In the summer of 2015, hardly a year into my time at Automattic, I traveled to Vancouver, Canada where I camped out for a month to catch the Women’s World Cup. It was a surreal trip and one of the first times I vividly remember making a real home in a foreign place. I remember my mom coming up for some games after a friend bailed and jumping on the bus with her. She marveled at my ability to navigate the city. Meanwhile, I was still on edge and panicked about accidentally heading the wrong way :D.
As soon as that tournament finished and I found out the next World Cup would be held in France, I promised myself I would somehow make it there. I’ve kept that promise to myself and write this from Paris, France fresh off last night’s World Cup opener between France and South Korea. Somehow after months of slowly planning, it’s all coming together despite showing up to the airbnb unable to find the key under the rug where the owner said it would be (this was later resolved but not before being given a key to the wrong apartment by the building owner).
The first game was incredible. There was an energy that you don’t get in the United States around soccer – the constant cheering, the “crowd wave” making its way round and round, the outbursts of singing seemingly at random. I was jet lagged but enthralled every second of the game. A strange thing happened when the event came to a close. People stayed. As the French national team made their way slowly around the field to applaud their fans, people hardly moved or rushed the exits despite it being close to 11pm. In the US, it always feels like a mad dash home as soon as the seconds wind down on a game and often long before the final whistle blows. I went to a US vs Brazil game in San Diego where the US scored 3 goals in 9 minutes at the very end of the game to come back and win (it was 3-1 with Brazil up at the 79th minute). It was one of the greatest and most dramatic US comebacks I’ve ever seen. Sadly, so many who had tickets to the game were already gone:
We couldn’t leave our row and had to eventually climb into the row above ours to begin leaving. Normally, I’m one to try to beat crowds (hi, introvert here) but knowing the trains would run every few minutes put me at ease. We slowly made our way down the stairs and out of the stadium only to find people just milling about. I’ve never seen anything like it and I loved it! It felt more like a local gathering than a group of people trying to flee one another. As we made our way to the train station, a group of young girls sang a song in French cheering on their team.
This time in Europe feels the most settled I’ve ever felt. Last year’s trip started with unexpected and stressful news from work which made for a whirlwind of a trip. It does help that I spent two weeks in Paris two years ago with a dear friend too. Today, we walked into Museum d’Orsay and I already knew which rooms to go to (my mom and I love the same art which makes navigating museums a breeze). We spent 5 hours there soaking in the incredible art. At one point, my mom asked why I keep bringing her back to places I’ve already been. I truly believe there are some places you can return to repeatedly and still find more to learn. Paris is easily one of those places for me.
This time around, the Museum had an incredible temporary exhibit on “Black Models”. They used the word model to mean two things: an artist’s model and a role model. While many of the artists who painted black people in the past left them nameless, they worked to find the names they could and offered alternative titles including those names alongside the original. It was an awe inspiring display of art and even featured a piece from LA’s Getty Museum which made me laugh having been to the Getty at least 5 times (love when small moments of continuity happen like that).
Promises are hard to keep to yourself. I’ve broken many. It’s why I pause to celebrate this big promise I kept to myself and the way it’s all aligning. It reminds me of a favorite quote of mine and makes me proud I was able to create this adventure for myself:
“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”― Neil deGrasse Tyson
Tomorrow, we head to Giverny where Claude Monet, an artist my mom helped me learn to love, lived. This will be another place I return to and I can’t wait. When I went there the first time, I hoped I’d be able to bring her there!