In many ways, Nisha Coleman did the unthinkable.
The 34-year-old Huntsville High School graduate travelled to Paris when she was just 23 with hardly any money in her pocket, no visa, no knowledge of the language or culture or people. She was young and ready to take life by the horns and live a little.
She might not have brought much with her, but what she did bring with her was her violin, an instrument she’s been playing since she was 13. That combined with an open mind and a whole lot of courage helped create an unforgettable and life-changing experience.
She made her debut in a country she knew nothing about by being a busker. She didn’t know anyone. At first, it was difficult to adapt. She would often find herself feeling isolated and alone. But within a year, a shift began to take place. While playing music on the streets and talking with random passersby, her French started to improve. She didn’t feel so alone anymore. As time went on, she got more familiar with the city and the people in it. And then something really clicked.
“I got the music of it,” she says. “I got the structure and the slang. It was a huge part of finally feeling at home in that city. Paris taught me to be careful about projecting too precisely in the future. This is important for two reasons. One, when things don’t go as you planned you risk being greatly disappointed. Two, life can often be better than what you are capable of imagining. I learned to be more open to unplanned circumstances, which helps me to be more relaxed about life.”
Coleman has recently published Busker: Stories from the Streets of Paris. The book highlights her three-year stay, the amazing things she learned, the people she met along the way and “all the whacky things that can happen on a daily basis when you put yourself out there, as a performer on the street.”
Yes, she made a few mistakes, but she found love too, and in many ways she found herself. She wrote the book because she wanted to share her experience that is definitely outside the norm of what an average person might do. It’s a story about being on the fringe. Coleman says men will love reading Busker as much as the average woman. It’s a human story, she says.
It may seem like you made the wrong choice. You might want to retreat back to your safe zone. Back to your old bed. But even the wrong choices can be turned into the right ones.
Her editor, Harold Rhenisch, describes the book as “a tribute to Paris, to love, to independence, to Nishaness, to music, to human generosity, and, especially, to life on the street and busking culture.”
So, would she encourage anyone to do what she did? Absolutely. People need to leave their comfort zones in order to create special, life-changing moments that will forever shape a person. Also, it might take a certain type of person to make a trip across the world the way Coleman did.
In her opinion, it was one part brave, two parts foolish and three parts open-hearted.
“It may seem like you made the wrong choice. You might want to retreat back to your safe zone. Back to your old bed. But even the wrong choices can be turned into the right ones. And then later, when you’re 90 in your rocking chair you will look back and say, ‘My God, I really did that!’ When things go wrong, it can feel bad in the moment, but these are the moments that make good stories later and the things that make you stronger as a person.”
Coleman grew up in Huntsville and learned to play the violin in her early teens and took her love for the instrument to McGill University and Wilfrid Laurier University, where she studied music. But she was a writer first and recalls writing her first book when she was five years old about an imaginary bunny. She always knew she wanted to write, but it was something she did alone in her room and didn’t tell anybody about it.
“This publishing thing is new and terrifying,” she says.
Coleman has also discovered a vibrant storytelling scene in Montreal and is currently telling stories on stage – something that has deep appeal to her. She has found a form of expression that really resonates with her.
“It is partly theatrical, in the delivery, I mean, but there is also something infinitely deep and satisfying about sharing a true story, both for the audience and the performer. I am working on a solo show that is coming up [on Nov. 27] and will probably tour this show at some fringe shows in the coming year.”
She is patiently waiting for a book launch date for Busker: Stories from the Streets of Paris. She is also working on another book.
Visit www.nishacoleman.com for more information about her latest stage gigs in Montreal and a release date for her book.