Paris: Of Packing and Existentialism

Andres Lara is a student at Montclair State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Andres is currently studying abroad in Paris on an ISA Fall 1 program.

I find myself sitting in lotus position, mentally separating pieces of clothing worthy of a Paris backdrop, and listlessly calibrating my level of excitement.  I wonder if I should’ve waited a couple more days to write the first entry to this blog, because honestly, the idea that I’ll be in Paris in about a week has not hit me yet.  Call it skepticism.  Call it denial.  Call it what you want, but it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m not completely sure how to react yet.

I think part of it has to do with the verbal reassurance and anecdotal wisdom that floods my room at this moment.  Masses of eager individuals, ready to share their excitement and nostalgia at the slightest acknowledgement or the smallest piece of information.  A mélange of family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and even perfect strangers, all there to lend an enthusiastic hand.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful for the support but honestly, it’s exhausting to assimilate so many emotions in such a short amount of time.

If you ever get the chance to go abroad you will notice that this personal achievement is in fact very much public.  It will be as much yours, as it is anyone else’s.  This is the moment when you’ll realize the importance of it all.  In that moment, surrounded by a traveler’s guide of Paris and brand new toiletries, you’ll understand the ripple effect of your actions.  All those people hungry for life experience will turn to you for yet another “check” in their bucket list.  So you’ll ask yourself:  Who am I to rob them of the chance, to learn, to grow, to live right along with me?  You’ll be wise to remember, that in the end, this will be your experience and no one else’s. So when it comes to emotions, feel, don’t project.

It is in that exact instance (if for some unknown reason you decided to become a writer), that you get a sudden urge to write, a desperate need to bare it all.

I stop separating clothes and start isolating ideas.  I cease to count the pounding heartbeats in my chest and start to document what few emotions I recognize.  I start to conceive the possibility of becoming public domain, the way (if you’ll allow me the comparison) all great writers and philosophers become public domain.  Simple things like location suggestions becoming travel plans, and experiences becoming lessons.  Most importantly though, questions becoming answers.

In a failed attempt to counteract the thought of spreading myself too thin I decide to lie on the rug-covered floor (next to an unpacked bag) and stare at the ceiling of my room. The futuristic beats of Yelle fill the air with images of a young and hip Paris yet to be seen.  These images provoke countless scenarios of my hypothetical adventure that threatens to become palpable any minute.  I for one plan to enjoy every minute of it, hedonistically emerging myself in a culture not my own.  Accounting, however, for all the constants and the variables of this trip is OVERWHELMING, so I don’t.

– “All in good time Andrés.”  I whisper to myself.

I pick up the first piece of clothing, fold it neatly, and start packing; listlessly once again.

At the end of the day, finally packed and what I consider ready, and after carpal tunnel syndrome has taken over the joints in my hand (I still write the old-fashioned way) I’m left an emotional puzzle on the floor of my room.  One question remains however:  What will I take from this experience?

Or in the legendary words of Hemingway:  Will Paris be MY “Movable Feast”?

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