“Maybe you should go to Paris…”
“It helped me a lot. Have you ever been there?”
“Oh, yes. Yes. Once. I was there for thirty-five minutes.”
“Oh, but Paris isn’t for changing planes, it’s… it’s for changing your outlook, for… for throwing open the windows and letting in… letting in la vie en rose.
summer 2015: “If you think of it, this is my last summer as a teenager”, I thought aloud. The idea came up casually in a conversation I had this precious summer. I was freshly 17 (the age I had dreaded for so long), approaching my senior year of high school. I’d just returned from a two week mission trip to Romania, quite certain what I want to do with my life.
autumn 2015: “He takes the wide grief of the unknown ocean and turns it into a place of peace and wonder”, I wrote messily in my journal. It was the night I found out my Grandma had suffered a stroke. The next day, my brother skipped his last class and we were driving to visit her in the hospital one last time. It was the longest car ride of my life. As I held her hand in that hospital room, my whole body was shaking. Mom asked me to say goodbye in any way I wanted, but I couldn’t speak. I just held her smooth, warm hand as she held it tightly back. I was overwhelmed. Looking back at the week she died, it’s a blur of sorrow and faith. I was alone, managing two tests, terrified, and emotionally so weak. Yet, I felt eternity at every corner of the situation and never once was sad for Grandma reaching such a place. A couple weeks later, Mom, my little brother, and I went to the beach house that my Grandma loved so dearly and spent a few days there. It was a few days of returned summer in that autumn of changing leaves.
winter 2015/2016: “But what’s the point, anyway? Isn’t the new year just another day?”, someone remarked. No, no the new year is nothing like another day. It’s a new page. It’s my year of graduation, of 18, of college. I’m currently dealing with a fractured/bruised knee and being stuck on crutches (not the way I would’ve expected, but a lesson of dependence and my pride, indeed!) I have no idea what’s in store and that is most wonderful of all. I’ve been disappointed so many times by expectations, but I’m learning the unknown is what I must look forward to.
I believe in seasons. They are a thing God created for His glory; a means in which we understand the Gospel and grace. Looking back at 2015, I see the seasons. I see the lush of summer and the youthful feeling of running fast. Aches of autumn remind me that shadows come in evening. A new year is the promise of second-chances, and of all things new.
My one word resolution for 2016 is evergreen. I want to remain evergreen like the trees do throughout all the seasons. Life will throw its course, but I never want to stop being me. I never want to grow out of passion and of spectacular dreams. When I was younger, I once refused to wear my Halloween costume with a fight: “I just want to be Neeley”, I argued. And that’s all I ever want to be.
I’m not here for a life of simply changing planes, where there is a hard blowing wind but your eyes are closed. I’m finding my Paris. I’m not sure I’ve found it yet, but I’m looking…keeping my windows open all along. Perhaps the search is my Paris, after all.
Once you open the windows, I’m quite certain they can’t be closed anymore. The world has greeted me through city streets at dusk and sunrises on shores. And through these times, I’ve realized I never want to stop growing, learning, aching, provoking the heart, and evoking the brain. This world isn’t our home, so why try to settle down in it? And I want to live this way, constantly. As constant as the pine trees in winter.
At the end of 2014, I wrote a letter to myself to read at the end of 2015. An expert read: “I hope God wrecked and transformed and healed your heart. I hope you served and drank too much coffee and loved til you ached all over… I hope you read more about theology and feminism and history and what God wants you to do about it. I hope you started dancing at parties. I hope you went to the mountains and went on road trips and went to a concert. I hope you read all those poetry books”.
So to myself at the end of 2016: I hope you were evergreen and that your heart may utter ‘all is well with my soul’ and know it to be true. That is all I ask. I hope you opened the windows, and are still finding your Paris.
“She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway