Just Do It…And Have a Happy New Year!

By: Talyn Terzian-Gilmour

You can’t underestimate the power of fear…but what also can’t be underestimated is the power of the human spirit…

For the title of this entry, I’m borrowing from one of the most successful global brands and saying, “Just Do It.”  Do what?  Climb that mountain.  Take that course.  Run 50 miles.  Go on that trip.  Chop off your hair.  Start that business.  Or just say no and do YOU for a change.  Whatever it is that you’ve been procrastinating about, Just Do It!!  Life’s too short – another cliché saying and yet, perhaps the one thing to which everyone everywhere over the age of 30 can agree.

About six months ago I learned that my cousin would be getting married in Paris.  And about 5 months and 29 days ago, I decided I would be travelling there on my own, to spend a few days immersing myself in the city of my dreams.  I spent about three days researching my airline ticket options, and then about two weeks studiously reviewing every possible Airbnb option in various neighbourhoods (or arrondissements) in Paris.  When I finally settled both of these two big pieces, things started to become very real…and my panic kicked into overdrive.

See, I’m generally a fearful – well, more accurately, overly analytical and massively cautious person.  I attribute this to my upbringing in a country where it was ingrained in me that I could be kidnapped at any given moment, or be doused in acid without provocation.  And yet, I also have that adventurous side that never wants to sit still and always seeks to realize my wildest imaginations – thanks to weekends full of rock climbing and running wild at the beach. 

That is the side that smashes through fear with brute force, also known as “reason” – this trip won’t be that scary…there’s the safety net of local family but still, a huge step in terms of leaving behind my own family and especially my children back home, across a vast ocean.  Yet, the human spirit needs to be filled, to be stretched and to be challenged…and that feeling, once experienced, is addictive.

A few days ago, after a particularly long day on the streets of Paris, specifically in the bustling neighbourhood of St.-Germain-des-Prés, I came back to my very French ‘flat in the attic’, via an elevator made for three (but by North American standards, more like one) and where the toilet is separate from the rest of the WC.  I made myself a hot plate of pasta (food for my soul), accompanied with baguette and French butter, and tucked in as I caught up on some Netflix.  My stomach, which had been laden with panic for weeks over this trip, finally felt full for the first time in days when suddenly a loud BANG at the door and a booming voice calling, “C’est les pompiers!”

My brain immediately went into hyperdrive…reason had left the building.  I was not expecting anyone.  No one in the vicinity (in fact, virtually no one on this side of the Atlantic) knew where I was.  All I could think about was poor Kim Kardashian West and her Paris incident.  Why would there be firefighters outside my door?  There was no fire alarm.  Surely these were vandals here to do me harm. I opened all the windows in my attic apartment and could neither see nor smell a fire.  I had to find a way out.

I asked in my broken French, “But why are you here?  There’s no alarm, there’s no fire.  How do I know you’re really firefighters?  Do you speak English?” and the reply came, “No.”  With no peephole to verify who or how many were outside my door, from somewhere within, my inner chihuahua let loose (you know, how chihuahuas often forget just how tiny they are and will keep barking even at the largest of dogs), “I will NOT open this door.  I will NOT let you in.  There is NO alarm, there is NO fire.  S’il vous plait, leave!”

I waited, flat on the ground, peering through the crack from under my door for what felt like an absolute eternity for the timer lights in the hallway to go out (hopefully) indicating that no person remained outside.  Then put my jeans on, threw on a sweater, grabbed my passport, wallet and telephone and tore out the apartment, down that same tiny elevator and ran out onto the busiest street in all of Paris, the Champs Elysees.  With tears in my eyes all I could think was, I was no longer safe. Someone had observed that I had been coming and going all by myself all along.  I should have never come!  I should have stayed in my safe little cocoon…

I called Mr. Niceguy, then more than three-thousand-five-hundred miles away.  I wanted to hear his voice.  And then in a moment of clarity within my absolute fevered frenzy, sought answers as to what was happening…

In the end, it turns out that the firefighters in Paris go door-knocking at this time of year to sell calendars and raise money.  Unfortunately, it seems I may have missed out on a number of different levels not the least of which was buying a French firefighter calendar.  I congratulated myself on my quick wit, my strength, and a healthy imagination and took myself out to what had become my local restaurant.  Even ordering a pint to the surprise and delight of my waiter – until of course I explained, “Je suis Canadienne!”  When my cousins rang looking for me, I invited them to join me and before long, I’d forgotten all about the “pompier” incident and was back to living my dreams in the City of Lights made more than twenty-five years ago…

As another year comes to a close, and this leg of my journey comes to a close, I’m reminded of some key lessons:  first, life truly is short – especially when you believe that everyone’s out to get you – get out there and make your dreams come true. Next…that sometimes our imaginations do run wild – it’s important to harness it and see where it can lead you. Finally, reality is often just reality, while boundaries are often just that of our own creation and most certainly, meant to be pushed, if not broken.  So, this year, Just Do It.  Find your inner chihuahua and get out there, grab onto a dream and turn it into a reality.  Happy New Year 2018!!!