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Coming Home

Derrick Cline - January 23, 2017

Each new year, we all tell ourselves that this is our year. The changing of a calendar somehow signifies the changing of our beings. Most of the time, we make resolutions, create bucket lists, and make plans, however, come February or March, those lists remain unchecked, resolutions forgotten, and plans lost. For me, the time was perfect to switch up this pattern and actually make this my year. By the time my Junior year was starting, I was well on the way to fulfilling a life-long dream of mine; I was going to Paris.
Not only had I dreamt of Paris my entire life, I had also taken French throughout high school. It seemed like I was preparing for Paris my entire life, however, I had never been able to go. As the clock clicked down on 2014 and 2015 crept in, I saw an opportunity. I could graduate early and get a kick start on my professional career. This option was the safe option. Or, I could take my fall semester of my Senior year and go to Paris, thereby fulfilling a lifetime dream. It would not be easy, and it would complicate things immensely. I decided to take the plunge.
I was a twenty-year-old kid who had never really been away from home. I had been on a plane only once before and I was too young to remember. I had to get a passport, a visa, fill out a ton of paperwork, and prepare for leaving everything I knew for four and a half months. The process, to say the least, was overwhelming and I never had time to realize what I was doing until I was standing at the gate of Philadelphia Airport waving goodbye to my family. I knew that this adventure would be a good time, but I had no idea the extent to which this would change my life.
To this day, I still cannot believe that I was able to experience the things that I experienced in Paris. To say it was a dream would be to understate it. I was able to live and enjoy the most beautiful city on the planet, which truly became my home. I watched myself become a more confident, intelligent, cultured version of myself. The daily walks by Notre Dame, weekly visits to the Louvre, baguettes, croissants, crepes, Haussmann buildings, cafés, parks, and of course the ever present Eiffel Tower became a part of me.
The lessons I’ve learned from Paris will stay with me for life. I’ve learned to take things as they come. Mealtime is for eating, not working. Strolling is the perfect past-time. Wine is not a drink, it is an art. There is a type of cheese for every occasion. The world is somehow both bigger and smaller than it seems. Art should not be confined to a museum. Always arrive earlier than you think is necessary for a flight. A proper baguette is a tool. You never know where a friend will come from. But the most important lesson I learned is that it is always the right time to get what you want.
When I told people that I was studying abroad, I was told “Wow, you are so lucky!” or “I wish I could do that!” However blessed I am to have been able to pursue my dreams relatively freely, I do not believe that ‘lucky’ is the right word. I am no more ‘lucky’ than anyone else. I worked hard and had the guts to take the risk to go after what I wanted. I didn’t take the safe and guaranteed route that was laid out before me. In the immortal words of Robert Frost, I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.

We always tell each other to live in the moment; to seize each day; to take full advantage of our lives and follow our dreams. Right after saying this we go about our lives and never give thought to pursuing much beyond our daily routines, leaving our bucket lists full. So from now on, I’ll enroll in that Spanish class, take that road trip, buy those tickets, start those guitar lessons, or plan that vacation. My life will forever live in the shadow of Paris and I am already planning my return.