Paris feels like it's on the cusp of Spring, in a slow but steady awakening from the dormant winter. On Wednesday afternoon, as the tantalizing sunshine peered through the windows, I couldn't help but slip out to nearby Jardin du Luxembourg for some fresh air.
It was a quiet afternoon, the streets filled with mostly adolescents, tourists and mothers with strollers. I walked through my favorite neighborhood of Saint Germain des Prés, the most Parisian of all areas with boutiques, residences and schools.
Here, in the Luxembourg gardens, kids were playing with remote controlled sailboats, an almost iconic pastime.
As the sun came out, I sat down in one of the green chairs and pulled out a book. But my mind wandered elsewhere.
The last time I was here was in May of 2012, when I visited W while studying abroad in Hong Kong. Could it be that three years had already flown by? Would I have thought, as my 19-year-old self, that I would end up Paris one day, in the middle of the Luxembourg Gardens with my camera and a book? How much things had changed since then.
Moving to Paris changed me. I came from a place where school, life and my career had been set out for me. I was told that if I did a, b and c, that it would bring me x, y and z. I never considered there to be an alternative.
Even though I told myself to never settle for the status quo, I just realize now that I still always did. I always made choices based on what others expected of me. Or perhaps more alarmingly, choices based on superficial generalizations of how successful careers should be.
Coming to Paris brought me a sense of freedom, though it feels dangerous at times without the security of a well-planned path. But there is excitement in the unknown - of seeing so many doors open to me, of having choices that I wouldn't have had elsewhere.
I used to feel comfort in having a five-year plan. I made schedules and agendas, bucket lists and tasks that I would tick off one at a time, because only when I ticked things off did I feel a sense of accomplishment.
I don't know where along the way I became all consumed with goals. I happily skipped the journey because I was always thinking about future - an ideal future that never failed to be worth sacrificing the present. But I would realize, when I reached them, one after another, that without the journey, my goals in and of themselves were meaningless and laughable.
Today, I still want to have goals, an action plan, of where I want to go. But I'm more fluid and flexible in what those plans can be. I vow to be more focused on the moment, rather than rushing through things to achieve an end goal. I vow to be more patient, forgiving and generous, to have lower expectations for others, and higher ones for myself. I vow to be more patient with myself, to understand that things take time, to take baby steps, slowly but surely.
I vow to live life like a journey instead of a destination, with an acceptance of its highs and lows and a mindfulness of what's happening in the present. I vow, not to chase after money, power or fame, not to count my achievements by the number of things I own, but instead, the number of people I have impacted in a positive way, big or small.