If the happiest moment of one’s life is meant to be a jubilating climax, it’s fitting that mine occurred on the Eiffel Tower. Though the clichéd moment has often spurred inspiration for countless mimic lovers and over-inflated romantics, I neither felt love nor some overarching unity on the Parisian metallic beast. I instead gazed as millions of others had before and millions of others would in the future at a sprawling landscape peopled with artists and doctors, lawyers and criminals, politicians and savages, and I felt so perfectly alone. I was one among many, a centimeter against a ruler, a nobody in a world of nobodies. I wasn’t liberated; I was chained, restricted, and limited. I was shackled. And by realizing this, I was anything but.
This, though, means little at all by itself for it is not the revelation that is appreciated, but rather the volatile journey, with its valleys and troughs, its unexpected chances and wasted preparations, that are praised and cherished. There on the Eiffel Tower I was not a singularity, I was not a moment. I was the resultant outcome of everything that brought me there, from the food I ate to the girls I kissed to the classes I took and to those I didn’t. In all, I was all, and that is why I was happy.
Up until that point, I was regimented into the routine of everyday. I focused mainly on schedules and rescheduling until I found the pulse of small problems and made them astronomical. Nine O’clock, I woke up. By ten, I was working. By six, eating. Eight, reading. Eleven, washing. Twelve, sleeping, then repeating in that order.
Europe was meant to change this rhythmic burden of everyday. When I started planning for the trip, my expectations were informed by the myths of culture and idealism. In Paris, in Berlin, in Amsterdam, I was to find the ideal life, one sustained by the darkest coffee and the cheapest wine and the beautifully ruffled yet perfectly maintained haircuts and clothes. Cities would glint their forgotten raindrops in ancient archways and only I, when gazing up into the bricks that grew into skyless spires, would sense the permanence of this place. Like a stream rippled by a skipping rock, the very throb of the Gothic architecture and the cobbled streets would become personal to me.
In a way, they did. From eight in the morning until two the next day, I, along with a fellow student Cooper Long, travelled the various cities with our plans abandoned. When we arrived first in Amsterdam, we got lost in the first fifteen minutes. And this trend, one which my previously cloistered, protected and nurtured livelihood never underwent, inevitably continued wherever we went.
As a result, I became Kacper fully: an unfiltered, unmitigated, confused boy imitating a man imitating a parrot imitating others. I saw through my falsities, my need for control and reigns, and I let go of all that I pretended to be. I think that person was left somewhere in Amsterdam where the rain drips on and where I was startled by my own voice in the darkness.
But this newfound light was not Paris, and these moments were not my happiest. Such a responsibility of an all-consuming joy instead belonged to the endless night sky wishing that the sun would rise.
It did, and I woke up and the day wore on and the night came again only to end sometime when the curtain was raised, teeth were washed, and I was back home, or somewhere, or both.
Before then, I was on top of the world, or Paris’s part of it, and I was laughing. I think that’s why I was happy. Because in Paris, I learned that the ideal human is a traveler exploring the unknown. There at the top of France, I was that human, but so was everyone else, and for the first time in my short, short life, that meant something. I didn’t have to be unique. I just had to belong. All of us were under the same Heaven waiting for the clouds to part.
From above, it is said that everyone looks like ants, but from below, so do those who tower above us. I try to think about this now and again because it provides more than a momentary happiness. Though it sounds ridiculous, it allows me to see beyond the glumly cantankerous and the stratospheric troubles that seem to surround me and everyone else in a mysterious, intricate plan. In fact, it let me forgo that nebulous plan altogether. Now I am happy to live with uncertainty, with not knowing. To me, and to the person I have become since the romantics of Europe, that is knowing enough already.