The harsh rays steamed my sunscreen-slathered neck. I reached for my water, avoiding the old cigarette butts on the grass. I looked up at the structure in front of me and smiled, still amazed that I was in Paris.
I had accepted the reality that I was just a few feet from the Eiffel Tower. I enjoyed the view, relished the moment, and took a few pictures to capture the memory. But when that was done, I was ready to move on to the next item on our travel agenda. My friends and I had organized a flexible itinerary and mapped out our destinations. We only had one weekend in the city, and we were determined to make the most of it. I took the last bite of my croissant and looked over to my friends to see if they were ready to hop on the double decker tour bus, but they weren’t. They were on French time, and I was not.
I was raised in a Montana farming community, so I am familiar with this way of thinking. You see, French time is similar to farmer’s time. Most people on these clocks have the mentality that things will get done when they get done, so you can take your days at your own pace.
For instance, most people in France have two-hour lunch breaks and annual six-week vacations; businesses are closed on Sundays. They have an entire system that slows down when it is appropriate… and they still manage to accomplish all of their tasks.
Maybe the French have something figured out that I, as a rushed American, still have to discover. After all, the average life expectancy in France is 81 years, while Americans are expected to live 78 years, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Many factors contribute to these statistics; it is possible that slower days could be one of them. Reducing stress levels may just lead to a longer life.
When it just about killed me to sit through a half-hour lunch on the lawn by the Eiffel Tower, I realized I needed to change my perception of time and productivity. When I was on farmer’s time and my days were simpler, I was able to really take in every minute. I was so young that I didn’t realize how special it was not to be in a hurry. I was a rural Montana girl, and now I’m a journalist in a different time dimension. My life may never be as calm and slow as it was when I grew up, but I can still intertwine the lessons I learned at home and abroad.