Excerpt: 'It's My Pleasure'

All this couldn't have come at a better time for me. I needed a grander context in which to understand my life, and that book had started me on the path to finding it. I had just started college and all of a sudden had to deal with boys and sex, new friends and alcohol, and a freedom I had never known before. I had thought I wouldn't be able to have a normal relationship with boys because I never had a father figure. I got over that one. I didn't have guilt issues regarding sex, but I had to figure out (through trial and error) what sex meant to me, and what kind of sex I wanted to be having. My social life had revolved around tequila shots (we have since parted ways). I did have some kick-ass girlfriends, thank goodness. But in spite of some good moments, I hated my life at college. I constantly felt suffocated. One night I had to get out of the commotion in my dorm room to be alone and think and had nowhere to go. I ended up on the steps of the library with my journal and Walkman. People looked at me funny, but I didn't care. I wrote about wishing I was in a café somewhere in a big city.

That was one of my first conscious pleasure moments -- and I simply had to prolong it. I had listened to the quiet of my heart, and was finally of an age where I could take action. I found a summer program in Paris and took off to live the best six consecutive weeks of my life so far. In Paris, for the first time ever, I walked alone down the cobblestone streets and laughed at the sheer joy of being alive and doing something so simple that was so perfect. I spent hours alone in cafés writing. I had a little love affair. I made friends. I spent hours in the Louvre looking for what I read about in "The Templar Revelation." I found statues and paintings of beautiful women. I sauntered through outdoor markets. I went shopping. All in all, I lived quite well. I was deliriously happy.

Then I had to return to college in the fall. Coming from Paris back to a small town in Connecticut was like a hangover that wouldn't end. I woke up crying. I took long drives through the countryside, playing music really loud, trying to figure out what I needed to do to fall in love with life again. After many of these trips I decided I had to move to New York City.

During the drive to my new school, I had an unforgettable moment of panic. I was safely in the backseat with my parents up front, and suddenly we were in loud, chaotic, colorful Chinatown driving toward my new dorm. I had never seen this part of the city. I suddenly had the thought that I'd played a practical joke on myself, and that it had gone too far. And everyone else had fallen for it, too. Did I really want this freedom? What had I gotten myself into? But there was no going back.

And, thank goodness for that, because I fell in love with life again. Growing up with my overprotective mother, I still get excited about going out and walking around the city all by myself without asking permission. I stay out late -- just because I can. I love having so many choices that it's almost a burden. I love that when I first arrived in Chinatown that January day I had very little but suitcases and hope, and two years later I have a full life that I created all by myself.

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