Mariah Proctor, a senior at BYU, has been on a study abroad in Vienna, Austria this summer.
I was sitting in a caf with my brother in the neighborhood of Montmartre near the Sacr Coeur Cathedral in Paris, just enjoying a day while busy brush strokes captured tourists’ portraits nearby. The square was busy with artists trying desperately to sell people on their work without appearing desperate. There really were some portrait artists that were declaredly better than others. I looked over one painter’s shoulder to see both his work and his subject and my heart skipped a little beat. Though the picture was not an exact replica of the real face before me, he captured her essence in a shockingly accurate way, the things the woman before me seemed to exude and the things the picture seemed to exude were strangely unique and shared by the two of them.
From my leisurely perch, I found myself sort of staring at the people milling about amidst the smell of charcoal and paint. One girl caught my eye and I studied her for a moment and then realized with a start (partially because my brain started working and partially because her bodyguard gave me the stinkiest stink eye I’ve gotten since junior high) that the girl I was looking at so intently was Emma Watson, budding beauty of Harry Potter fame.
The combination of my desire to appear unmoved and the intensity of her overdressed, overstressed companion’s expression directed at me, kept me in my seat. I did not approach, I did not snap a photo, I let Miss Emma Watson go about her Parisian afternoon without crossing paths with me. My brush with fame remained in the back of my mind the rest of the day. I tried to analyze it (like I do everything), looking at the feeling from all sides. I think some part of me was jealous of the flutter in my stomach at the moment of recognition, how excited I unintentionally got about seeing the silver screen come to real life. Jealous of the feeling because some part of me wants a stranger’s stomach to flutter when they see me. I want to be recognized. I envied this girl for her charmed life and for being the type to be whiling away an afternoon in Paris.
Then I realized that I saw her spending her day in Paris because I was a girl spending my day in Paris too. It’s a pretty charmed existence I’ve got.
I know we were just in Paris, but let’s go back to Vienna for a moment. I didn’t think another place could get under my skin, I didn’t think another summer could change my life, it did and it has. I just need to stop underestimating my ability to fall in love over and over again because it just keeps happening. It feels like the revelation and the romance of this summer could just go on and on, but nothing gold can ever stay and when I wake up tomorrow, it will be time to fly home.
I never seem to get emotional about goodbyes at the right time. At the prospect of leaving dear Vienna, my group gathered a final time to look back at the days and rejoice in them as we left them behind. Everyone got so emotional at the goodbye party as they should. I felt nothing. I felt numb. It wasn’t until that night at the oldest (sketchiest) amusement park in the world that it sunk in. I was coerced into riding a large arm-like something that sent your seat rolling around while it lifted you high into the sky. It was aptly named the Black Mamba.’ We were lifted up high and in the midst of being flung around-an unwieldy and continuous scream escaping my mouth-I caught a glimpse of the whole city, stretched out in front of me and bathed in the pinkish glow of the setting sun. It was at that moment, upside down in clutches of a mechanical beast—not during a hug goodbye or at the moment of finally zipping up my packed suitcase—that the emotion of another conclusion caught up to me.
It is the conclusion of a summer full of art and pleasure and newfound confidence and development and laughter and hot love; hot love being an Austrian dessert with raspberries over ice cream. Obviously. Pulling away from my motherland for a period had its usual effect of making me reexamine my life and where I’m headed and what I want, and this time away was the first in which what I found didn’t overwhelm me. Strange that though I don’t know any more specifically where I’m headed, I feel so much better equipped for what I’ll find when I get there. I don’t know that it was the place as much as the time of my life I happened to be in, but what a beautiful result the marriage of those two things managed to produce.
I was wandering through Cimetire du Pere Lachaise, the big Paris cemetery, and in the midst of the cold monuments, somewhere between the graves of Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde, when I caught the smell of autumn. It was subtle at first, just a hint of something then I saw the trees whose leaves were already browning—not blighted but progressing. I saw a fence tightly wound with vines half of which were still bright green and half of which had already gone a dark purple. There, surrounded by the remains of so many, I encountered the first signs of a summer that too is dying, until only beautiful memories remain. No matter how tightly you cling to an experience or how badly you just want it to end, time will pass at exactly the same rate and just like that, it will be over. But there’s something to love about cemeteries. There is peace in rest and a sense of wonder at all of the stories that meant so much to someone. And there’s the thought that each conclusion is not an epilogue but the beginning of the next chapter.