. Matamata is just a great place to sit and read a book or catch up with a friend.
10th arrondissement / 27 Rue du Chateau d'Eau
First off, the name of this café took me a while to catch onto. I think the idea is that it’s a play on the word “hope” and is also an acronym for “Objets / Homemade / Pâtisserie / Épicerie”. That translates roughly to “Objects / Homemade / Pastry / Grocery”. Basically, it is a café, pastry shop, and gift shop. You can sit and have coffee and pastries with friends and then wander around the little shop before you leave. The first time I went was with one of my good friends, Alexa. The pastries are created to perfection and the coffee (and tea) is wonderful. In the gift shop portion, there are handmade plates, cups and other trinkets as well as little food gifts. It is all so aesthetically beautiful and such a lovely atmosphere.
Each afternoon that I spent in a different coffee shop, made me want to start my own. Having my own café in Paris and meeting new people from all over the world sounds amazing to me. It may not happen, but for now, I will be dreaming of all the wonderful coffee that awaits me back in Paris.
When I left for Paris, as an opinionated, but timid, college Junior, I didn’t realize that Paris would change me so much. I figured that I would learn the language a bit more and have a great experience, but I came back different. I am not going to say that I came back a different person, because that is utterly cliché. But, in some ways, Paris really did change me. I learned so much from the people I met and from the culture that I was in. Paris has a way of making you see things differently. I came back on November 28th, with a solid grasp on who I am and a confidence that I had never seen in myself before. So, here are some short letters to the people and place that I learned from this semester: my host family, an amazing Professor, two sweet friends, some of the Frenchmen I went on dates with, the whole group of students who went with me, and the beautiful city of Paris.
To the family who adopted me as their daughter for three months, you showed me a generosity like no other. You included me in your family and genuinely helped me acclimate and adapt to my surroundings. Laurence, you taught me how to be the perfect French housewife while also having a career that you love. You had me help with meals and chores, and truly, I loved every minute of it. You were an amazing stand-in mother while I was hundreds of miles away from my own. André, you taught me to be much more confident and bold with my French speaking skills. Although your native language is British English, you did not once, in three months, speak a word of English to me. And you made sure that I only spoke French. I never would have improved so much without your daily questions in French over a breakfast of toast and coffee. So, to the both of you, thank you for teaching me so much and taking such good care of me in Paris.
To my Art History professor, I didn’t come to Paris excited about the art. I wanted to say that I had been to the art museums because that is what you do in Paris, but I just have never understood art. I still don’t sometimes, but I have a much larger appreciation for art after this semester. I remember wandering into the Musée d’Orsay only a few hours before an Art History exam and sitting in front of each painting or sculpture, reading over my notes for the test. It was a moment that I will never forget. For the first time since I was a little girl, I was learning something. Not just memorizing words to write down on a test, but truly learning. Not only were you an amazing professor, you were there to help our entire group with anything that we might have needed. You spent time not only teaching us, but getting to know us. Thank you for teaching me how to learn and showing me that I am loved.
To the boy I dated for three weeks and who joked that it was love at first sight, you taught me to believe in love again. I may not have actually fallen in love with you, but you showed me that even after heartbreak, love is a possibility. You taught me how to open my heart again after I had given up on love. You treated me with the utmost respect and kindness. You showed me how a man should treat me. You taught me that men can be charming and romantic in real life, even if it feels like a movie. You let me believe in the magic around me and gave me hope. Even though it didn’t work, you let me go with grace because I honestly believe that you did love me. And when you love something, you let it go. Thank you for filling my heart with hope.
To the two boys that I went on disappointing dates with, one of whom said, “when a woman says no, it doesn’t always mean no” and the other who got a bit too personal with the questions, you both taught me to stand up for myself. The two of you pulled me back into reality with your demeaning actions and words and showed me that life isn’t always magical. You showed me that French men may be charming, but they can simultaneously be the absolute worst. That probably isn’t what either of you meant to teach me, but I learned that some men, like yourselves, don’t know how to act like men. Instead they act like immature boys. Thank you, for, well, mostly nothing, but in some twisted way, thank you both.
To the boy who believed in himself, you taught me that sometimes the best outcome is friendship. You helped me see myself as a strong woman and you showed me how to be confident. You taught me that love isn’t easy and that you can’t give up. But, you also showed me that sometimes you have to let go to live. And most of all, you taught me how to be a friend. For that, I am forever grateful. See you in Paris in a couple years.
To the two girls who were a steady stream of encouragement and love, I couldn’t have done this semester without you. You two were always there for me. From helping me with hair and makeup crises to letting me yell about dumb boys, you were always there. I know I was crazy and annoying at times, but I am ever thankful for your love and support. I felt cared about and valued by the two of you and I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you for giving me a safe place to talk, share, cry, and laugh. I love you two.
To the group of people who went on this adventure with me, I never knew how much you would feel like family. We learned together, laughed together, and grew together. I am thankful for each one of you. You challenged me to be a stronger and better person and you showed me love, acceptance, and friendship. I would not be in the place I am today, if it weren't for each of you beautiful humans. We had the adventure of a lifetime because we were strong together.
To Paris, the city of lights, you taught me to be myself. As I walked along your old cobblestone streets, I learned to be independent. When I sat in your gardens with a good book, I learned to be still and be happy being alone. Each time I practiced your beautiful language, I grew a little more confident. As I visited your boutiques and shops, I learned to not care what people think of me. When I sat in your cafés, I learned to enjoy everything and everyone around me. You taught me to hold my head up high and be confident in the woman that I have become. So, to the beautiful city of Paris, thank you for introducing me to some of my favorite things and teaching me so much. I will be back to visit you someday. Maybe I’ll even move back to live there.
I may not be a different person, but Paris changed me for the better. I’m a little more pretentious, a bit more independent, and a lot more confident now. I wouldn’t change those three amazing months in Paris for anything. Thank you to every single person I mentioned for teaching me life-long lessons of love, confidence, friendship, and hope.
Fashionista: not a word that I would ever use to describe myself. Yet, somehow, I wound up going to a Paris Fashion Week show, any fashionista’s dream. A good friend told me that I could send emails to different designers begging for a press invitation, so I took her advice and went for it. I figured it would be an awesome opportunity as a photographer and blogger. Maybe I would even get some recognition in the online photography and fashion worlds. This has yet to be determined- maybe this blog post will help. I wrote over sixty emails to different designers and four days later, I received a reply from one designer. The email only included a time and an address. The show happened on the very last day of Paris Fashion Week. The designer, a lesser known, but extremely talented, Paris-based Korean designer has two shops in Paris. This show was to introduce her Spring and Summer of 2018 collection.
I spent the week before the show finding an outfit with the help of friends here in Paris and the day of the show, my amazing friend and stylist, Sophie, did my makeup. I felt beyond glamourous that evening. Then the waiting began. I stood outside the Moon Young Hee show location, Paris Université Descartes, for over an hour before the show actually began. My favorite part about it was watching the people who had come to watch the show. Some women wore dresses and heels, while others wore jeans and sneakers. Some men wore ties and suits, while others wore leather jackets and jeans. Some women, and men for that matter, wore makeup, while others were au naturel. All the different styles were entirely different.
I’ve noticed here in Paris that the everyday street style is actually quite a personal decision. Comfort is key and as long as you walk with confidence, no one really cares what you wear. It was the same with the fashion show attendees. But every single person there held themselves in a very confident manner. Another note on street style in Paris is that people don’t own loads and loads of clothes. Parisians buy few, good quality items. Unlike the general preference in the United States, Parisians tend to prefer quality over quantity. Parisians wear what is comfortable, but they also wear name-brand. Even in the metro or bus, you can always see a variety of styles. Some look like they aren’t trying and others look like they are trying too hard, but they all look confident and somehow fashionable. As my three months continued in Paris, and having brought only a limited amount of clothes that I could fit into my two suitcases, I learned to dress like a Parisian. I wore the same outfits every week and added a couple items to my wardrobe. Sneakers with tights and a leather jacket with a blanket scarf are only two examples of fashion choices that I brought back to the United States with me. And to be honest, I don’t really care what people think about my fashion choices, now. I wear what I want to wear and I keep my head up with that French confidence that I learned those three months in Paris.
The fashion show was short, but quite entertaining. Rows of people dressed in all sorts of outfits sat on either side of the magnificent room, sunlight spilling through the beautiful, old windows. Being part of the press, I was directly facing the show. Bleachers were placed at the end of the runway for photographers and videographers to set up their equipment. I sat in front, on the floor with a few other photographers and an excellent view of the show. Calm yet steady music began and one by one, models walked down the stairs and straight towards me. Some paused at the end for a moment to let us take photos and others just kept on walking. From the moment that the show began, until the very end, the sound of camera shutters opening and closing was overwhelming. The collection was simple in color, mostly shades of blacks, whites, and greys. The designs were a deconstructed yet feminine look with many layers and different types of fabric. After each unique outfit had its turn in the spotlight, the models filed out for the finale followed by the designer stepping out for a just a mere second. And just like that, it was over. People immediately walked out of the walked out the doors. I assume, pleased with the collection they had just seen. It may have only been a short fifteen minutes, but my Paris Fashion Week experience is not an experience I will forget anytime soon.
A couple weeks later, I went to a fancier area of Paris than I usually hung out in for an afternoon tea outing with some friends. While in the area, Place Vendôme to be exact, I stumbled upon the Louis Vuitton Maison Vendôme with the recent installation of a golden sun on the exterior of the building. I had seen photos on Twitter earlier that week, but I had no idea I would see it for myself. As the sun shone down on Paris, the golden sun on the House of Louis Vuitton glittered with radiance. It was an incredible sight to see and for a mere second, I was taken away to the world of Paris fashion and glamour filled with memories of my Paris Fashion Week experience.
In the words of the lovely French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, "Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself." In true French culture, wear what you want and be confident. Believe in yourself and live your life to the fullest. And if you are ever in Paris, visit Angelina's for the best hot chocolate you will ever taste and a view of the table Coco Chanel would sit at in the mid 1900's between meetings and fashion shows.
I’ve been here for a little over one month. The first two weeks were a whirlwind of experiencing the magic and charm of Paris. The third week was filled with travelling to small French towns and getting used to day to day life here. The past couple weeks, the charm started to wear off. They were stressful weeks because I had two tests and a paper due and I didn’t get a lot of time to explore or enjoy Paris. All I saw was a dirty, scary city. And then someone handed me a book that started putting the charm back in this magical city of lights. I was sitting in the beautiful Luxembourg gardens disappointed in myself. Before coming to Paris, I had vowed to stay off Netflix while I was here. But, I was so exhausted after studying all week that I broke and Netflix is all I wanted to do. But as I sat in this incredible garden, looking out at the Luxembourg palace, book open to a chapter about this very place, I started showing myself grace and the charm of the city started coming back. The wind blew my hair across my face and I closed my eyes, content and filled with joy. Paris was magical again and my rose-colored glasses were put back in place.
Here are 10 of my biggest accomplishments this month:
Now, I’m headed to Barcelona for the weekend with 5 of my favorite people in Paris with me. We leave at 3 am on Thursday morning and are staying on a yacht! Look for a post about Barcelona soon!
I came to France dreaming of ways I could get a French visa. I wasn’t intending to start down the path that may lead me to that dream, but as the French say C’est la vie! (life happens)…
Paris is magical place to fall in love. It may be the city of lights, but the romance is far from lacking in this beautiful city. And my little story is full of this romance and magic. It started out as a single date in this enchanting city and turned into a whirlwind romance that lasted only a few weeks. It just wasn’t meant to be. However, the magic of Paris grew and it helped me believe in love again. It was a wonderful two and a half weeks. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.
As her parting words, a friend back home suggested I get a French dating app and go on a couple dates. I am in Paris, right?! Why not meet some nice French guys and practice my French? So, jokingly, a friend and I downloaded dating apps just to see what kind of French men we would find. Most of the guys were either boring or dumb, but then I happened on one guy who seemed a bit different. From the very first message, my two friends began planning the wedding. It was to take place in Notre Dame Cathedral followed by a River Boat Party on the Seine River. These two seemed more interested in this budding romance than even myself and thus, the teasing began.
Anyways, after messaging for a couple days, he asked me on a date to a café the following evening. Plans were made, and we met at the beautiful Luxembourg gardens at dusk. Four of my friends, who are here in Paris with me, followed me, taking photos along the way, to make sure the sweet Frenchman wasn’t a serial killer. I mean, he had two master degrees and worked on the Champs Elysées, the most fashion/luxury street in Paris, so how bad could he be?! This first date consisted of lots of walking around the city and quite a bit of awkwardness. The date with the handsome Frenchman ended well and I was even kissed under a beautifully lit Notre Dame Cathedral. That was a bit of a surprise. Before the date, I had done a lot of research on French dating, just in case I needed any of the information. I didn’t that night, but only days later came of the most French things I have experienced thus far.
The following week was filled with walks through the gorgeous streets of Paris and sitting in gardens and parks talking and getting to know each other. From that first date, his French accent had me smitten. A favorite phrase he said to me in broken English: "You're the best thing that has happened to me since a long time." Unfortunately, he didn’t speak much French to me, because he had just returned from a semester abroad in America and loved speaking English. Nonetheless, Google Translate was our friend and often mediator. On the other hand, he thought my French accent was “cute” and I still don’t know whether to be offended by that or not.
Well, only four days after that first date, the words “I love you” came out of his mouth and I have never had more culture shock than in that very moment. In America, you would never say those three precious words unless you were sure that you wanted to be in a serious relationship with someone. But alas, this is France and the way of life here is a bit different. So of course, “I love you” or as the French say "Je t’aime" doesn’t mean the same thing in France as it does in America. Here it just means a very casual, “I like you and enjoy spending time with you”. I still don’t really know what I replied, as I was so much in shock. I quickly said goodnight and headed back to my American friends to discuss the night’s events. We all began researching and messaging people who may have some information as to what he actually meant by these three words. Eventually, we found out the French meaning and were all put at ease.
The cliché Parisian dates continued. We ate at cafés for lunch, drank chocolat (hot chocolate) in the afternoons, walked hand in hand along the Seine river, ate pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants) in gorgeous French gardens, walked along the glamourous Champs Elysées, and kissed under a sparkling Eiffel tower. The charm of Paris grew and he laughed at me every time I said something about Paris being magical. We were falling in love in the city of lights and it still think it may have just been a dream.
He was charming and respectful. He was romantic and sweet. He never failed to remind me how beautiful I looked in both English and French. They say that French men are romantic and let me tell you, they are not wrong! I was charmed by this French way of romance and admiration. The “I miss you” and “I love you” texts were unending and the flirting was abundant, but welcomed. The French nicknames began from “canon” (literally translates to canon, but is a slang for gorgeous) to “mon cœur” (my heart). He was over the top enamored with me and I don’t know how that happened.
In only three weeks, I fell in love with him in French, and had even started falling in love with him in English. But alas, I’m sad to say that it didn’t work out. We met in yet another beautiful Parisian garden on a beautiful sunny day, only for me to tell him that I couldn’t continue to see him. Our beliefs didn’t line up enough to continue the relationship and I had decided to end it. He didn’t say much and I may have cried, but he kissed my cheek, said goodbye. I watched as he slowly walked away, my dream of a French visa dying with every step.
I’ll never forget my whirlwind French romance that almost got me a French visa. It may have ended quickly, but it was magical and memorable. Oh, and for anyone especially interested, I live tweeted the entire thing (including a photo). Link here.