The first time I came to Paris I was 18. Almost 19, given, but still 18.
On my first visit I walked the streets grinning and thrilled. But in those days I was afraid a lot. It was like walking on the side of a steep mountain – at any moment I might fall down an invisible slope. At 53 I’m not afraid any more. Not that I’m anything special – it comes with age. A benefit available to all.
On the other hand, fear has been replaced with a tendency to dither. I caught my thumb in the catch of my cheap umbrella, and found myself at one point, in the rain, looking at Google maps on my iPhone, the screen of the device blurred by both water and a little blood, thinking, OK, this cannot be right. Wondering how to hold the too-small map that I couldn’t read, and my umbrella, and my Monogram Vernis (because I can’t help but want to keep it dry), all at the same time. Aware that when I was 18 native quickness of reflex would have stood me in good stead. But yesterday the only thing I worried about was that I was dragging my best friend, also now 50, through some dodgy weather in search of a restaurant that might not be where I thought it was.
How funny that in those other days when really I was at less risk, I was more worried. All you young people out there here’s what I want to say. You have enormous skills you may not recognize. Sense of direction, good knees, accurate vision, good hearing. Literal and metaphoric. Don’t underestimate the basics. Your world is safer than you know. If old ladies can navigate the Marais in the rain, with bleeding thumbs, you can find your way through much worse. Enjoy. Courage, as they say.
Oh, and yes, Paris. It’s still here. It’s still its encoded, evocative, evident self. I’m only noticing my own history because I’m sitting down. Back out on the streets in a few minutes. The rain has stopped, and I’ve put my attack umbrella away.
Have a wonderful weekend.