By Sierra Beilby

In an effort to snapshot my time overseas last fall, and preserve the lingering memories, here is my perspective; if I could relive 12 moments in 12 blinks, this is what I’d hope it’d look like.A22A6288.JPG


I’m standing in Port de Vincennes Metro station, going to my first day of classes. Anxiety is a tangible ball in my chest and I do not know how to unwind it. I’m lost; the only direction I have is wherever my feet are taking me, and I have to trust that it will be enough. The One Line drives into the station, and a cool breeze blows my hair and wakes me up. After months of preparation, budgeting, and tears shed over goodbyes, I am now living what I so greatly anticipated. This is reality. I am doing this.

Blink.

I’m running on Omaha Beach, with green bluffs rising behind me. It is the same beach where soldiers ran in their army-issued boots. When they died for their country they fell in that dirt. I took my shoes off and ran with my friends into the English Channel. The world is large and time moves slowly.

Blink.

I’m sitting on the green lawn that extends from the Tour Eiffel to L’ecole Militaire, and waiting. At once like a shower of burning rain, the Eiffel Tower begins to sparkle, and I think perhaps I am falling in love. Is it possible to be in love with a place, or with the feeling of a place? Maybe Paris is romantic after all. The lights are magical and I can only stare.

Blink.

I am standing with my luggage outside my new host home on 47 Rue de la Cerisaie, on the 5th floor of a six story walk up. A real French family waits for me behind the door, with Rousseau on the bookshelf and Edith Piaf on the record player. I know that once I knock and go in I cannot go back. I try to catch my breath and cannot seem to find it. My words are getting all tangled at “Bonjour.”

Blink.

My dad and I weave through the crowd at Disneyland Paris to Belle’s Castle, where the final show of the evening is beginning. We sit crossed-legged on the concrete amidst the crowd and listen to hundreds of children sing “Let it Go” in French. I watch tears spring to my dad’s eyes, and realize that innocence and wonder looks the same across cultural lines. I think perhaps if we can freeze this moment we may never have to grow up.

Blink.

I am sitting in a French Starbucks, aimlessly watching passersby walk down Rue du Rivoli. I wish for a comforting face. I wish for a friend who knows me. I wish to understand all the conversations that are bantered in the streets. Distance becomes an altogether tangible weight. All my worries about time and money and friendships hit me at once until a couple loudly saying goodbye wakes me from thoughts. “Au revoir, A bientot!”

Blink.

It is the end of October, but the crystal blue Southern France waves are so inviting. I shed my outer layers and wade into the water. The Mediterranean is salty on my lips and chilly to the touch but in that moment it was just me and the ocean. I go under at the next wave. Silence.

Blink.

I’m waiting in the Charles de Gaulle airport and watching for familiar faces. Then one comes around the corner– my mom. Her smile reminds me of home. She gives me a hug as if to make sure I am real, and I find out she is real as well. There is nothing like it.

Blink.

I sit on the bus to take me away from France, with my host dad just outside on the street. He gave me a kiss on each cheek to send me on my way, into uncertainty, without any way of knowing if our paths will ever cross again. I fold my hands in my lap and cry, realizing that it actually hurts to leave a piece of your heart in a place.

Blink.

Cold Edinburgh wind bites my cheeks, even though I hold my steaming hot cocoa. A local Scottish man tells me, “you don’t really know a place until you’ve had your feet under the kitchen table.” I don’t know his name, but I still hold tightly to those words. They feel a bit like home.

Blink.

I look out to the sun setting over the Scottish highlands and Loch Lomond and think how I really have no idea about the world; I have everything to learn and a whole life to do it in. I recall my high school choir singing “Loch Lomond,” and feeling that perhaps I am not blinking my life away. Maybe all things really do circle back around to the beginning, just to remind us we are growing up, and perhaps closer to ourselves. The sun drops behind the rolling hills.

Blink.

I’m sitting in the Bird and the Baby in Oxford, maybe in the same seat where Tolkien or Lewis once sat mulling over manuscripts that they didn’t realize would change the world. I recall how I have TIME. Time to live and explore and make mistakes and see new things and write them all down so I remember. For of course, as Gandalf once said, “the road goes ever and ever on.”

Blink.


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