My house is littered with half-finished projects that seemed like a good idea at the time. Like the box of oil paints. I took a few classes, painted one painting, and that was it.
Whenever I come across that box of oil paints, I tell myself: Someday.
I even dropped out of college after one week. One week! It took an entire winter of working for Fanny Farmer, in a cinderblock warehouse, to convince me to go back the following September.
I went back, and I'm glad I did, because I was given a wonderful opportunity: to spend my junior year in Paris. Back home, my world had been pretty narrow. In Paris, my world - my life - was expansive and fascinating.
I went to the opera, to the ballet. I walked past Notre-Dame every afternoon. Occasionally, I'd drop in on the huge, curving display of Monet's water lilies. I walked along the street eating fabulous pastries.
At the end of the year, when it was time to go home, I thought: Why would I want to go home? I'd even had a job offer in Paris. Something clerical in a public relations firm. But it was a job. In Paris. Who could pass that up?
I got along so well in Paris that Parisians were nice to me. I swear.
There came the day, in early August, when it was time to either confirm my reservation on the SS France for the mid-August sailing to New York, or to cash in my ticket.
I can still remember the long walk from the subway to the French Lines office. To get there, I had to pass the Paris Opera. I had been to the opera house many times with my friends Florence and Maura, also American students.
I looked up at that ornate building and thought about the time I fainted during a performance of Swan Lake and had to leave before it was over. I was way up in the cheap seats, standing at the back, because these particular seats had no view of the stage, believe it or not. And it was hot up there.
As I came to, I heard Florence's voice. She was asking if anyone had a program, so she could fan my face with it. I opened my eyes to see all these concerned French people fanning me with Kleenexes and hankies.
Of course no one had a program. People who pay a buck for their tickets are not going to pay five bucks for one of those glossy opera programs.
As I walked past the opera house, I kept my hand in my pocket, touching the little folder that held my ticket.
I got closer to the shipping office, and I was thinking: I'll do it. I'll stay. I belong here.
As I pushed open the heavy glass door I thought about all the things I'd begun in my life but never finished. Assignments, projects, relationships.
When the woman behind the counter said, "Would you like to sail on August 16th?" what came out of my mouth was, "Yes."
I went back to Boston and earned my bachelor's degree, telling myself that I can always decide to go back and live in Paris. After all, it's a long life.
That was twenty-three years ago.
This past Christmas, Maura sent me a coffee-table book, a picture book of Paris. Now, I flip through the photographs of the Latin quarter and Notre-Dame and I tell myself: Someday.