Girl graduates from college. Girl has no idea what to do with her life. Girl decides to travel the world. Girl finds herself in the process. We’ve all heard this story before, right? Throughout history and literature, people, young and old, have been making their own quests to discover their higher purpose in life. At a point in time when taking a gap year from reality, essentially, is pretty common, you’d think someone would have turned this into a twelve-step program by now. But here I am, embarking on my own *hopefully not as cliche* journey across the world to not only learn a little something about myself, but also about my mom.
As some may know, I had plans to spend the year in Guatemala working with a non-profit. And while I’m sure it would have been an incredible experience, something didn’t feel right. It had nothing to do with the circumstances of the trip or the organization, but rather something else that was pulling me in the opposite direction. As part of a graduation present, I knew I would be traveling to France at the end of the summer to visit my family for the first time in almost two-and-a-half years. But as the summer progressed, I realized that I wanted to spend more than just two weeks over there. My mom spent the first half of her life there and remained connected to her French identity throughout her life. I wanted to be able to spend time with people in my family with whom I haven’t seen in years and be in a country that holds a piece of history for each member of my family. Not only that, but I wanted to discover a connection to my mom in a different way. I don’t know how to explain it, but after graduating from college a few months ago, I have found that I have so many unanswered questions about the person she was during this time of her life and before I came into her life. I want to know what this time of life was like for her, why she made the decisions she made, why she pursued some paths and not others. Conversations that in a perfect world I would still be able to have with her.
So, in the span of a month, a different adventure was born. Plane tickets purchased, emails sent to family and friends, goodbyes said, and bags packed. Tomorrow I will get on a plane with a one-way ticket to Paris with no idea of when I’ll be coming back. I want to collect as many stories as I can about her life growing up and beyond so that I’ll always have them and my children will one day know about their grandmother. To this end, I have contacted my aunts and uncles, her cousins, childhood friends, anyone who is willing to talk to me about their relationship with her. I know it will be difficult and painful at times to talk about the past but so far everyone has responded very positively, signaling to me that maybe we all need to talk about her a little.
This project might sound silly but I need to connect with people who knew her, who have a similar hole in their life without her that can’t be filled. I want to understand what their grief is like. Because maybe if I can connect with all these people who knew and loved her and learn about the Claire they knew, it will be like having a new piece of her with me today. I don’t quite know where this project will take me or in what kind of format I’ll be sharing it, but stay tuned as I travel around Europe trying to piece together memories of my mom.