Home, shifting and mutable as are we
When I bought my one way ticket to my new life in Paris 3 1/2 years ago, little did I ponder the true depth to what I was getting myself into.
Yes, I had travelled, in spurts off here and there; had a teaser extended 3 month stay here in Paris and even “survived” a semester abroad in Costa Rica where I was too busy exploring the nooks and crannies of this paradise to even think of missing my family or life back in the US.
Then again, I did always have a return ticket home.
But this time was different. I arrived in Paris in the fall of 2007, a ten month visa in my pocket; teaching assistant job lined up; eager eyed and proud to be taking this leap into living out my dreams. My teaching schedule was a dream and allowed frequent travel in and about France. My social life was buzzing and I flitted and floated about happily discovering the creases and crevices of my new found home. All this time, keeping constant contact with my family and friends back in the US, delighting in ‘filling them in’ about ma belle vie à Paris. And then came winter, creeping into my bones along with all the realities of adjusting to a new language and life.
Yes, I knew the French were connoisseurs of style and class but lord did I find them brusque, and how frustrating and soul chafing was their archaic administrative process, everything taking repeated trips and patience even a saint couldn’t muster. Deeper yet, I struggled to be understood all on top of trying to learn French, a language with so many exceptions even the French struggle with it.
Here it was, Christmas time and I yearned for all the corny traditions my family upheld; singing Christmas carols in our pajamas; candied yams and roasted string beans; Mom’s ham, roasted to golden perfection and adorned with maraschino cherries and fresh pineapple. I even missed eggnog, which I could hardly stand but would rather that than foie gras which I could only manage with copious amounts of wine… And then there were the jokes my dad told, each year adding upon his tales, willing us to believe his lively inventions. We laughed, ate and gave thanks a plenty.
Had I ever have anticipated the loneliness I felt and how I missed all those familiar faces, I perhaps would have never moved to France. If it’s any consolation, I fell in love that winter.
Then came Spring with all its blossoms of promise and the months rolled along before I could say voila! I never imagined my choices would be anything other than purchasing another one way ticket back to the ‘Big Apple’, except by now I was ‘waist deep’, seven months deep, in love with my French beau and leaving here was the last thing I wanted to do!
Eager eyed and earnest as we both were, I toiled for a two month stretch, job interview after job interview, coming up empty because justifying a job to a non-EU citizen proved more complicated than ‘taking candy from a baby’.
Eventually I did receive a job offer and headed back to the US for my visa and a good dose of family time. The break was a nice relief, I was back to familiar territory, I could speak without needing to conjugate verbs in my head, I could even make jokes and small talk, something that escaped me in French. Time sped by and it soon came time to return to Paris.
I was happy to be back, I was now a year into my life in France and more realistic to the fact that life here is like life anywhere, there are surely fits and starts everywhere.
I am often asked how long I will stay here? And I always say, I will know, when there is that tormenting pang in my chest, just the same way I knew I had to live in Paris one day. It is a ‘knowing’…. Then off I will go.
In the meantime, my intention is to ‘bloom where I am planted’. Right here among breathtaking landmarks, interesting and mysterious French people, stinky cheese, archaic and slow moving administrative processes, the land of c’est comme ça and c’est ne pas possible but also, and more importantly, the place where my heart is!