It was meant to be a run to recall a year ago.
Instead of following Canal de l’Ourcq as is the normal turn-off-my-brain-and-run-route, I was going to turn left up Canal Saint-Denis, the canal that I used to run alongside, the one that I discovered earlier this year leads straight up to the wilder, less restrained Seine toward the north.
I had just finished reflecting on a year slipped by like so many cold egg whites slipping through frozen fingers (it is New Year’s Eve after all, a time both for thinking back and making desserts), and the run was to be the perfect break of exertion between introspection and celebration. Not 10 minutes in, I was surprised to find my route completely torn up and blocked to cars. Still technically passable, I kept going. Five minutes later, the route was completely blocked, so I crossed over the canal, ran a bit further, then crossed back.
The idea for this run had been to catch the sunset just as I hit the Seine, receiving a muddled pink-purple sky that would be expiring just as the year ran out.
Instead, I hit more construction. This time, an actual sign saying there’d soon be miles and miles (well, kilometers, but since we’re translating from French, why not convert to imperial at the same time) of bike paths to enjoy.
Just, not now.
The push for these renovated bike paths is directly connected to the coming of the Olympic Games in 2024. Coinciding with the Games’ arrival in Paris is the development of the Grand Paris, an idea of Paris being expanded to more readily include its suburbs. In addition to bike paths, there are also four new subway lines.
It’s all going to be great. It’s all exciting. Can’t wait.
Yet the plans of the future sometimes clash with the plans of the present.
And this time, the construction that’s going to make the city even more accessible and enjoyable was forcing me toward the poorly lit parts of the city’s outskirts that I hadn’t run before, and away from the vision of a Seine sunset.
When I set off for Paris in the midst of a mild global pandemic to invest more time in tourism as tourism ground to a halt, the vision then was of somehow manifesting a new career path supporting tourism development and entrepreneurs that would allow for travel that was a bit more impactful (emissions notwithstanding).
That turned into a Master’s in international tourism management and research thesis about coffee and tourism in Uganda, all done from a laptop inside of an apartment, which is a funny thing to have moved across the world to do.
Then this year happened, one that was, for all intents and purposes, a year of my design. A year to pursue that original vision (which did happen, to an extent) and a year to be seduced by the thrills of people actually wanting to hire me as a writer (which led to more missteps than I’d care to admit).
Depending how one frames it, the vision came to be, or it didn’t.
On the encouraging side, there are a few achievements. One international tourism development project found us spending a week in Sri Lanka (pictured above) as we worked with government ministries, international development partners, and local tourism stakeholders on a climate change resilience project.
Then a contract and client from Uganda will lead to marketing work at travel fairs in Europe and regular trips to East Africa to develop new itineraries and projects.
Like the Grand Paris that’s coming, it sounds pretty good in the abstract.
Like daily runs beset by obstacles – roadblocks, mud, speedy electric scooters – the daily work to get where I’d like to go hasn’t been as smooth or focused as I’d like.
The daily checking in on the vision that was supposed to be has been more exhausting.
Still, the plan remains.
Just like the route to the Seine will be there, too.
Today, that might mean going on a slightly different run. There will be other routes, other ways to go. Before long, the route will open up again.
The funny thing about running to try and catch a sunset is that you still get to run and see a sunset, even if it’s not quite how you imagined it.
Today, the work might not be what we want it to be. Before long, the fits and starts of work, when kept at with patience and a gentle acceptance of what can be controlled and what cannot, will lead way toward satisfying results.
The funny thing about going after goals is that even falling short can get you further than you might otherwise have gotten.
So, as we wind down on 2022 and I think about what kinds of wishes might have made the year that was a bit more peaceful, I raise a glass of this sparkling saké (it is somehow both French and Japanese) to you.
May your 2023s be filled with exploration, patience, and acceptance, and may you find the just-right route to get you where you’re going.