April 18, 2016

we'll always have macarons

I'm leaving for France today. This is the part in the story where you gasp and say, "Lucky" or "I'm so jealous" or "Are you excited?" And now comes the part where I pull a face and sound like an ungrateful a-hole by saying, "Well..."

Much as I want to love adventures, I haven't exactly been jump-up-and-down excited about this trip. I'm nervous. I'm going for work. I'll get some eye-rolls for that statement, and I feel you. People who complain about business trips are tres annoying, right? Still, I'm going to France to run a tradeshow-style booth. I'm an introvert who works really hard at appearing extroverted. The idea of long days being "on" for hours and hours is a little daunting. Plus there are a lot of working parts that go into having a good booth, which means planning, preparing and praying that everything works out.

This comes on the heels of months of stress-induced panic attacks and sleepless nights, capped off by a whirlwind business trip last week (which ended up being great, making this wave of worry a little silly). That was all draining. I'm not exactly in top shape mentally, physically, or emotionally, which makes me all the more nervous. (What if I get sick?)

While I'm in full-out fear mode, here's another concern. I don't speak the language. (Though I'm assured most of the attendees at the show speak English well.) I'm sure it'll be fine, still, that has added to my pre-trip nerves. I've taught myself the most important phrases I'll need to know.
Cafe, si voix plat. 
C'est combien? 
Ou sont les toilettes? 
Je ne sais pas. 
Aideuz moi!
But it hardly seems like enough. And, dudes, here's hoping I really don't have to cry "Aidez moi! Adiez moi!" at any point of this trip. Merde.

Then there was taking care of my affairs on the homefront.

It's been years since I spent more than four days away from my cats, and I'm not going to lie, I'm experiencing separation anxiety already. Laugh all you want, but those cats are my constants! If anything should happen to them or my house while I'm gone... I can't even fathom how awful it would be. Also, as part of being a responsible adult, I spent a couple of hours compiling a list of all of my finances, accounts, affairs, and other instructions just in case. Yeah. Just in case. It's something I should have done years ago, and it's the smart thing to do. All the same, it was kind of sad thinking about potential scenarios that require my parents to cancel my Spotify account or settle my student loan on my behalf.

Morbid thoughts, grown-up affairs, language barriers, work, and cats aside, another factor in my seeming ennui is super lame: this isn't how I imagined my first trip to France.

Based on years of TV and movies, I always envisioned myself wearing some sort of swishy skirt and jaunty beret while I strolled the streets of Paris in a never-ending search for crepes and croissants. Like Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City TV series finale, only without biffing it in the middle of a store. Plus more carbs. I'd see the Mona Lisa. I'd pose for quirky tourists photos at the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. I'd go see that bridge with all the locks on it (though I hear that isn't a thing anymore, which is sad).

I'd also probably meet some handsome man named Pierre or Jean-Paul. He'd show me around the city while we spoke the universal language understood by all: chocolate. And after we shared some laughs, and more than a few treats, we'd amicably part ways with our memories of baked goods.

"We'll always have, macarons."

"Here's looking at you, mon chaton."

I'm not even going to Paris. I don't think I've seen any movies or TV shows where the characters go somewhere else in France. (Except for Beauty and the Beast and that's in a whole different part of the country. And I guess Saving Private Ryan, but...) I'm ill-equipped for what to expect from this voyage! Can it possibly be a bon voyage?

This is a terrible attitude to have going into a new experience. I know that. Believe me, I do. But I couldn't seem to help myself from going into panic mode.

But after months of angst and getting a twitchy eye whenever people brought up this trip, this weekend I realized I needed to change. That's easier said than done for someone like me. (I'm metaphorically breathing into a brown paper bag at the prospect of spending 10 hours in an airplane and worrying that one of the cats might get sick.) I needed to stop freaking out and be more positive.

I started by making a wish list of foods to try. I wrote down the French spelling and the English translation. (I also stored photos of the foods on my phone for easy reference.) There are way more than I'm able to try, but at least I'll have a jumping off point when we eat.

Then just last night, I looked up the top attractions to see listed on TripAdvisor. I wrote down my top five and looked them up on the map. Guess what? All five of them are within a fifteen-minute walking distance from our hotel. (That includes a castle that is basically next door.) That's definitely something to be thrilled about. For the first time, last night, I started to feel something other than anxiety.

Now... even with that brewing excitement, I'm still really worried. I'm going over and over the logistics in my head and hoping I don't forget anything and praying that all of my affairs are squared away at home.

That's how I roll, though.

Whether it's the days leading up to a book launch or my sixteen-year-old self getting ready for her first prom. I worry and stress and think about everything that can go wrong until the last moment. Then I let myself get a little excited, even while keeping my expectations in check. But then when the time comes to live, I live. It's not the most pleasant way to go about things (who likes panic attacks?), but it's what I do. And because I know this is what I do, and because I've lived to tell about it, I know that this trip will be good. It may not be that dream trip to Paris, but it will still be a wonderful experience if I can stay in the moment.

(And who knows if my dream trip to Paris would have worked out the way I planned? What if there was a sugar shortage, and I never fulfilled my dreams of finding a nice pastry to build a life with?)

Now that I've gotten all of my angst out there, I promise I'll do my best to make this a positive experience. (And I'm kind of sorry for being so moody the past couple of months worrying about everything. Only kind of, because by my front-loading anxiety, I'm pretty sure I've thought about most of the issues I might face and how to fix them. Tres bien!)

To end things on a high note, let's laugh at some of the assumptions I've made about France based entirely on entertainment. I am almost assuredly going to experience a rude awakening once I arrive and realize Hollywood lied to me.

1. There will be random dancing and singing in the streets with dashing men wearing tight shirts.


2. This is how you speak French:



3. Or, if I at least use the right inflection, people will understand everything I'm saying.

(I couldn't get the video to embed, but you can watch it here.)

4. As I've had my appendix removed, I can earn admiration and respect from my peers by lifting up my shirt while singing "Ouila, my scar!" (Bonus, because I had mine removed via laparoscopic surgery, which means I actually have THREE scars. I'm going to be so popular, I can't even stand it.)


5. The chefs will have fantastic mustaches and sing while they cook.


And if nothing else...

6. The dishes can sing, they can dance. (After all, I'll be in France.)



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