All things end.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful.
Why did I get out of bed this morning, why do I eat, if I’m only going to die?
Why am I in France, if I never thought I would stay?
And why, of all places, France?
It can seem strange for a young, ambitious girl from the world’s economic and military superpower to come to a civilization that has long since reached its peak. Although, for Europeans, it will make total and complete sense, because in many ways, the “living,” is better here, and America, for all its power, is far from number one in the things that matter. Not just vacation time, but also offering a basic quality of life, and free healthcare, to all its citizens among them.
Not to mention the food is better, and purer.
Why am I here, trying to build a life- make friends, have a career, maybe even meet somebody- if I’m not even sure I want to stay?
To try it, for one. Expatriation is a wonderful thought experiment that takes you out of your own head. Comparative political economy is a way of life, and I’m trying to make my life’s story the best tall tale with world literature influences.
It could be a story of roots and wings. I know where the roots are, more now than ever before- though you can never go back and be as you started. But the wings, you can never be sure of where they will take you. I have a feeling I want to go back to the beginning, but it depends on which beginning. And I’m still challenging myself to find out why I feel that way now, after the dream of a lifetime of moving to France has come true. Although it was never the initial game plan, which is part of the point.
Were there things I wanted to escape- yes. Quite literally, my own self. The huge pressure and expectations I put on everything. Come to find out, I seem to have brought them with me here, and they don’t fit any better.
But o, there were things I was running toward. Freedom, experimentation, adventure, the culture that created eclairs and existentialism, the capital of a once great empire and still vibrant Francophone culture. And yes, I was running towards myself as well. Towards life and experience, rather than mere achievement.
But I’ve found it takes both to make a world.
And that many tears are required to understand the value of a smile. And loneliness to appreciate friendship.
I’m at an indeterminate point in my life where I could continue to just play without too much thought of consequences, if I’m willing to let all my expectations go. And there’s still plenty of time for career, marriage, kids. And unwittingly, travel has been incredible for my career and figuring out what my strengths are and how to share them with others.
I could also start being, if not normal, at least slightly more conventional, at least for a time. I could go to the dentist and speak my native tongue, go to a bar and meet someone whose clothes and hand gestures and dry humor I can decode with no effort at all. I could use the savings from lower taxes to save up money and pay off debt, another kind of freedom. And I could live without a visa, and see my family more than once every nine months or so.
I’m about to go home for Christmas, and I’m very, very excited. It wasn’t till it hit me on Thanksgiving I hadn’t seen my family for eight months. Usually, all the time, people ask how long I’ve been in Paris, and I say eight months. I guess I try not to think of it from that other angle, and it’s not till my friend started posting Christmas music on Facebook that I realize how much I try not to think too much of home.
This visit could be, and probably will be, the make or break point for whether I stay in France. I may well get a job offer, or could use the time I have now here to look for a more permanent job.
I come up with all kinds of excuses for why I should leave- taxes, salary, family, finding a partner, making friends. And the truth is they are all bullshit. If I have the choice to stay- if I make the choie that I want to say, and hustle, and by the grace of God find a job- I am quite certain I can have most everything I want (except lower taxs, and quite possibly my salary will never be on the same level as if I had stayed in the US. It seems like a good compromise considering other quality of life issues like vacation and working hours, but that doesn’t take into account all the bullshit I deal with just to live in France).
But when it comes down to it, for the moment at least, I want to be here.
Often the grass seems greener on the other side, but as I’ve watered it where I am (thanks to the advice of a dear friend) it’s gotten pretty green here.
Maybe I’m here because I’ve realized that all that really matters is that we are good and we enjoy our lives, though its important to know the rules of the game of life, and accept them, so we can do what makes us happy. I may not be working in the field I envisioned, but I like my job, and it’s allowed me to get here.
And then here wasn’t all I cracked it up to be and it turns out that it’s important to really like your job, because at first I didn’t! ANd money is important too, no matter how idealistic you might be.
I’m here to figure it out, to reflect on the ups and downs of life, and learning to accept the downs.
Which, though melancholy, is actually making me a happier and better person, thanks by the way, to Alain de Botton: http://www.thebookoflife.org/in-praise-of-melancholy/
People say the French are sad and mean, and they like sad endings to movies and don’t believe in happy endings. TO a certain extent, they are more realistic.
They may not answer in surveys that they are very happy, because they are romantics and expect better from life. Or maybe, they just accept the sadness that is a part of life and don’t try to window dress it with cheerfulness and positive thinking.
There are many ways to live.
And I”m here because even if one day I have to say a tearful goodbye, even if I’ve just made one long detour and I have to start again at square one somewhere, it was worth it.
It’s my life, and I”m enjoying it.
Now time to go to Montmartre, and enjoy the beauty of the autumn day.