Story Skills Workshop:Lesson #4

My Whole World Shifted transcript

I knew this part of the campus, so when the professor asked the remaining students to meet him in his office at the Art History Department, I was the first in line. I already had the guts to stay in the classroom when he asked all the sophomores to leave, so I figured I might as well go for it. I had no idea what the interview was about, but I was determined to prove I was worthy: he only accepted 12 students. And a few hours later, I was hiding at the end of the hallway, waiting for the professor to post the list. I remember my heart was pounding as I approched the door, almost had a heart attack when I saw my name, but I was in!

My second year at UC Berkeley, was really fun—I had no idea it would be my last. After floudering about in my freshman year, I discovered Art History and was thriving in classes that I really loved. We also had a great lifestyle with Ophelia my flatmate, living in a cool apartment, doing grocery shopping at Safeway at midnight on her vespa or inviting my whole Western Civ. class to dinner at home. Yeah, so when she annonced that she would be studying abroad in Paris, and suggested I do as well, it seemed natural to say yes. So I did, and by August we were in Paris looking for an apartment.

It was really hard to find a place. We were visiting one that was a bit run-down, small, and way out towards the suburbs. I didn’t like it. I had somehow dreamed that Ophelia and I would continue our bohemian lifestyle, but Paris was nothing like Berkeley, so we decided to do our own thing, and checked in with each other every now and then.

So I found myself alone and ended up living in a small family-run hotel, in one of the oldest districts of the city. The Marais was in the center, very lively and beautiful and I was totally immersed in the culture and the people—I even managed to get a part-time job in a salon de thé. I could feel that I was being drawn into Paris, and started to be more and more nervous as the year went by.

So when the time came, I waited my turn at the broken payphone, which surprisingly was just in front of a police station next to Hôtel de Ville. We called it “broken” because it worked without coins to call anywhere—another quirky thing I loved about Paris, which I now decided was my home. When it was my turn, I dialed home with a pit in my stomach. My mom answered almost immediately.

I knew her next question, so before she could ask, I told her — I said “Mom, I’m staying in Paris. I won’t be coming home.” She was silent… and then said, “What do you mean? What are you going to do in Paris?”

But I didn’t know, I didn’t have a plan.

Because, being far from home made me reflect on this from time to time, but now it was right there in my face. I loved studying Art History, but what would it lead to? Curator… auctioneer… professor? All great careers, but I didn’t see myself in any of them. I wondered if she’d understand? But after my explanation, she hung up angry and frustrated.

So later I was at one of the tables in the restaurant where I worked, doing homework before the shift. Every evening there was a little group—friends of the owner or regulars—who sat around before the service.

“So, you’ve decided to stay…”

It was Jérôme—a nice guy I didn’t know too well. I explained my dilemma, and he said, “Yes, but what is it you’ve always been interested in, what’s your passion?” And without even thinking, I reply, “Fashion. I’ve always loved fashion, but that’s not possible—that’s not a serious career.” And he looked at me in disbelief before saying:

“Are you kidding? We’re in PARIS, the fashion capital of the world. There are great schools here, some of the best. I’ll give you the addresses tomorrow.“

And just like that, my whole world shifted.

What seemed perfectly normal for this young Frenchman was totally new to me, almost unheard of. Study fashion? As a career? The idea seemed so over the top, that I had trouble wrapping my mind around it. At that time, fashion design was not a usual occupation. But for me, the whole idea was evolving quickly. Not only could I begin to imagine it, I actually felt good about it—it felt right. I waited until I was enrolled, to call home. I wasn’t at all sure how this would go over.

“Mom? I have good news: I’m enrolled in design school. It’s a three year curriculum starting in September…”

And to my surprise, she loved the idea—really loved it—and thought it was a perfect compliment to my start in Art History. Or maybe she was just relieved, it’s hard to know. In any case, I felt relieved and excited. How could I not be? My life as a designer had begun, and I couldn’t be happier.