I thought I left them behind in Connecticut where they belong. I thought I laid them to rest. I thought that when I overlooked the Croatian sea every day I was holding my own sort of funeral for them: paying my respects, acknowledging what they taught me and pushed me to achieve, and most importantly, saying goodbye to them. But no, those pesky little things found me after all this time in my little Florentine apartment one day. My worries were slowly creeping back into my life. Rather than wonder which delicious restaurant my friends and I will visit that evening or daydream about the adventures ahead of me, I found myself worrying about paychecks and my future.
The thoughts started to bombard my mind. I’m not making enough money! How can I afford to live abroad? How will I pay off my student loans? Where will I work next year? What country do I want to be in next year? A flight home for a visit next year will max out my credit card! Do I need a second job? Am I being naïve living out here? Should I get a “real-world” job? What am I supposed to be doing?
It was exhausting and frightening. Here I was, making giants strides with my personal growth – finally feeling whole – and these pathetic and aggressive worries stopped me dead in my tracks, leaving me lost and confused once again. How did they find me here? I thought I lost them long ago?
After a week of my mind drowning in worry, I woke up one day and decided that I will not be a victim of fear again. So I thought: I need some space and time to regain perspective on my life. I checked my E-Mail and my dear old friend, Ryan Air, sent me an e-mail with a flight promotion.
It was decided – I needed a weekend getaway to Paris.
I landed in the City of Lights, ready to reboot my soul-searching quest and reconnect with my heart. I did not bring any books to read or headphones to listen to music. I wanted the only conversation to be within me, between my heart and my mind.
Paris, oh Paris – what a beautiful city. The center of Paris is home to the famous attractions yet its architectural beauty and Parisian charm spiral outwards into the double-digit arrondissements. It is a city with extremely beautiful people and with the perfect amount of pompousness that you would expect of Paris. The French are set in their ways and seem quite content with them. They have mastered simple makeup and high fashion. They can charge you 9 euro for a cappuccino yet you can buy a baguette for 1. They can speak English, but choose not to – but how you could blame them when French sounds so sensually alluring?
I walked and thought for three days. It felt good to be in a new environment again and to embrace a new culture. I visited all of the beautiful sights and admired how well designed Paris was. I gawked at the Eiffel Tower every single time it came into my view. I splurged and purchased the famed macaroons from Laduree. The Italians know their wine and pizza, but the French know their pastries and desserts.
During this brief trip, I was given the novel Aleph by Paulo Coelho. An amazing story written by a gifted writer, Aleph tells Coelho’s own experience of finding himself halted on his journey of spiritual renewal and growth – quite fitting for the feeling the worries simmering within my mind were giving me. Even though I intended not to read on this trip, the book found me and after the first page, I knew why.
It was not until my third day in Paris that I finally felt like my feet were on the ground again. The smoke and mirrors my worries set up around my mind were dismantled. I beat them. I am stronger now than I was before.
On this day I walked down to Notre Dame and entered this grand Cathedral. I was immediately taken aback and overwhelmed by its intricate beauty. I wandered the church, reading each plaque for every sculpture and painting, and feeling a sense of calmness. Then I sat down at one of the pews and just started to think, meditate, and pray. I sat there for over an hour and reconnected to what matters – my heart and soul. I prayed for every family member and friend. I gave thanks for all of my blessings and all of my hardship. I promised not to let fear and worry cloud my mind.
That’s the thing; if you worry you do not trust. I am not meant to know my future and how my destiny will play out. I must only have complete faith that it will work out the way it is supposed to be. All I need to do is live in the present, experience life, learn all that I can, and spread my love. It wasn’t until I finished that I realized I had tears quietly falling down my face – but they were happy tears, cleansing me of any confusion.
I exited the church and strolled along the Square and river, feeling lighter and radiating hope. Everything started to become very clear and very humorous. Did I really let worrying over inanimate things knock me off my feet and cause me to stumble on my path? Society has drilled into our minds that money and a successful career define our self-worth. We must have a complex plan comprised of degrees and 401K’s in order to succeed - and you must adhere to it. These “rules” are imprinted in our minds so deeply that we begin to shape our existence around them.
When in reality, we are truly defined by the goodness in our hearts, the capability to give and to love, our passions and dreams, and our learning experiences. Some of the most influential people in history, artists, poets, singers, and writers, did not work 9-5 jobs or live in a constant state of discontent because they think that is what they are supposed to be doing. On the contrary, they followed their passions and their career happened to be the instrument that expressed their soul.
I ended my trip enjoying a lovely meal in a quaint French café. Reflecting upon my experiences thus far, this bump in my ride simply solidifies the fact that I must always live fearlessly and be hopeful. Next year I will be in the country I need to be in, at the job I need to work at, surrounded by the people I need to meet at that point in my journey. Money will come and go, but it will not stop me from following my dreams. Everything will work out the way it is supposed to and I will be graced with support and protection as long as I give my complete trust into my faith. I must take the lessons I have learned from my past, be open to the future, but most importantly, live in the present.
This is a journey. There will be detours, bumps in the road, mountains to climb, and seas to sail over. It may not always be easy but it is the path I am meant to be on. I must humbly remember that there will always be people fighting a harder battle – my obstacles I can conquer, but perhaps theirs they cannot.
I may have many tough struggles ahead of me, but I am more sure of myself and of what I believe in now than I was a year ago. I simply must continue to keep my feet on the ground and my heart stronger than my mind.