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[personal profile] paulonleave
These last two questions are probably the hardest ones to answer:

1)  Your blog provides instructive and entertaining insights into the life you constructed for yourself during the past year by introducing many of the people, places and events that affected you in good and bad ways--along with some wonderful photographs. As you look back over the year, do you feel that your experiences have changed you in any significant ways? Are there things that you now value less or more, for example, or goals that have been fulfilled, frustrated or affirmed? --[ profile] bobalone

2)  How do you feel that you have been "changed" by this experience? I imagine there are subtle ways in which you have allowed yourself to become, at a deeper level, more of who you in fact are.  And will you be able to nourish those parts of yourself back in Toronto? I am hoping the answer to the latter is yes! --[ profile] aa_bronson

I've been thinking about these questions a lot ever since they were posted on my journal, and even before that.  I'll start with the most straightforward:  goals fulfilled, frustrated or affirmed.

I think I fulfilled my goal to live in Paris, to experience the quotidian pleasures and annoyances of the city as well as the surface sites and attractions that lure tourists from all over the world.  My French improved a lot, I think, but not as much as I expected or would have liked.  I have signed up for another leave in four more years.  My new goal, I think, is to learn some German in advance of June, 2009, when I'll get my next year off...

As for whether/how I have changed, perhaps that will be clearer to others, especially [ profile] bobalone, once they see me again on my native turf.  I have some thoughts on that myself, of course, although I'm finding it hard to articulate them.

For as long as I can remember, my default social posture has been ironic, and it has generally worked for me.  Bob once gave me a book called How to Not Say What Mean, sardonically adding, "not that you need any help with that."  Here in Paris, though, I have to a large degree had to moderate my irony:  either my French is not supple and subtle enough to pull off deadpan, or I was speaking English to Francophones who could only understand me if I were direct and straightforward rather than elliptical, allusive and ironic.  Moreover, I think irony is less appreciated in France than it is in Canada, its home and native land.

Trying not to be ironic has had a salutary effect on me, I think.  Being here has shown me how routinely I have avoided taking responsibility for a lot of things -- socially, politically, aesthetically, even sexually.  Unable to resort to ironic coolness, I have had to tell others (and, therefore, first tell myself) what I really think/want/believe.  This is a little bit scary for me, and I don't want to overstate the "Paris effect," since I'm still pretty ironic and diffident, but it has been liberating.  I'm pleased to have made a number of new friends here, of course, primarily for their qualities, but, at the risk of sounding like Sally Field, I have been surprised and charmed to discover that people like me just as much, maybe even more, when I expose myself to them without the protective veil of irony.  I hesitate to admit it, since it sounds so pathetic, but I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what people see in me, or why they like me, and I don't have a satisfactory answer.  In effect, I can't really second-guess them:  I just have to "be myself", whatever that turns out to be, and if people don't like what they see, we simply drift apart.

My sense of the quick passage of time here has also added to my burgeoning ability to be direct and pro-active.  In Toronto, I often let months pass without seeing the people I like, partly because I know that I can see them almost anytime.  Here, though, if I put off seeing someone for even a few weeks, it means that I will significantly reduce our chances to get better acquainted.

I like [ profile] aa_bronson's suggestion that during my time here I have allowed myself to become more who I am.  It has been very rewarding.

Whether this will be a permanent change, or is simply part of the circumstances of this adventure, remains to be seen.  I will certainly try to be more assertive, open and direct when I'm back in the village of the small huts.
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Paul Leonard

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