Once when I was in Paris—-usually when I start a story this way, the people around me rush to do impressions of the pretentious sort of people that say such things and I never get to tell what happened on that occasion and in that place that I mentioned. But right now there are no people around me. I’m sitting in an empty airport terminal and you, my attentive audience, have no opportunity to interrupt.
So—I met up with my older brother in Paris once in the late summer. We had both been in Europe for several months, but we only had one real day of overlap in that same, lovely city. We spent the day going to museums and eating fancy foods and watching artists in the street paint portraits of doughy, starry-eyed tourists. Walking along the Seine in the sun, seeing the glint of gold in the leaves that prophesied of autumn and getting to really talk to my brother in a way we hadn’t ever gotten to talk made me think, I could just live in this city.’
He left the next morning and so I spent the second day of my second trip to Paris completely alone. I spent most of the day in the Louvre getting sucked in by the mastery of the art and though I was entranced by it, I walked away emotionally drained. Riding back to the Place de Ftes with no one to turn to and talk with about the images that were dancing around tantalizing my imagination made me think I can’t handle this city, I could never live here.’
Because I’ve seen the Louvre alone, I know that the difference between the contentment and joy of that first day and the weight of the second day was not the deceitfully transformative quality of Paris, but the delightfully transformative quality of connecting with people that you love.
But there is a sort of power that comes with being able to own your experiences. There is personal enrichment in doing things because you wanted to, in being moved in ways that only you can be moved. I stood for many minutes in front of a sculpture of a soldier nourishing a tiny infant out of his helmet in the tragic absence of a mother’s breast. I thought about war and loss and how many infants have been left motherless and fatherless in the throes of the conflicts of men. I barely glanced at the Mona Lisa. I didn’t wait for cues from anyone. I experienced the art of the Louvre on my own terms.
I’ve often wanted to do things without being guaranteed a friend to do them with, so I just do them. I feel like the person I’m becoming is in some part a product of sitting at a BBC internship orientation without knowing a single other soul in the room. Made from that time I was paged by name over headset at the Sundance Film Festival and didn’t have anyone to turn and giggle to about how I completely blanked on the walkie-talkie lingo for answering a page (the one time they actually called on me, and I just gave them embarrassed radio silence because I couldn’t remember to say go for Mariah’).
Because I’ve seen the Louvre alone, I know myself. I know that I have much more to learn about me (particularly those places I keep buttoned up tightly even from myself), but I relish in the opportunity to recognize the things that put an involuntary smile on my face and a flutter in my chest. I love that I’ve learned line upon line not to wait for someone to tell me it’s ok to proceed or that I’ll be accepted if I do it this way or that way. I love that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and [I] may contribute a verse.’
The only problem is the more I write my verse, the more I realize that all I want with this identity I’m discovering and developing is to love the people around me more perfectly. To be the friend that IS there for someone to turn to and giggle with; to be the friend that they turn to and cry with, too. I feel proud of defying the currents of external influence in my life, only to discover the pleasure of when that influence is unforgettable and life-alteringly positive; when I change in ways that could only be facilitated by someone else.
Because I’ve seen the Louvre alone, I know that we are all made for each other. I know the beguiling nature of certain relationships, but I also know the joy of human love. It is pure and beautiful and the most worthwhile pursuit in life. I don’t just mean romance (though let’s be honest, that’s never too far from my mind), I mean sisterhood and daddy-daughter love and even the admiration and respect between honorable people from totally different contexts.
I’ve been blessed to see a lot of places, but it’s the people that leave an impression.
Now I’m alone again, on my way to New York City for a pre-professional training program for aspiring performers. They’ve never accepted anyone from BYU into this program before. I have no idea what to expect and though it is seriously an unbelievable dream-come-true to be chosen,I feel keenly that I am standing at a crossroads. I’ve been a daydream believer for as long as I can remember and now I have the opportunity to dive in; to make what I’ve always believed could be into reality. I don’t just mean being an actress, I mean living my life in lengthened strides.
But sometimes being so leggy leaves important people behind and sometimes you look up and realize you’re heading very quickly towards exactly what you thought you wanted and the baby sleeping in your bones wakes up and tells you that she’s scared to be alone. And the adult-you realizes that it isn’t just fear but enlightenment that is teaching you the value of having a someone instead of just a something.
Because I’ve seen the Louvre alone, nothing is simple. I cannot sit down on my life, but I’ve learned that exotic places seem much less exotic when you leave people behind to see them. I’ve learned how much life is enhanced by being in someone’s life and by their being in yours; how much you understand yourself even more when there’s another person there trying to comprehend you too. How much better a person you can become for trying to comprehend them and borrowing the lenses of God to see right into the goodness of their soul. The concrete jungle where dreams are made’ is hours away for me and I’m beginning to sense that it will present me with decisions that I don’t feel ready for.
Ready or not, here I come.