A photo shoot near the Eiffel Tower, April 2012. Photo by Brittany Petersen.
I've been back in Chicago for almost two months now, and there are still days I wake up and smack myself because I'm not in Paris. What was I thinking, leaving? Why didn't I stay forever?
I have to remind myself how much I missed Chicago, my friends, my cat, my full wardrobe, my day-to-day tasks. The first few days back were glorious; my bed had never been more comfortable, my roommates more doting, my cat more soft and affectionate. (My pants were snug, but I prefer to gloss over that.) In fact, the first few weeks home were pure contentment. It made me feel like Chicago really is my home, the place I feel at rest, despite the fact that none of my biological family is here.
But now, seven weeks after returning to the reality of my life, I'm torn. I left pieces of myself in every place I went, but especially in Paris. Never before had I had such a clear and unambiguous chance to chase my dreams -- like, I'd dreamed of seeing the Louvre my whole life and then there it was, waiting for me to conquer it. (The French are consistent in that way.) I lived my days with enthusiasm -- even the difficult ones, like the night I went to French Pizza Hut and then sat alone in my hostel, watching Cinderella on YouTube.
Of course, people who live in Paris probably dream of waking up in Moscow or Beijing or Milan or Melbourne or Honolulu or Atlanta. We are never satisfied, even with what makes us happy.
So now, to combat the post-travel blues, I must remind myself that enthusiasm is internally produced. Luckily, there is no place like Chicago in the summer, so there's plenty to keep me occupied, from outdoor sports to bar trivia nights to reservations at Girl & the Goat.
Still, my dreams have forever been altered by the few weeks I was allowed to wander free and unfettered through foreign lands. Innocence may have been bliss, but I much prefer knowing exactly what I'm missing -- because it ensures that I'll fight to go back.