"Hold on, kid!"
"I'm telling you: Hold On!"

and the stranger, now a companion, that you only met a few seconds ago, winks at you,
and you tense up a bit, as the escalating rollercoaster car crawls up the tracks until it hits the peak―
you're in the second row from the front, and the giant snake-like machine is inching forward like a summer caterpillar,
you're hanging, suspended a hundred feet above the ground, looking down and across at the snaking, wiry tracks that lie before you,
and the car you're in inches forward and more forward, closer and closer to the ground until suddenly, it's as if whatever was holding the cars suspended snaps,

and the whole rollercoaster blasts forward,
people yelling with mouths so wide open that they're catching wind making cheeks expand and flap like sheets of paper in the breeze,
arms extended and flapping away like sails in the wind,

tremendous joy
bouncing back and forth through the coaster cars, from person to person on the swiping and snaking behemoth.
That stranger is now your best friend.
Laughing, and giggling, and, for some, pure fear, winds in and out of the coaster cars.

It's a memory that sticks, like your sweaty t-shirt to the back of your seat as you arrive back to the terminal.
The heat, the smell of the breeze, the excitement on your face: it's all there for you to try to remember.

You see, right now, I am in that seat: hanging one hundred feet above the ground. In less than a week now, I will be studying art in a beautiful place, with beautiful people, making beautiful memories. (Not to mention, one of my really good friends is going to visit me for part of the time!)

This is definitely the start of a great ride in my life, but, it's important to realize that this ride is just one of many.
This ride―I've already been on it.
The peaks, the valleys, the joy, and the fear: these are elements of life...
for everyone.

But, you know, this is a great blessing and I'm super excited!
Let's all do incredible things this summer, my friends!
The Lavender Fields of Aix-en-Provence. Absolutely beautiful!
 
    In less than four weeks now, I will be in Aix-en-Provence, France, studying art at the Marchutz School. Sitting here thinking about it, the whole idea of this is surreal. In four weeks, I will be studying my passion, art, in a place that carries the beauty one sees in Impressionist paintings and can only imagine Elysian fields to look like. In four weeks, I will be drawing, painting and sculpting in the heat of the French summer in what I imagine to be a series of weeks that will flow by like dreams. There are butterflies all over, in my stomach and in my head,―pleasant butterflies―and with the imminent arrival of exams in two weeks I really shouldn't and can't afford to be randomly daydreaming as I have been.

    I imagine there being plenty of interesting people to develop friendships with, great food, and sights that will make substantial and permanent impressions on my mind. I imagine it to be like the Madeline cartoons I watched growing up: sweet and quaint, wholesome and happy. Or maybe it'll be like a Michel Gondry film: ethereal, artistic, and incredibly weird at the same time. The only thing I can realistically imagine right now is that I'll have a fantastic time and that this is an incredible point in my life.
   
    In the vein of material things, I need to buy a better backpack and new traveling shoes. Mentally, I need to do more research and brush up on my French. Personally, emotionally, and spiritually, I feel as though I have already begun my journey to Aix. However, I can't help but consider of how so very quickly this time will pass, just like the many wonderful summers I had as a child. All of life goes like this though. This summer, I'll do my best to soak it in as fully, to breathe it in as deeply as possible.

    This weekend I found this little gem on youtube:
      The spirit of childhood joy that I find in this video is exactly what I'm feeling now and hope to continue feeling while I'm in Aix. I'm ready for the start of something good.