For work I assisted at an Haute Couture fashion presentation at Le Meurice, one of the finest hotels in Paris. I admired the exquisite craftsmanship and beauty of the collection of evening gowns on display. After the show, I get yelled at for a shoe left-behind incident. I promised myself that I deserve to be treated with more respect and integrity.
January had long and dreary days. However, I come home one evening and to my surprise (I lived with a lovely French family) it was the holiday La Fête des Rois and I’m given an honorary crown and we eat delicious cake with almond paste. It was the sweet little wink to keep going.
After a lengthy search, I find and sign a lease for a 1-bedroom Moroccan-themed apartment in the 5th arrondissement. I love having my own quiet space and exploring my new charming neighborhood.
After assisting at a women’s fashion show held at Galeries Lafayette, I approach a popular American fashion blogger and invite her to the opening of the Dries Van Notten exhibition at Les Arts Decoratifs. She, Chriselle Lim, brings along her BFF Aimee Song. The exhibit is impressive, and my blogger guests are the most gracious, nice people who deserve every ounce of their success.
I am a volunteer and participate at The Daily Love Tour – Paris stop. Mastin is a super warm and down-to-earth guy (and also very tall.) It’s my first live kundalini yoga class too, and I’m hooked. I feel so blessed to finally meet “my spiritual people” in this city, and make some wonderful new expat friends.
I get up the nerve to talk to my boss using the nonviolent communication approach regarding my long working hours. Amazingly, it goes over very well, and she agrees I can leave at 4PM (instead of 7PM.) I am OVERJOYED and work feels way lighter. The early spring weather is glorious, and I spend most days eating lunch outside of Canal Saint Martin and reflecting before/after work at Jardin des Plantes.
April was a very lively month. My parents visited, my friend had an emergency need-to-crash-on-your couch transition, new colleagues were hired at work, and I developed new friendships. For a friend's birthday we go to Opera Garnier, to see my first opera ever.
Work projects get interesting. I assist/watch some fashion shoots, and even play in front of the camera. Also, I become a fit-model for a young Indonesian designer, when his curvy model doesn’t fit his clothing proportions. While I am far from a model (very tall and skinny), I am “close enough” and was so cool to see the designer and his modelist (aka patternmaker, fitter) in process.
After a series of intense work days, the first three days of May I literally lay in bed, too exhausted to move. On the fourth day, I have enough energy to meet my dear friend Allison and we go to the elegant Musee Rodin and it immediately becomes one of my favorite spots in Paris. We share deep conversation, it clicks: to surrender regarding my work. I trust that legally and professionally something new will open up for me very soon.
A friend organizes a girl’s "manifestation tribe", and I offer to be the first to host. We have a vegan pot-luck and do a meditative process where we hold a new intention for each other. I loved our supportive and blissful gatherings each month, and our intentions blossomed quickly.
I meet a talented French lingerie designer through a friend, and become her first apprentice. I exchange with her business ideas and she gives me the most valuable thing – confirmation that yes, I’m a fashion designer. It’s the words I yearned to hear, "yes Jennifer, you are a designer, you’ve got it, keep sketching, just keep going…"
In the meantime, I interview with two tour guide companies to lead themed tours in Paris part-time. I get offers but to my surprise, it all went haywire and didn’t work out. Other leads fall through too. I listen to that inner voice telling me, there’s something better in the works for me. But still, I feel hard on myself for not bringing in more income.
I visit my friend Allison, who lives in the suburbs outside of Paris, with full house and lovely backyard all to ourselves. What was supposed to be an afternoon, turns into several trips and nights over there. I confess that I haven't left the city center in over 7 months, and feel very burnt out. I realize how deeply my spirit needs nature, quiet, and vitamin D.
Sitting under a billowing willow tree in the backyard, Allison, yet again… nudges me to let go. I realize I need to let go of my apartment, my anxiety about my work status, and French visa that will be expiring at the end of the year. I realize how essential it is for me to spend some time away from Paris to gain some much perspective and recharge. Maybe the universe has a better plan in store for me than my small mind has for myself….
I pack up and let go of my beloved apartment, and head off to Greece. I island hop to Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Tinos, and Myknonos. I partake on a spiritual retreat in Paros that turns my life upside down, inside and out in the best ways possible (will have to share more about this another time.) Deep healing takes place, and a whole new way to practice spirituality. I feel the most vibrant and open ever, and danced a lot too.
I spend a delightful under 24-hours in Belgium. My flight arrives super late from Greece, and my hotel closes before I arrive. I meet, by chance, a young man at the train station who is a spiritual/yoga teacher, and he offers me his guest room in Ghent. I know it's safe to go. We stay up late talking about Osho, spirituality, and travels. I spend the next day prancing around charming Bruges, eating gourmet chocolates, admiring the charm of the canals and local shops.
I crash on my friends couch in Paris, whom I met on the retreat in Greece. It feels like an adult girls slumber party to hang out with 3 cool girls for a week. I’m searching online for a new apartment in Paris, but getting frustrated with my search. Visiting Jardin du Luxemberg, again with Allison, I confess that I’m not motivated to sign for another apartment, and that I’ve been secretly looking at airfare to travel more. She nudges me to look within myself and follow my desire to travel. Others input that I’m “running away” and it stirs a mix of emotions. In the end, I listened to my inner voice. I booked a plane ticket to Croatia and head off the next evening.
I land in Croatia without a plan. I arrive in Zadar, and it ends up being the most lovely place that I stay for 5 consecutive nights. Thereon, I travel down the coast of Croatia and admire the gorgeous teals and blues of the Adriatic sea. I head to Montenegro and over to Bosnia and Herzegovina, enjoying them greatly as well.
I make it back to Paris by the end of the month, in time for Paris Fashion Week. The highlight is Tranoi, a tradeshow featuring fashion designers around the world. I am deeply inspired by the designs I see, and the genuine spirits of all the successful (and young!) designers I talked to (no bitchy fashion people.)
Hell-fire breaks lose with my former apartment agency. They bill me hundreds of euros in unnecessarily charges. It’s very uncomfortable yet I hold my ground in response. We kind-of meet at a middle ground, and in the end I chalk it up to karma. At least I loved living there (other than the agency), and I learn a heck of a lot about contracts and expectations.
Mid-month, I’m off to Italy. Milan has been on my travel list for years. I enjoy some spots (i.e. Como Corso concept store) but truth is, I am yet again overwhelmed with the frantic pace of city life. I head north to Lake Como and fall in love with the region, visiting numerous small towns dotted along the lake. It’s the most photo-worthy destination imaginable.
My plans divert, yet again. Sometimes travel is stressful, not knowing where I am going to stay, even the next day. Magically, it all aligns in a new way: head north to Switzerland. I stayed at a truly idyllic bed & breakfast in central Thun. The views are spectacular amidst the lakes, majestic mountains, and picture-green pastures with dinging cow bells heard afar. The B&B owners are a lovely couple, the wife a healer and astrologer who was fascinating to talk to. She confirms that I’m doing the exact right thing for my spirit, to travel and be, and gives me tips for protecting my energy.
I then head to Ireland. I never wanted to go to Ireland, but friends/family convince me that I’ll love it. I’m 37.5% Irish and immediately love the Irish spirit, people are so generous and funny. I stay outside of Dublin in Bray, enjoying seaside walks and glorious green landscapes. My host took me hiking on the last day, and we come upon the most gigantic double rainbow!
My views on fashion change and intensify. I become aware of the ethical, environmental, and inhumane practices that take place within the mainstream fashion industry. I already was committed to eating organic/ethical food, how did I not know about this in my own industry? I cave and buy a H&M dress, but then vow that it’s time to give up H&M, Zara, and cheap discount stores, and instead to buy clothing of integrity and value. I promise to create them as well.
I return to Paris to wrap everything up before coming back to the USA for the holidays. I had a massive list, plans goodbye to everyone, and visit all of my favorite spots. I realize by the first week that I don't have the energy and there is no point of stressing myself. I have to set boundaries. I let go of everything and decide to do Paris my way. I hurt some feelings, but in the end, I experienced my last month of Paris in 2014 exactly as I needed.
I head back to the USA for the holidays. I haven’t seen my nephew in over a year, but quickly we become best buds, running around the house and playing outside. Being called “Aunt Jenn” is music to my ears.
I realize how much “old baggage” has been lying doormat at my childhood bedroom. Why did I hold onto bitter memory items, random junk, and dozens upon dozens of stuffed animals? I move everything out of the room, donate bags of stuff, repaint and refreshen the room. The space, still in progress, feels lighter, happier, peaceful, and a better reflection of a happy childhood.
And so there it is, my 2014!
Onward to 2015!
Much love and joy to you in the new year!
* Note: Due to length constraints, and there were many memorable people, experiences, and revelations that were not able to be included in this piece.