Preface: The story continues. If you haven't done so, read In The Name of Self Love to discover what or who led me to my first trip to Paris. 

Ahmad kept track of my every step during my 12 hour journey to Paris which included a short layover in Reykjavik (Iceland). I think he was doubting if I would actually show up. But for anyone who follows me on Snapchat, you know I wasn't playing. I was on my way to Paris no matter what.

I arrived to the 5ème arrondissement, known as the Latin Quarter, completely exhausted. Before I could collapse on the bed, Ahmad made a detailed game plan on meeting the following day. He chose the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg. His main concern was finding me considering his cell phone service was shoddy at best, and he may not be able to call me. My solution was to wear my hair down. I recently colored it a deep purple, which Ahmad loved. I was certain that I would be the only one in Paris with purple hair . . . I was an easy find.

The October Saturday morning in Paris was magical. I walked to Jardin du Luxembroug taking in the french air. I swear that air healed me of every ounce of anxiousness. I was ready to meet Ahmad but I suddenly thought, "What if I don't like him?" So in an attempt to control the situation I took out a hairband and pulled my purple locks into a bun. He wouldn't easily find me, buying me time.

I walked no more than a few yards and there he was. Whatever was on his cell phone had his complete attention and he had no idea that I walked by. And I kept walking. The photographer in me took over and I was more concerned with capturing my moments than meeting Ahmad. After 10 minutes I decided to stop being rebellious and let my hair down. And no sooner had I let my hair down when I saw him walking toward me.

Ahmad insists I take photos of our view.

Ahmad is tall, sheepishly handsome with a smile that melted my frozen heart. We smiled like kids at the carnival as we moved into the most awkward hug I've ever been given. I'm pretty sure after that hug I was frowning. But I wanted to be friendly and open so we sat down and talked. Eavesdroppers must have been baffled at the english-french-arabic conversation between us. In a few minutes we resumed the usual banter we developed through our language exchange sessions. It was clear that Ahmad and I were friends and there would be nothing more than that. Needless to say, I was relieved. Going back to the States heartbroken was not in my itinerary, so platonic friendship with Ahmad was going to be emotionally easy on me.

"Going back to the States heartbroken was not in my itinerary . . . "

I ended our afternoon short since I was getting restless. After all, I was in Paris. Ahmad, bless his heart, understood my need to be free in the streets. He promised to call later so we can meet again. And we walked our separate ways.

After a full afternoon of exploration, I was suffering from jet lag. I headed back to my hotel for a much needed nap. And did I nap, it was nearly 8pm when I woke up. I immediately checked my phone and it shouldn't surprise you that Ahmad never called. Instead of being disappointed, I started updating my social media and returning messages I had been ignoring.

I noticed more messages on my language exchange app. I responded to help Nouri, who immediately asked to call me so he could better explain what he was trying to accomplish. We went through the usual questions and ice-breaker conversation when he told me he lived in Paris. "OH, I'm in Paris too!", I replied. Nouri was in complete shock when I gave him the abridged version of why I came to Paris in the first place.

"WOW, you are brave. To come all this way for a man."

"Brave or crazy?", I asked.

"Maybe both?" We laughed.

I told him I was more disappointed because I didn't want to be roaming the streets of Paris alone, especially at night. I had my hopes that I would be able to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the night sky.

Without hesitation he asked, "Well, what are you doing right now?"

"Uh, nothing."

"Okay, then I'm taking you to the Eiffel Tower. I will meet you at the Luxembourg metro station in 15 minutes, yes?"

"Uh, YES!"

I grabbed my bag and headed down the spiral staircase to the hotel lobby and practically ran out the door. There was no time to think about what I was doing. Meeting a complete stranger and heading out into the streets of an unfamiliar city. But I was in Paris and I was in love, in love with the City and the possibilities that await for the next week. And it only just begun.

Break-up Break-down timer: 71 hours, 59 minutes, 59 seconds.

When you've been through as many break-ups as I have you develop a relationship exit strategy. Me? I have the "3-Day Break-up Break-down". It's simple, straight forward and, most of the time, effective. I allocate myself three days to mourn the death of a relationship. 72-hours, that's all you get. I don't care if we were married, dating off and on for 15 years, or spent a week whirlwind romance in Mexico . . . three days, that's it.

That 3 days consists of camping out in my bed cuddled up with a mound of snotty tissues. I cry myself to sleep, when I wake, and every moment in between. I cry until my eyes hurt as much as my heart. Sometimes I cry until I make myself physically ill. Because nothing says "pathetic mess" more than having your head in a toilet unleashing what faintly resembles lunch.

In the age of social media, break-ups are exceeding the pain threshold for the strongest hearts. Prime example: Long after we broke up, an ex decides to posts photos of us on his social media page. And how do I know? Of course I checked! Disclaimer: I'm into emotional torture.

Shortest Break-up Break-down record: 28 minutes.

My little heart has been stomped on, crushed, stabbed, and broken into smithereens. But somehow I manage to put it back together. It takes a lot of care and time to mend it. Sometimes I need the help of a stapler, tape, and hot glue gun. But eventually I allow my heart to be vulnerable again. All for the sake of love. Let's face it, I'm a hopeless romantic in a cynical age. It's a hard job, but somebody's gotta do it.

My biggest lesson is recognizing that life is too short and the world too vast to waste time pining for someone who wasn't meant to be my forever. I've learned to be happy with who I am and where I am going, even if it means to go alone. Because it's the moving on that teaches me to love once again. And I have no choice but to move on because dawn is breaking on day four.

For my 47th birthday I decided to give myself the gift of knowledge. I've always had so many questions about my heritage. If you let my siblings tell it, they'll swear I'm adopted. I'm just too different, from physical features to personality traits. Maybe this test could shed some light on why I'm somewhat special.

And then there's the proverbial missing link. The identity of my paternal grandfather is still an unsolved mystery. At this point in my life I've accepted that I may never find my grandfather or his family. But I'm hoping through  Ancestry  my DNA will be matched to other users, and just maybe, I can connect to relatives I don't even know.

It is hard to comprehend that a little vial of spit could hold so much information about you. Thank my lucky stars that this isn't going to play out like some embarrassing episode of Maury Povich. I know who my father is, but I'm curious about who I am beyond his generation. Are there people walking around who look like me? Time to find out.

Analysis took less than 6 weeks and now the results are in!

Well, well, well, this explains A LOT! Of course some of the information is self evident. Both sets of my great-grandparents are from the Mexican state of Guanajuato. My maternal grandmother is indigenous Mexican Indian (Ancestry classifies it as "Native American").  Being almost half Native American is no surprise. The other almost half might have come as a shock, but in retrospect I always had some idea.

Great Britain, Europe South (Italy and Greece), Finland/Northwest Russia, Ireland/Scotland Wales? Yes, oddly enough I kinda knew and over the years there were quirky clues that gave it away:

  • As a child I spoke with an english accent. I most likely picked it up from television, but it stuck and my parents just accepted it.

  • I was about 10 years old when I became fascinated with The British Royal Family. I had a collection of all things Royal, especially Princess Diana.

  • As a teenager I grew into an obsession with France.

  • I kept European ties through my pen pals from Sweden and Germany.

  • Most recently when the dermatologist diagnosed me with rosacea, he joked, "So you are part Irish?"

  • The day I set foot on French soil was the day I could finally breathe. It was the strangest feeling to never once feel out of place. Of the many places I've said that I could live, in France I felt I belonged. In that moment I was certain that if I never returned to the U.S. I would be completely happy.

Surprises showed up in the Low Confidence Regions. My DNA ancestry was traced to Scandinavia, Mali (Africa) and the Middle East. It comes as a pleasant surprise and can I call it a coincidence that the fourth language I decide to study is arabic? You be the judge.

Digging deeper into my family roots has given me a sense of peace. Knowing that the answers are still out there keeps me hopeful and motivated to carry on in my search. It really is a journey of self-discovery and realizing some way, some how, we are all connected.

© 2021 by Carrie Gallegos.