My friends (most of whom toiled away at summer jobs this summer) are sick of hearing about my trip to Paris. And, rumor has it that I am not allowed to write about Paris in my college applications. Apparently, it sounds too privileged and anything I could say would be clich. Spending five weeks gallivanting around the most beautiful city in the world with my friends, living with a family and taking interesting classes is privileged. I can’t help that fact and it would be ludicrous to spend my summer working at Brueggers given the two options. The clich part could be true, although I think there are subtleties in my foreign experience that can be applied to good old Boston.

I learned that I like to think in Paris. I think a lot in my daily routine at Milton. There are math problems to do, or perhaps a friend’s dilemma to figure out. But the Paris kind of thinking is different, namely, because this contemplation was done on my own terms. The homework got done because my mind found the topic worthy. I discovered I love art, in the context of life, not a paper that was due. Granted some of this inspiration was due to extraordinary surroundings, but I think it was more than that. The experience provided the time, the people and the forum to contemplate life. At Milton, time is always the issue. Perhaps pressure too. A Frenchman told me that the American system is like a serpent. It swallows you, you travel through its body, until it passes you out at the end. This analogy seems to ring true in the pressures of senior fall. Unfortunately, learning on your own terms and being successful do not always coincide. The best way to get the best grades is to work like a machine. There is always the tradeoff. My only advice is to fully understand the trade off. Sneak in as much personal thinking time as possible.

Of course with all the artwork and new people swirling about you, it is almost impossible not to do any internal thinking. The swirl of incredibly confusing thoughts in my mind bled onto paper in the form of a French Journal. I am a huge fan of keeping any kind of journal, because everything you write, good or bad reflects you in some way and is therefore good. Beauty Truth, truth beauty,  as some poet said. I prefer to do mine in the third person, because it is more removed and therefore one does not feel as much pressure to report purely fact. It is more creative, less of an accurate journal. However, ones English voice can become stale and suffocating because it is used so often. But to write a journal in a foreign language is even more fulfilling because it is a new voice. They say that one becomes a new person in each different language. All of this journal writing served to add dimension to my self-image.

Thinking with other people is also incredibly liberating. In Paris we termed this thinking as bleeding. With all of the role playing nonsense that pervades teenage behavior, there is incredible freedom in discussing the chaos of adolescence. Paris provides the perfect, intense forum to spark these discussions.

The whole thinking thing does get tiresome and suffocating. The beauty of Paris is that you can think and forget whenever you want. You can listen to music in Parc Monceau or you can contemplate art at one of the museums. And contrary to popular belief Paris is not about the alcohol. Life in Paris is too exciting to need to really escape the kind of escape that is alcohol induced. When you can do anything you want, having a picnic with friends by the Seine seems more noble than throwing up in a bar.

So how as all this thinking changed me? First of all, I now depend on learning on my own terms for intellectual fulfillment. When I arrived home, I went on various intellectual errands to fill the void. For instance, I went to the museum of Fine Arts and read La Nause by Jean Paul Sartre. My little brother asked,  Where has the real Maisy gone? More importantly though, all the thinking has made me change my self-image. Before Paris, I had a subconscious view of myself roughly based on the way that others characterize me. My self-image looked something like this: good athlete, diligent, hides behind sarcasm. Although this self-image was fuzzy and subconscious it was still limiting. Take sports writing for instance. I play three varsity sports and am therefore qualified to do sports writing. I am over qualified and therefor Sports writing is not a risk. Opinion writing on the other hand, was a risk that my self-image limited me from taking. According to my self-image, I had no particular qualifications for opinion writing and therefore was not comfortable enough to do it. Now, after all the thinking and freedom of Paris, I know that I have too much dimension to have a self-image of myself. What is the point? Ouvrir les yeux (open your eyes) and think a lot, you never know what you might find.