Although I initially planned on writing this post for myself, I began to realize that perhaps my social as well as intimate experiences that I have come across during the past year, would not necessarily have to be private. Once I publish this post, it will remain visible for myself as well as god-knows-who, but it will hopefully remain on a website which I can access during the several up-coming years.
31st of August 2015
While I gaze at the sad-looking, closed suitcases, I begin to search for my opener which can hopefully help at opening the bottle I bought at Helsinki airport just a few hours ago.
My 8m2 apartment feels so strange and yet so... me? With my glass in my left hand and a cigarette in my right, I finally gather the courage to open the immense windows which give access to the evening street view into the calm, beautiful neighbourhood of the 16ème arrondissement of Paris. I light up my last cigarette and gaze at the pedestrans who pass by my window. An elederly man smiles and says "Bonsoir" to which I respond with the same greeting. As he walks away, I focus on the music that is being played a couple of blocks away- perhaps Yann Tiersen?
This memorable evening was my first step into a new world; a new beginning. Having left everything behind me in Finland; family, friends and those haunting memories of everyday life in high-school, I finally had my life in my own hands. Not a single soul was familiar to me in Paris, which seemed as a spine-chilling thought in the beginning. And I loved it.
The first weeks of university were a combination of trauma and joy; my French oral skills (not to mention the written ones) were absolutly nowhere close to where they should have been, which resulted in the lack of courage in approching new people. And as I seemed to be the only foreigner (or at least categorized as one, although everyone obviously had different cultural backgrounds in their blood), I was approched with curious attitudes by people who spoke on a level a little bit too quickly for my comprehension.
Into middle of the semester, when the routine with classes had taken its course, I met someone very special. I first met Hugo through a friend, while smoking a cigarette by the university entrance, where he gave a certain withdrawn and cold impression of himself. The very typical, well-dressed Parisian type, I would have said. And yet, within the first 24 hours of having been introduced, we were laughing and establishing one of the most genuine connections I have ever created with another a human being. Cooking (although he was the one to do most of the work while I sipped on my red wine) and spending long evenings in my apartment became one of the most memorable and frequent occasions of my Parisian autumn. I still distinctly recall that one chilly morning in early December, when we made our way towards classes while sharing a baguette and listening to Sky and Sand. The numerous adventurous that I was lucky enough to share with Hugo are countless; afternoon glasses of wine in cafés, intoxicated nights in Oberkampf... Mostly, this person gave me a feeling of belonging; that we are not alone in the world to feel so unique or to share a certain perspective of humanity and emotions.
When September had come and gone, I began to make acquaintance with my neighbours; the three musketeers that we eventually became: those of apartments 2, 10 and 13. The most provocative trio of the otherwise conservative neighbourhood I dare say. The beginning of our friendship was rather interesting, as the constant presence of a certain character (one that I would never have thought of meeting nor becoming friends with at the age of 19), gave an unclear course to our everyday life. The intoxicated nights spent in Paris are infinite, where meeting new people and enjoying techno clubs became fascinating and a little too frequent. However, during the following months, things began to calm down which really was the last sane solution.
My two neighbours, who mean the world to me, go by the names of Tété and Mimile. In a nutshell, not a day in Paris has gone by when I would not have seen these two individuals. They have allowed me to be who I truly am, and have encouraged me to approach the unknown, for which I can never be more thankful. They also brought me to do my laundry for the first time in two months, for which my friends must also probably be thankful...
Autumn passed quickly, although, when looking back at it, every day seemed to last for a lifetime.
Returning back home in January was all I wanted. Spring in Paris opened my eyes to Nuit Debout, which became quite a famous sensation overseas. My dear communist neighbour introduced me to the exclusive Parisian manifestations, where I encountered tear gas and covering my face with a scarf for the first time. The sensation of being united along with the hundreds of Parisians who protested against the proposed labour reforms made me feel more part of a community that I had ever felt before; the times of macarons and walking along the Champs-Élysées had definitely come to an end. Along with the protests came the evenings at the Place de la République, which carries a long history of fighting for equality and justice in France. At this specific square, I spontaneously met new charming individuals with whom we played Djembe drums until 5 a.m, while dancing and drinking. At times an orchestra would gather at the center of the square, and while we climbed up the statue, I could see thousands of people sitting down while gazing and listening to the beautiful symphonies.
It remains one of the most mesmerizing views I have ever witnessed.
Another special individual, who I first met while searching for a suitable bathroom (that we never found) during a house-party, was Ines. The unbelievable circumstances that had both led us to Paris made it easy for us to understand each other in indescribable ways. While we sat in the Jardin des Tuileries, she played her guitar while I could do nothing else but smoke my cigarette and admire her voice. Already having had a difficult time with becoming close friends with the female gender, Ines gave an insight to what a beautiful friendship between women can be, without the fear of backstabbing or ugly rumors. Her consistent positive energy and help helped me carry on, even during the most difficult of times.
While I sit here on my balcony back in Helsinki, I yearn to return to Paris in September. Although the lack of French blood in me makes it difficult to call myself Parisian, I still dare call it home. The past year has truly allowed me to become at ease with myself, which for the past 18 years, seemed like an impossibility. The surprising fact of having passed the first year of my studies has shown that one can overcome these sort of challenges. Thus, I can confirm my current status with great joy:
Complete in Paris.