The Final Curtain Call

6 Jun

So as my adventures in Prague come to a close, I have been experiencing more emotions than ever before. I still can’t believe I only have about 5 days left in this wonderful place.

I can remember getting on the plane at Logan Airport in Boston on July 30, 2013. Dragging my 2 giant suitcases behind me & slinging my 2 overstuffed carry-ons over my shoulders. I hoped I had everything I needed, but there comes a time at those moments when you realize it’s too late to turn back & if I really did forget something I would just have to deal. I said goodbye to my family & my pets & my room & my house. It was so weird, not knowing the next time I would be back there. I mean, I had a rough idea:

-Fly to Prague

-Get my TEFL Certification throughout the month of August at TEFL Worldwide Prague

-Find a job/apartment/new friends/new life immediately after 

-Stay for 1 year & then come back home

There’s a saying that goes “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And while there were certainly a few curve balls that were thrown at me along the way, mostly everything went according to plan. 

And now, here I am, with 5 days left, living out of my suitcases at Gillian & Filip’s houses, trying to take everything in. Trying to formulate goodbyes that I swear are not permanent but then again, you never know. I am down to my last $10, have quit my job & moved out of my apartment. It’s the final curtain call.

And everyone is asking me, “Oh you must be SO EXCITED to go back!” but for a long time, I didn’t know how I felt. & Still don’t.

I feel stuck. I feel afraid. I feel worried. I am stressed out about undergoing another culture shock. Where things are completely different. Where doors always have to be locked, prices are ridiculous, & everyone around me may not like the new Jessi. 

I have changed so much throughout this experience. I am more open-minded, I am more introverted & have learned to listen a little more than I speak. This is such a stretch for a girl who would never shut up & always craved human companionship to now be able to travel alone & at times go hours without speaking. 

This change is not a bad thing. I just had to adapt to my new climate. 

And now I am scared to have to adapt again to the climate of USA, where people panic over not having a wifi signal & are going to talk behind my back about my weight or long distance relationship. How upsetting. 

One of the most freeing things for me during all this was having a crappy pay-as-you-go phone & getting my iPod stolen in November. Why? Because I was disconnected. Instead of scrolling through newsfeeds over dinner I actually made eye contact with the person sitting across from me. Instead of instagramming all my food, I actually ate & savored it. Instead of Google Maps, I read real maps & if I got a little lost, asked real people. It was refreshing. 

And now, after all the progress I have made & all the lessons I’ve learned over here in Prague I am terrified of reverting back to the way I was. Because then this would have all been such a complete waste of time. It would have just been like the vacation/escape from responsibilities some assumed it was.

Oh, & then there’s that huge elephant in the room everyone interrogates me about next: where will you work? 

Hey, guess what, I have no idea! And I am not worried about it at all. 

It is unfortunate how much your job is a form of social status. It must be, because it’s something we are all either ashamed of or bragging about these days. Personally, I think work ethic & happiness is more important. Yeah happiness won’t pay the bills & blah, blah, blah…but I just paid my bills for the past 10 months while being relatively happy over here, so what’s your point?

Chill everyone, I will find a job. Happiness though, I am a little more worried about finding that.

Image(Above: One of my favorites in the cemetery)

While in Paris, since it was my 4th visit & favorite city, I wanted to just basically chill & explore some things that I had never seen before. Somehow I had never been to Pere Lachaise. Pere Lachaise is the largest cemetery in Paris & a tourist attraction because of some of the famous people who are buried there. Musicians like Jim Morrison, singers like Edith Piaf & writers like Oscar Wilde all rest in Pere Lachaise. 

Since Zach was off exploring the Louvre, I basically had this huge window of time to explore Pere Lachaise alone on my second to last day in Paris. And I’m so glad I did. It sounds odd to say but wandering aimlessly around a giant cemetery for a few hours is eerily therapeutic. I walked right in, not even bothering to grab a map, I just didn’t care. I wasn’t there to go take a few quick selfies with the graves of people who had never affected me. I was there to find something else.

Having been to a few cemeteries near my hometown, I can honestly say that Pere Lachaise is magnificent & unlike any place I’d ever been before. The graves were not just simple headstones but intricate tombs, old stone supulchres & breathe-taking murals. I walked alone, away from the tourists. Trees shrouded the cemetery in eerie shadows even though it was a fairly sunny day & the only sound were the birds chirping high above. I was in a trance.

Image

I scanned the hundreds of graves reading the names of the families buried there. The tombs were lined in little winding paths that lead you deeper into the cemetery. I came across sculptures of famous deceased play-writes, actors & writers who I had never heard of. I felt a power & energy coming from Pere Lachaise. It was indescribable. All those lives intertwined, some recently departed & others long forgotten.

And this was the thing that shook me the most.

Some tombs were carefully preserved. Clean, manicured & covered with flowers, plaques & other offerings. But others were mossy & crumbling, either from age or lack of preservation. It made me so sad. Who were these people buried here? Did anyone care about them? What were their stories? Unfortunately, no one would ever know, because now the only object dedicated to this soul’s existence was rotting away just like the skeleton buried deep below.

I was so humbled.

Image

I really respected how most of the plaques, statues or monuments dedicated to the deceased were in no way joyous. They were honest. Death is painful, death is sad, but death is inevitable. Most of the marble plaques etched in French read things along the lines of “Farewell, Mama” or “Until we shall meet again”. My favorite was, morbidly enough, sculptures of grim reapers hovering above. A fearful creature, but in fact, one that will catch up to all of us eventually.

But why do we fear death? Personally I think it’s because we will not make enough of an impact in the world before we go. That way, just like the old warning in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, we will be buried at an empty funeral & our name or legacy will go right along with us.

But as sad as I was seeing the crumbling old no-name graves, I was amazed by the very preserved ones. 

Although it was true that most of these graves were of those whose deaths were much more recent, some were really not. Some spanned generations. Men & women who passed away decades ago who still had brightly colored fresh flowers resting on top of their tombs. & These names were ones I had never heard of before. 

I wondered why at first but then I realized it’s because even if they possibly died too soon, their time on the Earth made enough of an impact that it was not only not forgotten, passed down. Parents told their children & their children told their grandchildren. The story lived on until it because a legacy & this is a rare occasion when one experiences life after death. 

& Who knows, maybe some of these mossy overgrown tombs were once great people too. They just reached a generation where their light could no longer shine & it was distinguished. From ashes to ashes & dust to dust, is what they say after all.

Image

During my solo walk around Pere Lachaise while contemplating all this meaning of life, I realized just how lost I felt with my own life at the moment. I had no permanent address & was unsure about my future. I felt like my heart was about to be stretched across to two places. I was about to reunite with the people I have always loved, but in order to do that I had to leave behind all the new people I have since fallen in love with. It’s a tough feeling. 

So it was there, that I asked for a sign. For an indication of where to turn & what to do.

Immediately, a ray of sunlight poked through the trees & illuminated a single grave. I walked over to it & saw it was one of the cutest couples I have ever seen. They were born just a year apart & died a year apart too. Portraits from their youth were presented right above their dates. I instantly felt tears welling up in my eyes. This was it.

The answer was love.

This couple was born around the same time & probably got married at a young age (just like my own grandparents). They survived decades of wars, changes & hardships. But they survived them together. And then, when the woman died in 1997 at the ripe age of 89, her husband soon followed one year after. He could have gone due to complications the body experiences at this age, but I honestly believe it was because of a broken heart. 

How do you go on living without someone who has been your other half for so long? Someone who you grew up with & survived with for so many years. Most of these couples couldn’t. I soon noticed a pattern of most of the couples who were buried side-by-side in Pere Lachaise–they all died within 3 years of each other. Say what you want about medical complications, but like in The Notebook I think it was divine intervention. True love is eternal. 

Since coming to Prague, I thought I knew true love with another. I thought it was fairly one dimensional & something that would eventually fade. I was skeptical & logical & always felt I would just grow out of the other person. 

Image

But then I met Filip.

I have never experienced emotions so powerful with someone else. And as foolish as anyone may think I sound for feeling this way about someone I have been with since January, then please, tell me about your own love story? Are you settling, sometimes unhappy & think in the back of your head you could probably do better? Sorry, dear readers, but that isn’t true love. 

True love is my grandparents celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary & still holding hands & acting like teenagers. True love is all these beautiful couples in Pere Lachaise buried next to each other to be together for all eternity. 

And regardless of who knows what will happen, I feel like I have found something so real right now. Something that time or distance cannot alter. It was destiny. Because I am a huge believer in fate & when the universe sends you someone who makes you feel like I feel right now it’s a sin to just throw that all away. 

Before I left for Prague my mom joked that I could go on one condition:

“When you fall in love with a Czech boy, you have to promise me you will come back home.”

I laughed because I always thought Europeans were players & I just wanted to be single & enjoy the experience.

But isn’t it funny how life works out?

So now, Mom, here I am, I am head over heels in love, but I am getting on a plane in 5 days to come back to you. We will do the long-distance thing for 4 months & then Filip will come visit me in USA. But who knows about afterwards. 

They say that, “Home is where the heart is”, & my heart/home is about to be in 2 locations. But planes will always exist & I will always be welcome back…

…& You would always be willing to read Czech It Out Blog Pt 2, right? 😉

-JG 

 

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