Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wake-Up Call

I was in desperate need of a talking down. For the past couple of weeks, I had been heading down the slippery slope to Paris idealization with no end in sight. Everything about the French capital became "the best" in my mind: the best lifestyle, the best social life, the best atmosphere. It could have been brought on by any number of happenings, from the recent spate of coworkers with plans for trans-Atlantic getaways, to recent conversations with Parisian friends, to a general feeling of late-February malaise. Whatever the cause, my discontent cried out for something - anything! - that could banish it from consciousness. That something happened on Wednesday.

Actually, it was a someone that brought me back to reality. While attending a conference, I met a woman who works as a translator and previously spent two years living in Paris. When she found out that I, too, had a French connection, she immediately struck up a conversation about our experiences abroad. Being in the depths of my Paris-as-perfection phase, I began spontaneously gushing about how not being there was becoming unbearable. Unable to imagine anything else but undying love for my beloved faraway city, I naturally expected her to respond with an affirmative. Instead, I heard a lot of "yeah buts." As in, "Yeah, but life is a lot harder in Paris than it is in the U.S.," "yeah, but salaries are so much lower over there," "yeah, but everyone in Paris always seems so stressed and gloomy." With the utterance of those and other gently delivered reality checks, the spell was instantly broken. Her fair and balanced approach to Paris - it's beautiful and fabulous, but has its cons just like everywhere else - lifted the fog that had made itself a little too comfortable in my memory.

This is a fault of mine that I just can't seem to shake. I idealize many of the people, places, and things that no longer play a major role in my life, and let the longing for a lost better life eat away at me. Call it The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome. I did it in Paris too, except at that time it was Minneapolis and Washington, DC being imagined into perfectness, blizzards and pollution forgotten. Am I the only one who suffers from this ailment? I have to think there are a few other travelers out there who turn their past destinations into far more agreeable places in their minds than they ever were in person. But I don't want to think what was is better than what is, which is why my new down-to-earth friend's unbiased view was so appreciated. I don't want an idealized view of Paris. I prefer to love it for the wonderfully flawed city it truly is.


julie said...

Be cheered, Tanya; you're definitely not the only one! :)

Greg Wesson said...

I definitely suffer from the ailment you describe as well, though I tend to think of places that I haven't been yet as being the ideal places, and all the places I have been as being the less than ideal cities. I think that is why I move around so much.

Tanya said...

Julie, I had a feeling I could count on you for reassurance :-)

Greg, that's an interesting perspective I hadn't thought of: idealizing the yet to comes. Thanks for pointing that one out!