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JM Barrie's Peter Pan

Personal Essay

Once again, I'm using my LJ as a scratch pad. This time, it's an assignment for my writing workshop. Creative non-fiction writing, in the form of a personal essay. It's supposed to be metaphorical and meaningful. Mine is just pessimistic. 

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We stood in a row, our faces pressed up against the cold fence, peering into the dark night. The rain which had seemed to make the whole city glimmer with magic was now cold, icy bullets which nipped at our faces in the biting wind. It was nothing like I had anticipated. My fingers were laced into the fence that held us all in, watching the lights of Paris flicker and blink at us from so far above. Surrounded by happy, laughing strangers. Disappointment washed over me. The icon of Paris seemed far better when I had been staring up at it. Now as I stood atop it, the magic and splendor had washed away with the chilling rain. From above, La Ville-lumière has lost the golden glow cast upon it by the tower's cloak of twinkling lights. 

For many, it is a basic human need to struggle up the ladder of success until the top is reached. Whether that peak be a mountain's summit or a CEO's boardroom armchair does not matter. As children, we are taught to respect and look up to landmark men and their inventions. In New York City, the race to build the tallest buildings drew attention from around the world, and for some ended on a tragic September morning. It is ingrained in us to think that bigger is better, and that better is best. The method of climbing does not seem to matter very much, in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps I would have appreciated it more if I had climbed the 1,665 steps, instead of taking the glass elevators to the top observation deck. Perhaps the young heirs of the wealthy would appreciate their inheritances more if it were earned, as well.  But, just as there is an unavoidable pressure on us to strive for the top, there is also the ever-present temptation of taking shortcuts to win the race.

You can imagine my surprise when I realized that being on top of Paris was not as empowering as I had expected. The ability to look down upon one of the most beloved cities of the world did nothing for me. I felt separated. An observer. I wanted nothing more than to be back on the streets of Paris. Separation from the buzz of life, even on a rainy July night. 

If I hadn't gone to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I'm sure I would have regretted it. I would have wondered what I had missed, would have longed for that feeling of being on top of the world. We were so high up that the beautiful characteristics of Paris, which were breathtaking from the ground, merely blended together into a miniature map, of sorts. The only truly distinguishable feature was the Seine, snaking away into the distance. I would have been much happier to sit on a bench and watch the world unfold around me, instead of beneath.  Since it was dark and raining, none of the arial pictures faired well. The only photo to document my trip to the top is one shot of me, grinning and bundled up, before a background of wire fence which separated me from the black night.

Overactive imagination. 

More than anything, I was lonely at the top. It seemed silly to come all this way, just to stare down at where we had come from and mutter "Oh, how beautiful," to the mesmerized strangers surrounding me.

They say that money cannot buy your happiness, and that it truly is lonely at the top. 

Miniature Eiffel Tower sits on my desk as a reminder of my trip.