Je t'aime Paris

  It's hard for me to even fathom that I have been in Europe almost two months already. It seems like I have had the most wonderful and the most terrifying ventures in such a short amount of time. I have learned so much of myself; what I can handle, what I want with my time here, just how social I can be when I am faced with the solo traveler loneliness that tends to set in from time to time. I have also learned that this idea that I can do this IS truly insane. The looks I get from people when I tell them exactly what "1IN700" is and what I am doing are kind of hilarious. I have learned that there truly is no predicting what comes next with all of this. All of that said and done, things have still continued to progress in such unimaginable ways; expectations always being surpassed and everything is always okay. One of my long time benefactors, Daniel Delgado is one I have to thank for some of this. Always, always coming through for me in a pinch. His words being: "Call me anytime you need help. You know I got you." Or Jenn Cook who messaged me saying: "If you need anything, ever, call me and I will see what I can do. Day or night." It's people like that and like Michelle Tonacchio who consistently flood my heart and soul with a love I have always longed for. And any other space is filled by the thousands of those across the world reaching out their hand to pull me onward. 

  I left Paris with more than 10 entry photos for "1IN700," which is much more than I expected considering the language barrier. Google translate was my best friend for sure this leg in Europe. I did however find myself not needing any translator to see the smile light up on their face when I showed each person their photo. Paris was short, but Paris was beautiful not just for "1IN700" but for me personally too.

  Ya see, Paris has always been one of those places for me. One of those places I HAD to visit. At heart, I am a hopeless romantic, waiting for that one day intimate love will enter my world as I see it finding all those around me. Often times when I meet cleft affected individuals that are around my age, I almost always have to ask about dating. I find myself asking questions like: "Has dating been as tough for you as it has for me?!" or "Do you find yourself insecure in even the perfect situation?" Often times I find that we have all struggled with the same exact things. And when in the "City of Love" how can one NOT think about this?? The canals lit with the afternoon sun; soft music being played on a saxophone as I walk across a bridge; the pure love between the couple holding hands and staring into each others eyes outside of a cafe...all of this seemed like a dream. Like MY dream. I have had a few "serious" relationships, but in only a couple of them have I truly been the real Zack in. Some of them I found myself not needing to hide who I was, ever. Until I began "1IN700" I had no idea part of this insecurity stemmed from not feeling beautiful because of my scars. I felt the illogical fear that just being ME would never be enough for someone. I am always one to talk about not dwelling on the past and focusing on now and what is to come. But I cannot help but look back and thank my past lovers for teaching me lessons of self love. To the one who cheated: Thank you for making me find the strength to pick myself up. To the one who broke my heart worse than all the rest: Thank you for letting me go so I could find my life purpose. To the one who wasn't ready to accept his love for me publically: Thank you for teaching me what resilience I have for being out and proud. To the one who left without a word: Thank you for showing me what I am capable of handling when I thought my world had fallen apart.

  To all of my cleft affected warriors out there, we don't always have to hold the shield up. Sometimes, people surprise you and you'll look and notice your walls no more. Even if it is all temporary, I guess what they say is true, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all." It's not without pain, tears, anger, passion, late nights, but all of that is worth it and much, much more than regret. 
 
Choose Love. Always choose love. 

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My new amazing friend (and addition to 1IN700) Eve!! 

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