I would like to share one of my journal entries from Paris circa December 2016, apparently I’m on a Paris kick right now (forgive me, it’s Spring, I can’t help it).
During my three months of wandering through Europe I carried a 4.5x6, red, leather bound journal. My journal acted as my loyal companion in my many moments of solitude. Near the end of my trip I wrote at least one entry every day. Especially in Paris, a city that inspired creation like nowhere else I have ever traveled.
So without further adieu I’ll bring you back to my Parisian solo date.
Once again, I find myself in the most romantic city in the world entirely alone. I’m sitting here at Sacre Coeur with my own personal concert, courtesy of an incredibly gorgeous French street performer. Perhaps more importantly, I hold in my hand the best cup of hot spiced wine I have ever had.
Tonight, with all this glory around me I am determined to remain alone. It’s funny how when I’m alone everything feels and unfolds in a slightly different way. I feel thankful for this slight, and yet incredibly important difference. With gratitude I want to take time to acknowledge everything I notice now BECAUSE I am alone. Everything I’d miss or lose if someone else was here next to me.
The ability to observe people deeply
Eye contact and timid smiles shared with passing strangers
The freedom to write
The freedom to get up and find somewhere to pee (this is always a big one for me folks, I really dislike when people hold me back from peeing or comment on the incessant call of my bladder, she’s needy okay, so am I. Deal with it).
Freedom. Period. (2018 Annalise popping her head in here, “Freedom” is my 2018 word and clearly it has always been important to me!)
Three year old, wobbly, bundled up photographers taking pictures of Mom
The ability to focus on my breath
The plethora of selfie sticks present at the this location (and I mean easily over 100 selfies sticks, like DAMN!)
The space to recognize my own frustration and annoyance with the people around me
My own ability to keep myself warm and care for myself
Big globs of spit on the cobblestones (surprisingly not my own)
The ebb and flow of people - the sheer rhythm people create with their bodies
Witnessing old friends traveling together
Gender assumptions, microaggressions, apologies
Awkward interactions and language barriers
My own ability to communicate
The highschool french knowledge stored deep within my brain
My occasional belief in myself as a fluent french speaker (I must say this belief is a bit disillusioned)
Sadness for the smoking singer - they are losing their voice
A breeze that reminds me of my own humanity
A breeze that awakens gratitude for my hostel bed and heated room
Children bargaining with tourists
A chance to pay it forward
At this point in my evening a man interrupts me and tells me to be safe as a woman alone on the dark streets of Paris. I smile curtly and say, “Thanks, have a good night” as I walk away from him because up until our interaction I had felt very safe and very content.
Alone I knew I could trust myself, I knew my own strength, the beauty of every little thing I could notice because I was not distracted by anyone else.
This man was misinformed. He made an assumption: because I was a woman alone in the city of Romance I wanted a man to talk to. He assumed I was unsafe and needed someone to escort me home.
But he was wrong. And I showed him this by walking away. By claiming my solitude. By continuing my solo-date at chocolate shops and Rue La Fayette lit up with Christmas lights.
It’s interesting reflecting on this experience. I gained so much by sitting on the steps of Sacre Coeur alone. I noticed different people’s interactions, my own feelings, and the cities beauty in an entirely unique way. These are often things I would miss if I was focused on someone else. But in this moment I chose not to miss anything. When I had the opportunity to focus on someone else I chose my own power and company.
I learned lessons I never could have grasped here at home and I cannot wait to return to Europe and learn even more lessons.
So with that said, here’s to to Parisian Sunsets enjoyed in solitude, freezing cold breezes that remind us of our humanity, and wobbly three-year-old photographers. And of course the the incredible power we harness within - the power to notice, to guide and to protect!
May you all empower yourselves with your own versions of solitude and Parisian Solo Sunsets!