Teen Girl With a Satchel – getting perspective in Paris

The opening lines of one my favourite books, Paper Towns by John Green, read, “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightening, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us.”

I have lived my life in the belief that my so-called miracle will be more along the lines of terminal ear cancer than Nobel Prize winning. I have always had a fear that something terrible was going to happen to me. The first time (okay, and the second) that I visited the Eiffel Tower, I had a panic attack on the stairs because I believed they were going to collapse.

The same thing happened at the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame (and just about every other monument I have ever visited, including The Big Merino in Goulburn). To me, it didn’t matter if these things had never been dangerous before, I just knew that it would be my luck to be on them when disaster struck.

The summer holidays saw me spend two weeks at language school in Paris with one week tacked on for sightseeing with requisite trip to the Eiffel Tower. Butterflies entering my stomach, as we made our way to the third level in the lift, I squeezed my eyes shut and clung onto our group's toy koala mascot, just waiting for the second that the lift would begin to drop and plunge to my death.

Of course, it didn’t come. As I spent the next couple of hours wandering around the structure, I realised I was silly to be scared. If the Eiffel Tower was dangerous, they wouldn’t let thousands of people climb it every day, would they? Perspective gained, over the next few days I set about conquering my fears of dangerous buildings all over Paris.

How sad would it have been if I'd let my fear get in the way of all the magical things a place like Paris has to offer?

After wandering along the Champs Elysees and ice-skating in front of the town hall – a dreamy experience for anyone – I was again put to the test with a trip to Disneyland Paris. Though I'm an avid Disney fan, I was biting my nails at the first mention of the scariest rides.

It was a rainy day, and we arrived to an almost empty park. Our teacher advised us to head to Space Mountain first and I was grabbed by two girls and dragged to the entrance of the ride. As we made our way through the deserted queuing areas, I had an internal freakout.

As the safety bar was secured and the ride began to move, I was convinced I was about to meet my end, that my family would be getting a middle-of-the-night phone call informing them that there had been a tragic accident at Disneyland, and they were so, so sorry. I shut my eyes, but when I opened them between my screams I felt…joy!

I was shocked at myself, I couldn’t actually be having fun on something I was sure would kill me! Could I? Before I knew it, the ride had come to an end, and we raced back to the back of the queue so we could get straight back on... four times. I had officially conquered my fear of "orange level" rides!

The plane ride back home meant facing the realities of school. There would be no more overseas holidays, no more carefree days at Disneyland. I would have to complete my HSC. Dread! I was scared, but then I remembered that I’d finally conquered the Parisian monuments, and if I could do that, what harm could a few little exams do to me?

Nick Jonas once said, "I want to tell you that you have no reason to be afraid, because you are so much more than you think you are".

As I pulled into my driveway to find some of my best friends waiting for me with welcome home balloons, I realised he was right. I have no reason to be afraid, and with my wonderful support network – and the knowledge that I will not die on a ride at Disneyland – I will be able to get through this year not with fear, but hope.

Georgie @ Girl With a Satchel.  
You can catch up with Georgie at Frangipani Princess, too.


Kaitlyn said...

Weirdly, the Eiffel Tower also cured my fear of heights! I was so overwhelmed by sheer amazement at being in Paris and the beauty of the sun setting over the city that I forgot how far up I was - and when I finally realized it just didn't seen to matter any more. This freedom has lasted years since my trip!