On Living Abroad

Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When I left for France last September, there were many things I wasn't sure about.
I had picked out and paid for an apartment, but had never laid eyes on it. I'd accepted a job in a poor suburb of Paris, the obligations of which I didn't fully understand. I hadn't held a long conversation in French for months (if not years...).
The list of uncertainties could continue.  I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport almost a year ago eager and excited, if a bit scared, to see what my new adventure would bring.  I had my doubts, but ultimately was driven forward by an incredible enthusiasm to get out get out get out of the States and to do something different and frightening and new.

And my adventure brought me so many things that I never expected, affected me in ways I didn't anticipate, and continues to teach me things about myself I might never have discovered otherwise.
My little room was even tinier than I'd imagined, but perfect in its Parisian charm (broken floor tiles and view of rooftops included).  My French improved daily and, with effort and a bit of luck, will continue to do so.
Most importantly and most notably, though, my eight months spent as a teaching assistant brought me so much joy - a job more rewarding than I might've dreamed, despite its challenges.  I'll never forget the way my students laughed at my awkward stumbling over their names, names I'd never heard of that came from corners of Senegal and Morocco and Mali that I never knew existed.  I won't forget their silly questions, the way they assumed that every American is a personal acquaintance of both Kim Kardashian AND Barack Obama, has seen a hold-up in person, and visits Miami Beach (pronounced "Mee-ami Bitch!") weekly.  I won't remember all their names, or their endearing mistakes in English, or even the French slang that they taught me, but I won't forget the feeling I had when I was with them weekly.  Working with them brought such happiness to my life,  and it's an experience I will always look back on with only good feelings.  I'm so grateful for everything - the unexpected things, particularly - that I gained during my time with my kids.

But even now, almost a year later and with all of this under my belt, there are still so many things about which I'm still not sure.  To be honest, I thought after a year away, I'd have so much more figured out.
Being home was a strange and fairly unexpected rush of emotions.  A blur of seeing people that I really care about; running from Philadelphia to the Upper East Side and Brooklyn and back down to Yardley in as little time as possible to fit everything and everyone in.  I knew that I'd be glad to see everyone at home, but I never imagined that my heart would want to burst from sheer fullness and joy to be  back around family and college friends (that might as well be family).  I knew that I had missed home, and during my time away I'd never been afraid to shed a homesick tear or two.  But drinking one of my Dad's mojitos in the back garden, or tipsy cab rides laughing about college memories, or making dinner with my Mom and sisters... I didn't anticipate that all these little activities would make me feel as though my heart was breaking into two pieces. One piece full of river-side bike rides and red wine and Camembert and feelings of belonging in a foreign place, and the other piece so full of the love that only home can provide.  Of all the things I anticipated when I moved to France, this kind of heartbreak was certainly not one of them.  With the family history that I have, moving to three countries in the first seven years of my life, I never thought I'd feel so uprooted or so torn as I did over my two weeks at home.  I never really questioned my decision to leave last year, and though I've experienced moments of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for the uninitiated) from afar, I'd never really felt like I made the wrong decision in leaving.

At home, though, I began to wonder if I had made a huge mistake.

After lots of introspection, though, I've come to the conclusion that this feeling is a normal one for the first visit home.  Or at least, I hope it is.  I enjoyed my time at home as it gave me some perspective, allowing me to re-evaluate things in my life from a distance and see what was good and what wasn't. And now, a week deep in my Parisian re-immersion, I no longer wonder if I've made a mistake coming here.  I've used the past week to get back in touch with the person I was a year ago, the person who made the decision to leave.  Because somewhere in between establishing a daily routine and enjoying the weekends of folie, I lost sight of the person I was back then.  It's a work in progress, and I have no doubt it will take time to reconcile my love of being at home with my love of being here in Paris, but it's in admitting this very particular sentiment that I'm finding my resolve to find that person again; to discover and relive the emotions and excitement and enthusiasm of this time last year.  And after all, what better place to begin this rediscovery than Paris?  I'll follow in the footsteps of so many before me, though admittedly without the help of a certain Green Fairy.

So with this very personal update, the blog is back with every good intention to pick up where I left off with updates.  Though there are no pictures attached to this post,  I update my Instagram regularly (probably too often) and you can see those photos by clicking here.

As always, thank you for reading my li'l blog, and thank you so much for all the love and support.  It's not easy being far away from so many people that I love so much, but your support makes a world of difference.  You all make me feel at home, no matter where I am.  Until next time, xo.

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