Twenty days, that’s all it took.
Since the inception of Jetset Times, I’ve published Founder’s Notes as a series of personal thoughts on cultures, travel stories, and reflections upon my self discoveries on a deeper level. This year, I wanted to do something different with this series: a celebration of beautiful and inspiring women around me. We, as females, can sometimes be driven by our own insecurities or act on jealousy then battle against one another. As a victim of bullying when I was younger, a target of office politics later in life; I decided to go through a “friend detox” late last year after realizing that there were quite a few mean girls around me. One is too many if you aim to live a drama-free life. For anyone who feels like they’re surrounded by negative energy, I highly recommend this detox for the well-being of your confidence. For this year’s Founder’s Notes, I’m going to feature personal friends of mine making an impact in the world because of their positive outlooks and their insightful spirits. We all have them in our lives which if turned into wondrous chapters of books, these women would be featured on glossy covers.
Jenny and I met through our mutual friend Elizabeth, who told me there was a girl in Paris looking for a room. When Jenny came to view the apartment, we immediately bonded over American politics and the French system as the gilet jaune (Yellow Vest Movement) was on a boisterous rise. Neither subject is safe to openly discuss if you didn’t perceive the issues eye-to-eye. But wine was poured while captivating conversations outpoured. Jenny eventually moved in, and the next two months marked the start of a new year filled with nothing but silly laughs. Lots and lots of them.
Out of these two short months, Jenny and I merely spent twenty days together due to my incessant travel schedules. The first night we officially lived together as roommates, I had just flown in from Taiwan and fell asleep from jetlag only to be woken up by Jenny plopping onto my bed with a giant hug. “Hiiiiiiiiiii!!!!” she said with a bright smile which I later learned is her signature, “I’m so sorry I’ve been out all day!” We sat on my bed and chatted for hours, until the clock struck 1 a.m. when I realized I was reliving my best sorority life. (Side note: she’s a Kappa and I’m an Alpha Phi.)
During the first ten days we lived together, I did not get any work done. I learned all about Jenny’s MBA experience at ESSEC – one of the top business schools in Europe. Through her, I got a glimpse into the world of interviewing for French luxury companies from an American’s perspective – a formidable candidate like her who entered the program on scholarship. Since I’ve never personally interviewed for giant corporations, I saw Jenny study every detail about each position she was considering. The research that goes into composing each email, understanding connections between high-level executives in different beauty companies, studying the market, conducting interviews in both French and English more fluent than I can count in English. She did it all with an utmost enthusiasm, determined yet never wavered to settle for less than her own desires.
Just when I thought I’ve got Paris completely figured out, Jenny opened my eyes to many Parisian “firsts.” Together, we shopped at L’Appartement Sézane – the ultimate Parisian-chic boutique. Afterwards, we grabbed drinks on the gorgeous outdoor terrace of Klay where she referred to as the ultimate gay bar/restaurant/gym. We partied at Chez Jeannette alongside models and influencers, and we bought natural beauty products at the most beautiful department store in Paris: Le Bon Marché, where we bonded with the sales lady so chummily that we both agreed she should come over to our apartment for drinks later. Do we sound like a lesbian couple yet? Don’t worry, it had been a running joke.
After ten days, I went on a family trip to Cyprus and Malta where Jenny video FaceTimed me and chatted as if we were both still sitting on my bed in Paris. I soon learned that if there was a sport for video FaceTime, she would receive a gold medal. Every single year. But that’s how much she loves her friends who become her family. If there was another sport for keeping in touch with truly wonderful people in her life, Jenny would also win a gold medal. For infinity. While I was in Malta, Jenny broke the sad news that she had bought a plane ticket back to New York City. As much as it broke her heart to leave Paris, she knew it was time. I, until the very last day, was in total denial.
Her last ten days in Paris were filled with sheer giggles. Jenny introduced me to even more amazing expat females in Paris, as we indulged in wine and great music in our apartment. I put aside work meetings and seeing other friends to cherish my time with her, because if anything traveling has taught me is that life is fleeting. Especially when the good times roll around, they seem to evaporate even faster into yesterday’s memories. When we strolled through Parisian winter alleys, she always grabbed my arm so we were either like two school girls who leaned on each other for support, or two women in our thirties with the same Starbucks drinks in hand. Chai tea latte, that is. After seeing her enduring dedication towards daily workouts, Jenny was with me when I finally signed up for the gym at La Montgolfière. Hair always in two braids. Again, like an adorable school girl. Our taste in men wildly differ, a sign that we were meant to be friends and never fight over boys. Through her previous work in a music label, we attended folk singer Jade Bird’s concert at Le Pop-Up du Label, then danced to Brittany Spears at Le Lipstick – a cocktail bar in Pigalle. I was exhausted from running around Paris with her, but like true friends do, she did let me nap in the back of an Uber.
The thing is, good friends are hard to come by, especially in your late thirties. When one crosses my path, however, I’ve learned to recognize that commonalities can accelerate growth. Jenny and I both come from wholesome families with fathers who are die-hard Red Sox fans, we both have siblings who are already parents, we were both in a sorority, we’re both academically driven, we both worked in music, we both support Kamala Harris, we both love Michelle Obama even more, we both learned French at a young age, we both struggle with speaking French before coffee in the morning and the linguistic struggle is even more real when we’re both tired.
During our twenty days of truly living together, I never once saw her angry and we never fought once. Not one single silent grudge, which sometimes us girls can be really good at. The one time I saw her angry was toward a metro guy, and it definitely wasn’t her fault. Not once did I witness her gossip about other women, jealousy was out of the question. She’s incredibly generous, and laughs just as much as she can also talk your ears off. Sometimes, as I often told her, I felt like I had a puppy dog who was always jumping for joy and needed to be walked so she could release her burst of energy. It’s part of the charm, along with her positive spirit that is ridiculously infectious. Who wouldn’t want to be around a friend like her?
When I was contemplating about a three-year on-and-off relationship which I finally scoured the courage to end last year, Jenny told me: in every relationship, we have to allow the guy to earn our transparency. Difficult for wide open souls like us, but it’s smarter to keep him at arms length until he has proven his worth of our wholeheartedness. This advice clicked! I finally got it, and not once since then have I doubted my decision. No longer do I fear that I could falter into an old flame who was simply not worth my time.
The hardest part about living in Paris is to watch good friends come and go. I was honored to be the last person she saw at Charles de Gaulle airport, when we ceaselessly cried after fumbling five massive luggage down the stairs of our apartment which she cleaned at 6 a.m. while I was still sleeping. Our tearful goodbye sank even further when I came home and found a letter on my mantle. Two whole pages of thoughts she never expressed, full of respect, appreciation and excitement for what’s to come for our friendship.
Twenty days, that’s all it took. To change your perspective, to raise your hope for female empowerment. For twenty days, Jenny walked into my life in Paris where our friendship will expand in other parts of the world.
Some people walk into your life for such a short-lived time frame. Twenty days broadened into a lifelong journey. If you also have a Jenny in your life, make sure to embrace her real tight. Because the next hug could come months later, half way across the world.