Amanda Gilligan

It was one of the few times I had been out of the country, and the first flight I had ever taken alone. As you can imagine, my confidence quickly turned to fear as I hugged my mom in the airport, for the last time in what would be over a month. I thought about her in the moment I thought would be my last.

On the night of the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, I would describe the city of Paris as nothing other than a madhouse. Around TV screens in every bar, restaurant, or coffee shop there were people gathered to watch. An estimated 90,000 of them surrounded mega screens placed in the central plaza of the city. It seemed as though this final match between France and Croatia was a matter of life or death to these people. Personally, I couldn’t care less about soccer, but considering my circumstances I had no choice but to root for France. And the moment the final goal was scored, the city-and I’m assuming the whole country- burst into complete chaos. People flooded the streets, and celebration was in full force. A usual flow of cars in the streets was replaced with one continuous mob of marching people, stretched across miles of the center of the city. I didn’t know where we were all walking, but I don’t think anyone did. For the night, all of our lives were put on hold to celebrate this victory. However, caught up in the excitement, I overlooked how problematic this would come to be.

By nine p.m., I decided to begin making my way back to the 12th District, where I was staying. The underground metro was my usual means of transportation, although at that point I still had no idea how the system worked. Upon coming across the closest subway stop, a friend and I realized that it was closed. After visiting three more, we soon understood the severity of our situation. In broken English, a stranger informed us that none of the metro trains were

running; taxis and ubers were out of the question; and basically we’d better start walking. The mass of people was becoming overwhelming and, being small teenage girls, we were close from being trampled. Meanwhile, the crowds and gotten out of control and police had been called in. I felt the burn of teargas in a police attempt to disband the crowd. In the sea of chaos, I feared for my life.

After hours of mindless wandering, we were directed to the only working subway stop in the city. Immediately driven into fight or flight, I began to make decisions. I led us forty minutes to the stop, where we were presented with another massive crowd, all trying to squeeze in. Though I might be little, I was able to push my way through. In five minutes, I taught myself to understand the impossibly complicated transit map, and somehow chose the right metro car to get us back to the 12th district.

We somehow made it. Upon arrival to my hotel, I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment. This instance of perseverance taught me a lot about myself. Being someone who tends to get anxious over many seemingly insignificant matters, this trip was a large step for me in my process of gaining self confidence. Going alone, especially, allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and learn something about myself. Sometimes, in order for true growth to happen, we need to put ourselves in situations where we are uncomfortable. If I wasn’t presented with this situation, though scary, I would have perhaps never learned how to ride the subway. And moreover I would have never experienced the satisfaction in knowing that I am fully able to fend for myself. Once we are open to trials and tribulations, regardless of the expected outcome, our potential becomes endless.

Thank you.