Wednesday, 21 July 2010

How Do You Measure a Year?

It's been over a year in France, a lovely year indeed. How does one measure it? Well, if I could break into song and dance with the same talent as the cast of Rent, I would, but I think I'll just put 'Seasons of Love' on repeat and write a blog instead. :) (warning: some soul-baring may occur)

525,600 minutes, as the song says. What's the difference? How can we tell? By blog posts? By waist size? Matured taste in coffee? Increased snobbiness in how au gratin potatoes are prepared?

As for me, I'll measure it by my cashier at Monop. (an extension of Monoprix)

A year ago, I was an awkward, mildly obese 18-year-old in a massive college T-shirt and tennis shoes buying two bottles of soda every two days, sweating in the heat and nearly bursting into tears if he asked me a question in French. (Such as, 'Avec un sac?' Yes, as in 'Would you like a bag?')

This year, I'm a confident, mildly overweight 19 year old in new clothes bought savvily during the bi-annual store sales and (still) tennis shoes, rarely entering their store to buy soda, glistening slightly under lightly dusted make-up and confidently replying, "Oui, merci."
What's the difference? About sixty pounds, a few dozen useful French phrases, and a sponge of culture - which sometimes felt more like a syringe. Me and my monop cashier, we're homies, and he knows the difference. From about the third time I entered the store, he started smiling at me and urging me to learn more French. Well, I never did (I have a mental block, I swear!) but I have learned how to communicate the bare necessities. Such as, "Du sacs, s'il vous plait." 2 bags, please. (My spelling has not improved.)

My monop cashier has a wonderful, warm smile, one that I know he doesn't hand out to every customer. And it gets wider every time he sees me looking a little more French. He'd be proud to know that I ordered two coke zeros at the mall the other day, and the waiter didn't even notice I wasn't French. (That's a harder accomplishment than it sounds.)

There's more about me that's changed - I've learned that Christian community is more important than I had realized, I've learned what kind of coffee never to drink, how to keep my soda consumption to a minimum, how to navigate the publishing world (in theory), how to keep a room neater than I ever have before, and how to hold fast to dreams that feel like they're flying away.

But the Monop cashier has never learned this about me. How would he know? He doesn't. He doesn't know my name, I don't know his (no name tags). So why choose him as a measure for my year?

Because sometimes looks from farthest away are clearer. How have I changed to my mother? I'm thinner. How have I changed to my father? Eh. How have I changed to my brother? I'm more anti-social. (not really, but it seems that way.) They've always loved me, and sometimes love keeps us from seeing those 'little' changes. But how have I changed to the Monop cashier? How have I changed to you?

In France, they're so much more reserved. A warm smile is rare, even a customary smile is rare. He was my first genuine smile from someone who wasn't my family. Maybe he was laughing at me, but it was genuine.

I'm going to Uni in a little over two months. I don't know that world. I've forgotten certain American social graces, I'm a year behind on pop culture. I haven't spoken in person with many of my friends for over a year. But I'll be okay. Because, God willing, there will always be someone in the crowd of unfamiliar faces who smiles. Genuine smiles save people.

And I know I'll be smiling.


From This

To This:


Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Hi, I'm back from my hols :)

What a great post. It's so amazing how a year can make so many changes. I also love the way you say genuine smiles save people. It's true, a smile from someone you don't know is harder to get than from someone you love. And a genuine smile makes your day. :)

I think you look fab in the now photo. :) After loosing 85lbs myself, I know how hard it is to loose weight.

Plus, I know you'll be fine at Uni. You survived a year in France. :)

J. et K. said...

Fantastic post. I love the perspective you chose - the Monop cashier.

Marsha Sigman said...

Awesome post! Love the measure and so true, smiles save people. Your blog always makes me smile!

Also, what the hell? Are you and your brother twins?ha You are so cute!

Terry Stonecrop said...

You're adorable:) You and your brother look so much alike. I can see you have a more chic French look, now.

Love the Monop cashier and the smiles. So true. They can make or break a day.

Lisa said...

Yes! Loved this! What a cool opportunity. Your blog always makes me smile. =)

And remember: C'est la vie!

Missed Periods said...

"how to hold fast to dreams that feel like they're flying away."