I recently re-read the journal I kept during my junior year of college, when I was on the Hamilton College Junior Year in France program. I specifically chose that program because I could have an American roommate. I wanted to live in a French household, but knew I’d be super anxious being by myself.
It was, as it turns out, a good decision. I seriously won the jackpot when it came to roommates. Lysbeth was a total character. We clicked almost instantly and laughed for the better part of the nine months we shared a room. So much of my journal is centered around the crazy adventures the two of us had. Some of which even took place beyond the walls of our apartment.
You go through a lot of emotions when living in a different country. Culture shock is a real thing. We were abroad well before the instant gratification world of email, texts, Skype, and social media. My parents called once a month and other than that, we had La Poste. Snail mail. So, Lysbeth and I really counted on each other.
Re-reading my journal is bittersweet. Lysbeth passed away in January of 2011 after valiantly battling cancer for the third time. She was so much larger than life, that even seven years after she left us it’s still hard to come to terms with a world without her. Thankfully I have detailed notes from our time together.
My favorite Lysbeth story—the one I shared at her memorial service—has to be her concerted effort to talk me into doing a shot of whiskey. She was determined and, always quick with the pearls of wisdom, had some creative arguments. Thankfully I documented most of them. Clearly frustrated, she wrapped up her unsuccessful first attempt with:
“I don’t think you’re taking this seriously enough. Or, you’re taking it too seriously. Either way, you’re missing the point."
Lysbeth didn't much care for the word "no." Never one to give up, a few days after her maiden attempt, she hit me with the following argument. Tossing in her pet name for me as a reminder that it was a prime opportunity for me to break out of my tediously boring shell. She patiently explained:
“Anne. ANNEimal! Little birds don’t WANT to leave the nest. Their mother pushes them. They have to. You don’t want to be a big bird stuck up in a nest, do you?”
How exactly do you argue with that?
Lysbeth prided herself on having a different perspective on the world. I may have a more toe the line approach, but I like to think a little bit of Lysbeth rubbed off on me.
My favorite place in Paris was the Eiffel Tower. A little too conventional for Lysbeth’s taste, but it was my go-to spot. Having played tour guide to several sets of visitors over that year, I took multiple trips up in those elevators. During one visit, while waiting for my charges to snap photos of themselves with the beauty of Paris behind them, I leaned my back against the railing, tipped my head up toward the top of the Tower, and saw this:
I realize that I wasn't the first to capture that perspective, but I certainly thought it was cool. I'm fairly certain that was my first photo capturing a slightly different take on something common. And it was just the beginning. To this day, I whenever I’m out with my camera, I've got my eyes peeled for something that's just slightly different. A new take on something rather than just the same old same old.
I may not be the ANNEimal Lysbeth desperately wanted me to be, but I like to think there's a little bit of LB in me nevertheless.
Oh, and you’ll be glad to know that in the end, I wasn’t a big bird stuck up in a nest. She did eventually talk me into the shot of whiskey.