Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Paris: my first love

Friday, August 10, 2012

I was in my early twenties when I was hired by a French software company to work in Paris. It was a dream come true for a university graduate like me who yearned to live in France. After staying with two different French families the summer after high school and then studying one year in Lyon, I couldn’t imagine my life anywhere else except in France. It was where I wanted to be and I was ready to do anything to get there.

I rented my first studio apartment in the 17th arrondissement near the Parc Monceau where I would run most mornings. I was extremely fortunate because I was able to walk to work every day while almost all of my colleagues either had to take the métro or drive. What I loved most about my daily walks was how much beauty Paris contained. Not just the famous monuments, like the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Avenue Hoche, but also the apartment buildings, store displays, restaurants, pastry shop windows, and the people. I found it so pleasurable just looking around me no matter where I was.

I left Paris a little over five years later and moved to Hampton Court, which is south west of London, for a couple of years. The entire time I was in England, I dreamed of returning to Paris. I enjoyed living in Hampton Court, but my heart was still in Paris. Right before I was planning to move back to Paris, I decided to fulfill another dream of mine, which was to live in Italy for three months to learn Italian. That short trip turned into two years and I never returned to Paris except for brief visits.

When the same French employer called me to come work for them on a project at the beginning of 2011, I was thrilled. I had completely set France and my French aside so that I could learn Italian and soak up Italy and its culture. Even though I was happy in Florence, I had always felt as if a part of me was missing.

When I returned to Paris for work, I realized just how much I missed speaking, reading, and writing French. It was the first foreign language I learned and a language I truly adored. I enjoyed it so much that I used to talk to myself in it for years even before moving to Paris. While living in Paris, I used to write poetry in French when I was feeling a bit melancholy. I believe that each language draws out a different part of me, and French drew out the more romantic side of me that had been dormant for many years.

It took me years to realize just how significant a role Paris played in my life. Paris is where I learned how to be independent and to stay true to my own beliefs and ideas.

While living in Paris, I was also able to pursue many interests. I took my first creative writing workshop, studied technical writing for work, attended pottery classes, and developed my passion for reading.

Calling Paris home again is a wonderful gift for me. Not only do all my senses come alive, but I also get to indulge in many pleasures the city has to offer: beauty, art, literature, and food. Of course, the most important part of my returning to Paris is that I finally get to embrace all the parts of me that have been inactive for so many years. Now, I get to bring them out of hibernation, live them to their fullest, and appreciate each one.

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