There and Back with a Bang!

Sunny Central Park and Jumping Girl with Umbrella

Paris! I’ve returned!

Yes, after a month’s sojourn Stateside I’m back in the City of Light.

But just what was I doing away for so long?

Well, falling back in love with my American home, to be honest.

Late Night Mexican Street Food on the Lower East Side

The trip stirred up a lot of feelings for me. Just when I thought I was settled (and incredibly satisfied!) in Paris, New York had to go and work her old charm on me.

Oh, this. THIS.

That was my reaction as soon as I stepped back into the city. I was flooded with my overwhelming love for the place: the energy, diversity, the possibilities just teeming in the streets.

Never thought a bagpipe could be a viable “jam” instrument, but I was proven wrong in Union Square. I have video, too!

I also felt lighter. The layer is invisible – I’ve gotten so used to wearing it I must have forgotten it was even there, but I instantly felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I’m not a fish out of water. I’m home.

I’ve navigated my way around Paris pretty well, but New York reminded me what it really feels like to be fully myself. I’m more free, confident. The city just makes me smile.

My friend Kathy Zimmer singing her heart out in Long Island City

It didn’t hurt that it was mostly good weather and each time I checked in on Paris it was cold and raining. Status updates from my Paris friends bemoaned the solid wall of gray rain. There may not be a song called “April in New York” but I know I was in the right place at least for that month.

Modeled on Parisian boat ponds!

But! This is not a down-on-Paris post (though I am reading the new book Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and snorting with recognition), but just an honest assessment: this trip made me homesick. It’s the first time in awhile that I’ve returned to Paris and not been excited – I was really sad to leave city, family, and friends behind in the States.

Poet Evie Shockley at MIXER Reading and Music Series

I see this as an opportunity, though. Life isn’t static, is it? Or if it is – if we feel stuck – that’s no good, either. So this is a chance to reevaluate again. What do I need to be happy? What does the dream life look like? If I’m not fulfilled, what can I do so that I am?

For the record, even in my blissful New York euphoria I still couldn’t imagine living full-time in the city again. And I definitely couldn’t imagine leaving Paris any time soon. But a new dream seemed to be forming: I need to get back here more often. What if I tried to divide my time?

All of this is vague, fluffy notions in my mind (though a lot of good stuff comes from vague, fluffy notions if you respect the process and allow space and time!)

Ok, a Parisian deli would probably be more glamorous in Paris

It does motivate me to find and create more meaning in my Paris life. I mean, I don’t need to list all its wonders. I’m crazy grateful to live here. But I realized that for me Paris is beauty and New York is buzz. Buzz as in energy, a hum, an inexplicable call to life. So beauty and buzz – I want both!

French Roast, which my friend called the “fake French restaurant.” Indeed.

Before I return to Paris posts, just a quick word about what made April so special. The month was bookended by two incredible events I was thrilled to attend.

In the beginning of April my writing mentor/friend/one of my favorite people/basically I consider her family Sarah Van Arsdale launched her third novel, Grand Isle. I’ll try to write a whole separate post about Sarah sometime because she is just that awesome. (So is her book! Check it out!)

Sarah Van Arsdale (and me!) on a radio show

In her unending generosity, Sarah invited me to not only her launch party, but a radio interview, and the Publishing Triangle Awards, plus dinner with literati afterwards. She’s always helped me along the writing/life path.

Then at the end of the month I went down to DC for my sister’s investiture ceremony. Investiture isn’t a word I was familiar with, but apparently this is a common word in French as everyone I spoke to before leaving knew exactly what I was talking about.

So what am I talking about?

My sister is now an associate judge (the YOUNGEST judge!) in DC Superior Court. I was there for her ceremony when she officially got robed.

Um, yeah. That’s a presidential appointment. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton personally signed her commission.

Good holy! How amazing is that?

No photos were allowed in the courthouse (or her roomy chambers!), but let’s just say, impressed doesn’t begin to cover it.

What’s hilarious is that they mentioned the family (including me!) in the introduction. My other sister had also flown in (from Bahrain!). Judge Sister (what a trip hearing people call your sister “your honor”) kept saying she was the “boring” sister. Um, right. Foreign destinations do not supersede important appointments in the nation’s capital, your honor. In fact, I’d say the bar has now been set dangerously high. (Here I am jumping to try to reach it!)

Me and my adorable niece! Miss her so much!

As you can see, a full month to catch both events was in order. And in between….

Oh, in between I simply soaked up every second. I didn’t take that many photos in general; I was too busy just experiencing being back.

Here’s a video from one of my favorite projects: Humans of New York is a photographic census of the city, one street portrait at a time. This video is cool, but I like the Facebook (or Tumblr) page better. There you get a caption to accompany the photo – and the story is often as awesome as the shot. The project got the front page of the Wall Street Journal today, but I’ve been following along for a few months now. The diverse, colorful photos are a very happy addition to my life.

Thanks for indulging me in my journey through New York. I figure this: New York was my first love. Most people don’t stay with their first love forever, but you never forget them. The first love is special.

Love you, New York.

Love you, too, Paris. I promise I have not forsaken you.

You? First love? Or fluffy, vague notions you’re trying to bring into the light?

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23 Responses to “There and Back with a Bang!”


  1. 1 Lindsey (@LostNCheeseland) May 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Oh boy! Sounds like this was an extremely eye-opening trip for you. Wouldn’t it be grand to split our time between our favorite places? I hope you can make that a reality. So many New Yorkers (or former New Yorkers) I’ve spoken to still attest to the energy it fuels unlike any other place in the world. A land of continued opportunity, particularly for artists! Welcome back. Paris IS hard but a trip to NY now and again is the perfect remedy :)

    • 2 paris (im)perfect May 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks, Lindsey. Yes, the energy is the main reason I miss New York so much. I just can’t describe it – and I just haven’t experienced it anywhere else.

      BUT, the trip also puts the fire under my ass: what can I do in my life now, here in Paris that stimulates and feeds me? I’m in a very fortunate position to be living in one amazing city and also loving another!

      Splitting time between our favorite places is indeed a grand idea. I think I’m a long way from that, but it’s nice to think about. Have to plant the seed sometime!

  2. 3 wonderthon May 2, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Welcome to the club of “split” people who “want to live 6 months in Paris and 6 months in their homeland” :) Love your post, BTW, looks the more you find yourself, the better you write!

    • 4 paris (im)perfect May 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      Aw, what a nice thing to hear! I like this correlation of better writing and discovery of self!

      Also, yes. I think there a whole lot of split people in this world! Maybe we should invest together. I’m willing to go in for Paris property and rotate around ;)

  3. 5 dailyfrancofile May 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    This is a great insight. I have just begun planning my temporary move to France and I am truly excited but the more I sit and really think about it I begin to realize there is so much about ‘here’ that I will miss. It is probably the people that make home where home is and the feelings of memories from your past but I love that you point this out. It isn’t often you hear of an expat really reflect on what they are missing out on when moving away (other than hamburgers and whatnot…). Thanks again!

    • 6 paris (im)perfect May 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Wow, good luck with your move! It’s true: it really does open you to this longing sometimes, this feeling of being split. But also how positive is that? It OPENS you. It makes you more grateful and reflective of all the blessings that make up a life.

      I miss so much from home but living here has also become just as important an identity marker for me. So…the journey continues! It’s not always easy, but it can always be interesting!

  4. 7 Andrea Delumeau May 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    what a great, inspring article! i hope you can find a way to live in both cities!

  5. 9 Tina May 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Wow, Sion, that really moved me. Beautiful piece. I love the “invisible layer” in particular, and your characterization of beauty and the buzz. (Your next book title, lol.) On a non-writerly note, the question “what does your dream life look like” is one that’s so worth examining, because what we believe is what we get. Hold the vision and you’ll have it before long. xo

    • 10 paris (im)perfect May 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks, Tina. Beautiful images you’ve got yourself! I like this idea of holding the vision. First I want to clarify the vision, but it’s nice to be asking the questions again. Yes! Such a worthy examination/exploration. Also, thanks for the book title. It *does* have a ring to it, doesn’t it? ; )

  6. 11 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) May 2, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Welcome back to Paris, Sion! Has it *already* been a month?! Sheesh. Time just flies…

    What a wonderful post — so much going on, so much happening! First off, congrats to your sister and to your author friend. Such special reasons to reconnect with one of your “home places” on this planet. :)

    I could totally relate to the feeling of “lightness” one has when going back to a cultural and linguistic environment that is familiar and loved, as well as perhaps more accepting than Paris can feel to an expat. I described it this past summer when I visited the US and Canada as not having to bend into the box of Paris anymore and feeling myself standing straight once again. Paul used to live in a “chambre de bonne” and talked of bending to wash dishes in the sink which was located under a dormer ceiling. Yeah, going back to the home of origin is like that: being in a kitchen where you don’t have to bend under the ceiling, lol. It’s a good feeling.

    I like how you write about New York being your first love. It puts a personification into the situation I can understand completely. I really hope you can have your dream of somehow spending significant time per year in both places.

    As for me? You know, in all honesty, sometimes I have trouble feeling like this *planet* is home to me, lol. My home sometimes feels like it certainly must be somewhere in another world or dimension. Earth?!? o_O Totally foreign-feeling to me sometimes, lol. But, I totally did have that near-obsessive first-love feeling with PR China, and I dearly hope that someday I can go back to visit and/or teach there once more. I know that my first love has changed tremendously since I was there, and I really want to see my reaction to it now, twenty-plus years later. I really wonder what my reaction would be…

    So glad you are back, Sion, and blogging about your adventures. It’s nice to catch up with what’s going on with you, and in your characteristic wonderful voice. :)

    • 12 paris (im)perfect May 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      You’re a trip, Karin. And good analogy with the kitchen. Agreed. That’s kind of what it felt like for me, too. I just felt myself grow big again. Or not big…just back into myself, into my own skin.

      As for planet earth and worlds beyond, I’d try not to tie everything back to New York, but you know what it’s like when you’re in love right? Always thinking about the loved one! Anyway, that’s what I love about New York – everyone from every planet seems to be there!

      I hope you get to go back to China, too. That’d be so interesting to see how you feel about it so many years later.

      Thanks for the nice comment as always. See you around these parts soon ; )

  7. 13 Cleopatra May 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    i think being an expat there will always be that love/hate relationship with our new homes/hometowns, we will always wonder we could have been, should be, etc….living in Paris for the past three years I can say its an interesting city with its up and downs but NYC is hands down the best city in the world period. There is always that struggle living in another place especially a foreign one, to say I want to go back home however we have to understand the home as knew it doesnt exist anymore so in the meantime, yes get that fresh of hometown air once in while it does the body and mind good! :)

    • 14 paris (im)perfect May 2, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      Ah, a woman after my own heart ; )

      It’s very true. Home doesn’t exist in the way we knew it before. (I think that was my realization the *last* time I wrote about NYC. I should go dig up that post and check ; )

      But that’s kind of why this trip was so amazing. I know I’m not going to relive the New York of my twenties, of my first love-starved gazes and heady nights. But there really is something in the “air” there that just gets to me. No kidding it did me good to go home for a fresh dose!

  8. 15 Amy Kortuem May 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    How exciting, that a visit home sparked these thoughts about “next steps” and “creating newness.” Can’t wait to see what you do with this! And welcome back, I’ve missed you here!

    • 16 paris (im)perfect May 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      Ha! Can’t wait to see what I do with this, either! *If* I do anything. That’s actually one of my complaints about Paris. Or no…let’s be more positive. One of my loves about New York – I think and feel bigger there. Somehow Paris lulls me into this kind of inertia. It’s beautiful, but it’s stagnant. So that’s why I’ve got to either figure out how to feel just as alive here (I just drank a Yogi Tea that said “find your own depth) or actually figure out how to get more of my fuel where I know I can find it.

      I missed you, too, by the way. This larger thinking might see me stepping back from blogging just a bit, but then I’d miss you too much! Yet another situation to balance. Maybe I’ll just make this blog the “struggling (yet again) to find myself” blog – as if it’s not kind of that already ; )

  9. 19 Christine May 3, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I know exactly what you mean! When I was living in Paris, I realized what I love most about NYC is the diversity, energy, and acceptance of craziness in general. A guy dancing in his underwear with stuffed animals and a rainbow colored wig at Astor Place? Normal. Paris is a dream, but at times I really missed dirty, smelly, chaotic, anything goes, NYC streets where you never know what will happen. NYC is also where I feel the most stimulated as you said — the city constantly pushes you to be better and challenges you to take risks. It feels like you can do anything. The problem is, it can be incredibly exhausting and stressful. In Paris I relax, travel, and thoroughly love my life, perhaps more than in NYC, but I never have that same drive. That said… I am currently planning to move back to Paris, but I hope to take along some of that NYC passion!

    • 20 paris (im)perfect May 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Christine,

      You have described EXACTLY how I feel. Yes! The energy, the acceptance of craziness! That is what I miss when I’m in Paris. But yes, day in and day out that level of hyper stimulation can be exhausting. That’s why I said I couldn’t quite imagine doing NYC full-time again. BUT – and it’s a huge but for me – I really do miss having that drive. Paris is more relaxed…but almost too much so! I mean, I *like* feeling stimulated and driven and ambitious. Somehow that seems to evaporate when I’m in Paris. I need to figure that out. Of course, this is why the current dream is a dose of both ; )

      Good luck with your move back – maybe we’ll meet up and help keep the NYC passion going!

  10. 21 Sweet Freak May 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    So glad to have spent time with you in NYC and even happier that you’re finding your groove back in Paris… here’s to the Transatlantic divide!


  1. 1 Bike from London to Paris! (And Other Wild, Realizable Goals) « paris (im)perfect Trackback on October 11, 2012 at 10:31 pm

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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