I’m not a good friend… But then again, are any of us?

I’m not a good friend… But then again, are any of us?

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Friendship seems like a skill or topic I was never really keen on. I’m not really sure why. It’s something I am still learning about.

Yes, I had to learn how to be a good friend.

Don’t we all? I don’t know. Some people seem to be born with it. All these questions hit me when I found a quote about friendship from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran:

“And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

What is a friend?
What is true friendship?
How do we choose friends and why?
How are friendships so complex and yet so simple?

Pretty sure it was Voltaire (or another French philosopher) who said that friendship is like a garden to be cultivated. And it makes sense. Humans are pretty selfish creatures (the paradox being that we equally crave human connection), so we have to learn to give to others.

But I think that is precisely what makes friendship so beautiful. The sacrifice. The deepening of the spirit. The mutual care and cherishing. Even the Bible talks about the beauty of friendship. (I mean, look at Jesus and his disciples. The bond they shared was evident throughout the New Testament.)

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” Prov. 17:17

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

So, in short, I’m still learning what it means to be a friend. A good friend. One who is willing to fill the needs of others, not their emptiness.

What is friendship to you? Would you consider yourself a good friend? I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you want to leave a comment below.

Until my next existential crisis,

Kristen

Live from France: A country in quarantine.

Live from France: A country in quarantine.

I remember reading a news article about the Coronavirus to my roommate on January 4th.

“So apparently, they found this pretty deadly new disease in China, and now there’s a confirmed case in France…But I’m sure it’s fine?”

Now, on day two of total confinement, we look at each other from across the room.

“When you read that article to me, I never thought it would turn into something like this.”

Me neither.

I never imagined I would be taking part in a nationwide quarantine. If you had asked me last month (heck, even last week) if I thought my life would change so suddenly, I would’ve laughed.

But it’s true. Our lives here in France changed in the blink of an eye.

When Real Life Feels Like a Movie… But not in a good way.

Thursday, my roommate and I watched as Macron announced that all schools will be closing for an undetermined amount of time.

Friday, I walked to work and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine. Everyone was on edge. Work conversation was solely centered around what would happen as the virus progressed.

Saturday, I was out in the city with friends when we got the text saying the country passed into stage 3 of the epidemic. Just like that, all the bustling bars and restaurants were indefinitely shut down by midnight, and the streets were deserted.

Monday, Macron announced a total quarantine/lockdown throughout the country, following in the footsteps of Italy.

Today, I walked into the grocery store with our government mandated papers, a mask and protective gloves to do grocery shopping for the elderly. I was terrified I might touch something that could infect them.

The atmosphere of our town has completely changed.

It’s eerie hearing the church bells ring when no one is around. It’s comforting seeing the older woman in the apartment across from us reading her book on her balcony. It’s weird thinking how we will be stuck in this apartment for at least another two weeks.

I don’t say this to scare anyone, but I can’t help but notice many of my American friends who believe it’s a simple cold/flu and will pass easily. I’m not a medical professional, nor can I pretend to know the ins and outs of the virus, but it seems to be quite a bit more dangerous than a common cold or flu.

From Me to You… Whoever You Are

To those who are currently unaffected by the pandemic,

To those who don’t believe it’s “that bad,”

To those who aren’t sure what to think or do because of previous work or family or life commitments,

Please, stay at home. If you are at all able to work from home without it severely harming your financial/life situation, do so.

Some of you aren’t so lucky. Some of you are on the front lines, fighting the virus. Some of you have simply lost your work altogether. And I am genuinely heartbroken for all those who are losing their jobs and livelihood with this pandemic. But it is not too late for the United States.

It is too late for Italy.

It is too late for Spain.

It is (almost) too late for France.

It is not too late for you, America. Do not take this lightly.

Flatten the curve.


If you have any questions pertaining to my experience here during this time, or if you are interested in statistics/data/other informative news articles, please comment below. I would be more than happy to give out as much information as I can.

Is celebrity culture killing fashion week?

Is celebrity culture killing fashion week?

As I finished dinner with some friends near the Trocadéro plaza, we rushed over to get a glimpse of the YSL show for Paris Fashion Week. Before we knew it, we were just another one of the faces in the crowd pushed up against the barriers. I kept joking about how it felt like The French Revolution 2.0, with us as the peasants and the elites of fashion week as the bourgeoisie. “Let’s storm the bastille!”

I mean, it was totally worth it though. I saw Anna Wintour a mere 10 feet away from me. Joe Keery (Steve from Stranger Things) waved at me. We also caught a glimpse of Hailey Bieber and Rami Malek. So, we walked back to our hotel super excited at all we had experienced.

The next day I was reflecting on everything I saw.

Why are we so obsessed with people? People who are just like us but rich?

I would venture to say it’s human nature. We admire, add perceived value to, and aspire to be like those people because it’s glamorous (amongst other reasons).

The conversation continued when I sat down with LA photographer (and newfound friend) Jason Renaud in a Paris café a couple days later. We discussed celebrity culture, fashion week, social media, and everything in between. Here’s what he had to say about it all:

“As a photographer for 6+ years now, it’s been interesting to watch the phenomenon of influencers explode (and begin to wane), especially having only been on the fashion week circuit for just a little over a year now. 

With the rise of Instagram and overall accessibility to fashion in general, it opened up a new market–a market for people. The day-to-day person is so busy, so influencers became a way for someone to open their phone, and go to a trusted source for fashion advice, trends, and soon enough, fashion week itself. 

While there’s no inherent problem with people sharing fashion week and the experience of fashion week online to their fans–it soon became clear that half of the influencers going were only there for the “clout,” to make money, and to just show off outfits that they were wearing. And as more and more influencers emerged, it became even harder to tell who was genuinely there for the love of fashion, and who was there to capitalize on the trend of influencing in general. 

Having worked directly for many influencers before, I’ve seen both the good and the bad–those that care about fashion and have followed it since they were young, and those that just liked the prestige of going to shows and getting their photos taken. In order for influencers to be viable long term, I think something has to change.

In order to truly influence someone (the term influencer I think has been taken far to liberally in the past couple years), you need to have true care and understanding behind wherever it is you’re coming from.

Which doesn’t mean that you know the most recent Gucci make up and go to its event. It means you understand the overall ethos and style that Gucci Beauty has tried to curate over the years.

The term influencer needs to be redefined and reshaped, by those who truly care. 

It’s slowly begun to change I think. The over-saturation has begun. There’s only so many angles of a fashion show you can watch in a row. And with that comes fatigue and, soon enough, disinterest. With a lackluster AW20 season, I think brands will be forced to reconsider the role of influencers in overall brand messaging. It’s a crossroads, and I think next SS21 in September will be the true indicator of where this influencing culture is at, or if it’s time for fashion to move on.”


What are your thoughts on celebrity/influencer culture? Leave a comment below! Featured image by Jason Renaud. To see Jason’s work from PFW, check out his Instagram here.

Life Moves Too Slow

Life Moves Too Slow

I walk very quickly.

It’s almost impossible for me to walk at a normal pace.

I bustle through my tiny town like I’m rushing through the streets of New York trying to get on the subway before rush hour.

But I’m just going to the post office.

I can’t slow down. Ever. Even when I try to sneak off to the beach for a quiet moment or two, my mind is always right there pestering me with a thousand thoughts.

What needs to be done this week?

What are you cooking for dinner?

Have you gone to the grocery store recently? Wait, what do you need?

Do you have a to-do list?

Should you reach out to him/her? Why haven’t they contacted you? Do they even care?

This week on my way to work, I was deliberately trying to walk slow. It took everything in me. Literally. I clenched my fists. I strolled and sighed as I realized how much I missed out on by moving so quickly. I felt the crisp November air and smiled. November was a rough month, which is somewhat amusing because last November was one of my favorite months. I boldly determined it was the best month of the year. I was wrong.

It’s funny–in a somewhat melancholic way–how things change so quickly. You go from snuggling warm bodies and filling your days with laughter to walking alone on a windy, dreary day surrounded only by the company of the cars passing by.

The change of scenery and pace, however, was necessary for me. Had I stayed where I was, I would have become a shell of myself. My potential would have been trapped under the weight of former obligations. My new obligations, though exhausting sometimes, are nowhere near as daunting as dealing with the looming cloud of the former.

So, maybe life doesn’t move too slow. Maybe it moves at just the right pace, but I sometimes move too fast to appreciate that.

A Window to My Soul

A Window to My Soul

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:24 (NKJV)

I pray as I walk to work. I pray as I lie down at night. I pray when I am scared. I pray when I am lonely. I beg and plead to God as tears trickle down my cheeks.

Nothing.

I feel absolutely nothing.

My heart longs for an inkling–a touch from the Holy Spirit. Something. Anything.

But nothing is there. No spark. No flame. My soul feels cold, and I begin to doubt.

I have silently struggled because I do not want to find pride or honor in sharing my grievances. But Christians are called to live in community with one another, and I am only disadvantaging myself by not seeking that community.

So here I am. Letting myself be seen–weaknesses and all. Which is truly a weird and uncomfortable thing for me. But at the end of the day, this is not about me.

I was listening to a sermon from my home church the other day about the freedom we enjoy in Christ, and it was very convicting. My heart twinged as the pastor fervently spoke. “The Gospel doesn’t save you and I just so we can twiddle our thumbs and wait for eternity… Being formed into the image of Christ is absolutely a process. But it’s a process that should be evident in your life if you claim to be a follower of Jesus. This change is not an option, it’s not a preference. You and I cannot consistently follow Jesus and not consistently grow into his likeness.”

My mind blanked. Where is the fruit in my life? I struggled to find evidence of my growing love and relationship with Jesus. I was staring into the abyss of my own thoughts.

An Aside

Let me outline what I know to be true and the things of which I am sure, despite my doubting.

  1. There is a God.
  2. I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that He died and rose again, and that He alone is savior of the world.
  3. There is a lot I do not know.

On Feeling

“Hear my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray.”

Psalm 5:2 (NIV)

I feel very out of touch with God. And it is hard for me to even write this because I do not quite know how to put into words the hundreds of scattered thoughts going through my mind.

I think the thing that scares me the most is my lack of emotion. While some find comfort in it, feeling nothing is absolutely terrifying for me because I typically swing between extreme depths of emotion. And what makes it worse is that I don’t understand why it is happening. I don’t know if it’s some hidden sin or simply a test of faith at work in my life. However, I want to reach out to my community. I am not going to pretend I am unique in this struggle.

One request I’d like to make is this: Join me in prayer. Pray for those who are in a season of doubt, myself included.

Proverbs 11:14 talks about finding wisdom in the counsel of many.
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”

So consider this me seeking counsel. How do you deal with the chasm of nothingness in your life? My hope is to cultivate a little community that can share and grow together. Even if it is on this digital platform.

While I’m at it, I do want to ask how I can love and encourage all of you. Yes, within the community of believers, but also anyone reading–Christian or not. Comment below, if you’d like (anonymous is fine).

I am a listening ear for your struggles, just as you were for mine.

Thank you for reading.

Five Things You Should Know Before Visiting France.

Five Things You Should Know Before Visiting France.

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been a Francophile. I grew up dreaming of going to Paris, decided to study French in college, and I currently call this beautiful country my home.

But if you’re planning on taking a trip here, there are some things you should know.

1. France isn’t Paris.

This seems simple, but the amount of times I’ve had someone ask me “How’s Paris?” when I live nowhere near the city is… astounding? Sad?

For anyone still confused, here’s a map of France.

Map courtesy of Mapswire.

See that little star? That’s Paris.

Mainland France has 96 departments, so there’s definitely a lot more to see than Paris. The French often consider the countryside more “French” than the city anyway. So there’s that.

2. The French are very kind.

Contrary to popular belief, the French are not rude. They just don’t like tourists. It’s nothing personal, really.

If you are planning to take a trip to France, simply avoid looking like a tourist. This means no super bright colors, no crossbody Kavu bags, and yes…no Chacos.

Oh, and maybe learn a couple French words to at least prove you’re trying. Knowing simple words like bonjour/s’il vous plaît/merci can go a long way.

3. When it comes to restaurants/touristy stuff, you pay for the environment.

Unlike the Americans chugging their Venti Starbucks as they rush out the door, the French prefer to take things slow.

But it comes at a cost.

Getting a meal à emporter (to-go) is cheaper than staying sur place. For example, a coffee could be 1 euro, but it will be 2.50 if you stay to drink it.

I’d recommend indulging the extra euro and just staying to enjoy the atmosphere. There’s truly nothing better than people watching outside of a café as you sip your tiny expresso.

4. Public transportation is your best friend.

Typically when I envision public transportation, I think of Elaine Benes stuck on the disgusting NYC subway and having a mild panic attack.

But in France, the majority of people use public transportation. It’s actually clean (yes, even in Paris). It’s also pretty affordable if you’re a young adult. Anyone under 26 is considered a youth in France and receives discounts on pretty much any public service (museums and movies included).

So don’t be afraid to hop on the bus, metro or train!

5. Prepare for late nights.

The French love their soirées. They typically don’t eat dinner until around 8 p.m. and meals last two (or more) hours. They eat and talk and eat more and talk and eat and are still somehow super skinny…

In short, don’t plan on the next day’s itinerary being jammed pack if you’re eating dinner with a bunch of French people the night before. After dinner and drinks are all said and done, you’ll probably be getting home around 1 a.m.


French culture is fun and wildly rich, so try to enjoy it in as many nonconventional ways while you’re here! Bonne chance!

Got more travel questions? Leave a comment below. I’d love to start doing some travel blog posts, so tell me what you want to know!

A Mini Rant That Could Probably Be a Twitter Thread.

A Mini Rant That Could Probably Be a Twitter Thread.

I don’t like ranting online. Mainly because my words are stuck here forever, and if I say something stupid, it will most likely come back to haunt me. But here goes nothing.

I’m seeing a lot recently about news media and news outlets not “letting us know” about things that perhaps should be talked about more.

Example: this morning, I got on Twitter and saw where a police officer from my hometown reached a plea agreement in admitting to raping three women who were in his custody. Disgusting, horrible, etc. BUT the person who tweeted the story said, “Why am I just now hearing about this?!”

That’s a great question. Why are you just now hearing about it? I heard about it last year when the investigation started. I read articles about it, even on Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the media has a great responsibility and power to choose the stories that get covered in the news. It is crucial that journalists are precise and balanced in their coverage of topics. It does matter.

However, I’m in the school of thought that we each have a personal responsibility to seek out knowledge and information, even when it may not be convenient or “available.” Because let’s face it: in the Information Age we live in, we have so much stuff at our fingertips. Save for classified government documents (and even those sometimes get leaked), you can research pretty much anything and find it. Public records are available all across the internet. We can even diagnose ourselves with some life-altering disease on WebMD in minutes. (Okay, that last part was a joke. But we all know some of us do that).

People just don’t look for information partially because we are lazy and partially because it is so overwhelming to sift through all of that.

Hence, journalists. We come in, find the information and sift through it, find the holes and where things don’t line up, and attempt to reconcile all of that into one cohesive story. We are not perfect. We don’t always get it right. But we don’t sit around trying to cover up certain “types” of stories. It’s more so a matter of determining how often to cover stories/investigations and where they are placed in the newspaper (and online).

In short, I guess my point is this: don’t blame journalism/reporters/news media for your complacency in seeking out information.