I’ve decided to go to Paris next month.
I’m going to celebrate my birthday with my friend, Lanni, who just bought an apartment. I asked her if I should bring nice clothes as I’ve heard Parisians dress well.
She said I needn’t bother, “there are lots of tourists this time of year.” Then she added, with a note of disapproval, “wearing comfortable shoes.”
I have never been to Paris before. That is to say, I have never been past the airport. I flew through Paris a couple of times and neither time was much of fun. The last time I flew through I arrived late and was told my seat had been given to someone else. This was in the days when I was flying a lot and expected a lot from my travel experience. I thought it was utterly unacceptable that an airline would give away my seat simply because I was late. I told them so.
It was no use. The seat was gone and I could sit in the middle of the middle section. In those days, I never sat in the middle section and certainly not in the middle of the middle. I was irate. I stormed down to board my flight and my stormy demeanor was, apparently, exactly the expression the security guards had been warned to look for in a suspected terrorist. I was pulled aside, my luggage searched, and I very nearly missed the plane. Slipping in just before the door closed I realized the plane was full and any hope of moving to a better seat vanished.
I was crabby.
I had been working hard, traveling too much. My marriage (although I would never admit it) was in trouble. I was hanging on to the hope that if I could work hard and make enough money to retire early, I could somehow make my problems go away.
I sat next to Mr. Singh. Mr. Singh was a Sikh Indian and he was feeling chatty. I was usually not chatty on an airplane, but then I usually sat by the window and slept. It did not appear that sleeping in the middle of the middle would be easy, so I began to chat with the friendly Mr. Singh. I wish I remembered more of the conversation, but I do remember he told me that I should have more fun. He also said I should cultivate more friendships, that retirement was not an end to itself, and life was full of surprises.
Everything he said turned out to be true.
I did need friends, especially when my marriage suddenly ended. My hopes of early retirement vanished with my husband, and my life is full of surprises.
Now I am returning to Paris a much different person than the one who met Mr. Singh. I am not flying there on business, but to meet two dear friends I met while living in Africa. I have no dreams of making a lot of money or early retirement. In fact, I am much too busy creating a new life to have an interest in retiring from anything.
This time I’m going to celebrate my birthday and my life. I’m going to congratulate my friend Lanni on her new home in Paris. I’m going to get together with Nora before she flies who-knows-where for her next job assignment. Then Daniel is going to join me and we’re going to hike around a mountain together. We’re not climbing to the top, but around it— just for fun.
I’ll be wearing comfortable shoes.
Till next time,