On the Roller coaster of Normalcy

When you move abroad, everything changes. It’s inevitable. The longer you stay the longer the weird foreign things start to become your normal. Sadly, there are things that in the bottom of my soul I think are normal that my American friends have to remind me that they aren’t.

I guess I should first clarify normal. I refer to normal as something that you are used to. For instance, I am American. I lived 22 years in the United States. Therefore, my habits and things I deem “normal” should correlate with my American upbringing. Yet somehow, living in France for a year and half actually brainwashes some of those very simple things out of my mind.

That is not entirely the point of this post. The point is that I think I began to forget things in order to make my life normal here. It was like a survival mechanism in my brain. However I have found, just lately, another part of my brain is fighting back. There are things I am beginning to notice again that had been pushed into the dark corners of my mind.

I miss living in a country where lines for newly released movies have barriers to control the lines rather than leaving it a cluster f**k. I miss that fact that even though the lady at the DMV may be a horrible, angry bitch that she will give you the same answer and procedure as the other angry bitch behind her– the answer and procedure does not, in fact, change dependent her mood. I miss grocery shopping on Sundays or holidays. I miss having sunshine for entire weeks, months even, not a few hours. I miss being able to speak English in public and not getting looked at as an ignorant tourist. I miss guys in basketball shorts and not pointy shoes. I miss crappy American TV and lounging on the couch with my best friends. I miss having a couch or an apartment big enough for one. I miss having a toilet that flushes correctly. I miss having friends that I knew would be in the same city as me longer than a year. I miss working with people who have a concept of how business works and the importance of business relationships. I miss having a meal without someone (guy or girl!) pointing out how fattening something someone in the room is eating.

I don’t know why this is happening now but I remember why I love home. Not that I ever forgot but little things are fluttering back into my memories. But I also remember why I love it here. I can’t just walk out of the metro into an adorable street market with the smell of rotisserie chicken in the air while I am in San Diego. This is the problem. There is so much I love about both my homes. I don’t know what is “normal” anymore. It is this strange mix of things now. It is ok. But I do find that there will always be something missing no matter where I am because I do hold two places so dearly in my heart.

Paris leaves a mark. So much that I don’t know if I will be ready to leave it. It seems so far off when my contract ends but it seems crazy close too. I know I can probably renew it and start the whole visa thing again but I am not sure I have it in me.

I miss these things but I can make a list just as long that I will miss about Paris. I know eventually I will have to just accept it and keep it as a good memory. Until then, I am going to enjoy every last ounce of Paris… and of course the French in me, will complain about it too 🙂

Rêves, Soirées, and My Week

This week was tough. For one, I was suffering from a case of what I refer to as PTD (post-travel depression) brought on by my return from Copenhagen. Although PTD happens quite often in my life, I have yet to figure out how to rid myself of the blues that set in after a great trip. And of course, PTD is hits especially hard on the Mondays I return to work. Clearly a very scientific term I have coined 😉

Work has been tough in itself lately. I really love my job and I realize how lucky (or how persistent I am) that I found a job in my field and in France. The problem is that I went from being insanely busy in college, juggling a lot of different activities, and living in a sorority house of 35 women to having a 9 to 5 job and living alone. I am not complaining and absolutely love the freedom and independence I have. It is just weird to get used to. I do best when I am up to my eyeballs in things to do—not so much when things have come to a lull. Right now at work, we refer to this time as ‘low season’ which basically means we take the time preparing for the ‘high season’ and doing other various tasks. Again, not something I have a problem with but I miss the stress and high energy of high season. The second problem is all my fault. My French. I understand I have only been seriously learning French for about 6 months but it still frustrates me that I am not fluent. I also understand this is an unreasonable wish. But I love to talk and make connections with people and I feel my lack of confidence in French is limited those made connections. The thing that is the most frustrating is I know it. It is not like I don’t know French. I do. I understand. I can read and write. I even know how to say what I want to say typically but when the opportunity presents itself… I freeze. It doesn’t help that when I speak I dive right into a sea of “ahhhh c’est trés mignon!!” Sorry but I don’t want to sound cute, I want to sound French. Very different things.

However, my company had a soirée last night filled with all of our employees and suppliers. It was a great time and I was quite pleased with my able to not get overwhelmed in an entire room of French speakers. I took the leap of faith that my French skills could keep me afloat and I was right. I was quite proud. But this wasn’t the thing I was most excited about. Over a conversation about the processed food intake and obesity of Americans with a new contact, I received the best possible comment from a French woman. She looked at me and said, “if you hadn’t told me you were American, I would have assumed you were French. You look like a French girl.” Now all of you probably have no idea why I got so unbelievably excited about this but it is a big deal. To me at least.

The other toughness of the week was another thing completely brought on by myself. Note to self: do not text when sleeping. Yep, that’s right. I don’t join the group of the drunk texters, but rather I like to text amidst my sleep. Don’t ask how because that is a question I am still trying to sort out. Now, I don’t want to go into detail about this but I think my brain is trying to sort out a lot of things this week. Which brings me to my next subject: dreams.

Dreaming isn’t my thing. Rarely do I ever wake up and remember anything I dreamt about the night before. I am talking around 5 dreams… a year. However, this week I have already met my quota for the year. I have had multiple dreams every night. They are all similar, too. Every night I have dreams about my family or people from my past. In most of the dreams, everything is normal and pleasant but ultimately something bad happens. At first, it started off about something happening to me, but slowly it turned into things happening to my family. I hate this feeling. I hate waking up worried and knowing that they are thousands of miles away. But that in itself is why I believe I am having those dreams. My brain is doing its best to sort out what I want.

Lately, I have tried to think more long-term than the usual ‘what’s my next trip.’ There are only a few things I know for sure while all this rest is just floating around in my head. One thing I know is that Paris isn’t forever. I love it now and I am not sure how long ‘now’ will last but I know it is not where I want to settle down. But this leads me to the question, well where is it I want to live? Answer: I have no effing clue. If only there was like a halfway house for people who lived abroad but also like America. I need the best of both. Mostly what is driving me most right now is being close to my family. My sister and I haven’t lived in the same city since I started high school. Because she is my best friend, this is a bit difficult for me. Of course, we still talk daily but I want to be able to have the relationship where we can grab drinks together, or cook dinner, or go shopping. Which is all way I think I will make the move to San Francisco next. Plus, I think the city might be the halfway house I am looking for. We will see.

I also don’t really know what I want to do. I love events and now I look the travel and leisure side of the industry. Problem is, ultimately I would love to be a travel writer/photographer (or host a show on the travel channel!) The writing field isn’t the easy place to break into. Excuses, I know. I can make it happen. I just wish I could have more time to focus on it…

My gosh what a ramble. Wow. Well for all of you that are still awake after this post, high-five. I am stopping now for your sanity.

Bonne weekend à tous!!

Speaking French, Saying Goodbye, and My Future

Life has been crazy busy lately. And I love it. I have always been someone who thrives off of being busy. It is incredible the limited amount of time you have when you work 40 hours a week. I alluded to it in a past post but I honestly do not have time to do laundry/clean my flat/go grocery shopping… you know the basic necessities of life. And now that I am friends with au pairs again it seems I have fallen into the routine of being responsible during the week and acting like a 20-something during the weekend. Two lives are quite tough to fit into one week. On top of this, I am now going to French class 3 times a week. Although my schedule is tiring, I am excited to get back into class.  My French skills are splotchy… I thought I wrote better than I spoke but my enrolment test told me otherwise. Probably because my specialty is business emails. I just need to have confidence in my speaking. It will come. But class will also help with the rules I don’t get when speaking at work or with my French friends so I am looking forward to it. I do have to say I am quite impressed how far I have come. From knowing nothing to being able to understand and hold a conversation without taking very many classes is pretty good I think. I do wish that my last year was more like the how it is now because then I would be much more progressed. I would say 90 percent of my French ability has been achieved in the last 6 months. So it is a bit of a shame that the other year I was here lacked in very much progress.

It is really weird to think about life any other way now. I think that is why I have so much anxiety about going home. I really, truly love it here. It just feels right. And I love all the people I meet and all the things I am learning.

The more I hang out with and interact with the French, the more I like them. The American culture and the French culture are so very different—which at first can be quite difficult to get over or understand. Even people that come here for a short time get their opinions based on the limited interactions and make their generalizations (which in French people’s defense, it is unfair to base all your opinions on Parisiens—they are not the vrai français. I have to say it did take a long time. I have always loved France but the differences in culture made warming up to the French a difficult task.

A few of my friends are leaving this week. Goodbyes are something you have to accept as an expat. And as much as I wish they got easier, they don’t. Because I am one of the rare few that has decided to stay longer than a year, I have had to go through various waves of goodbyes. Each one just as difficult. Two of my friends that are leaving was not by choice but rather by the iron fist that France has around issuing visas right now. Although I have been through a rocky road and worked my ass off to get where I am now, I still feel lucky that it managed to work out. It is awful to get something you want to get taken from you with no control over it. I guess this is the reality of trying to live in another country. It still is really sad how incredibly difficult it is to move here or find a job.

My good friend was asking me what I think I will do after this. I have a work visa for a year and I have the option of extending it. But, as sad as it is, I am not sure I have the energy to go through another visa process here in France. I think the last time just about destroyed me. I am not sure. I have no idea where I will be in a year. As of now, I love my life here. I am enjoying it so much and I would never change it. But, I know this isn’t a forever thing. I think next year I want to move somewhere else. I haven’t fully decided what continent I want that somewhere else to be but I think I will be ready to move on. Not because I don’t like France, but because this experience was so rewarding and I want another opportunity to do it again.

I have been looking in to a bunch of things—nothing too serious yet. Masters programs, immersion programs, jobs, etc. I actually even looked into jobs in the states. If I move back, I want to do something that involves travel. I was researching international event planning and it seems I need to know Spanish for the most part. Now, I do know a bit—as in I can get by or tell my friend Christy that the Spanish bartender is actually hitting on her and not just being friendly—but clearly not enough to land me a job. So, I think that’s my next endeavour… anyone in for a Spanish immersion program?? But really… how cool would it be to put French AND Spanish on my CV… German next…

The point is. I am not done experiencing things before settling down. And I don’t just mean the whole husband, house, kids sh**. I mean I am not ready to go back to what I know. I want to be challenged more, learn more, grow more.

So where am I going to be next year? No clue. But I am sure it will be awesome 🙂

Finger Crossed

I couldn’t believe it when I heard. Let me illustrate the scene.

A French person. August. 18h45. Works in administration. Calls my boss. Gives her an email of the person working on my file.

For those of you who have never dealt with French admin or visa issues, you have no idea who incredible this is. First of all, no one in France works in August–let alone pass 17h. And someone in French admin!!! And the fact she gave us a contact for my file!! Things are looking up. There maybe some light at the end of the tunnel!!

Apparently this dude that is working on my file comes back from his holiday on August 16 which means I have a month and a half to figure out this visa shit until well, I am full-blown illegal and forced to return to the US.

My first choice is obviously stay here. I love Paris and I still am not done with my experience here. However, I have also finally come to the acceptance that if I do have to go back, it wont be the end of the world. I am letting fate take the reins. I really do believe everything happens for a reason so I am excited to see what’s next.

That being said… cross your fingers for my visa 🙂

 

French Summer= Rain for Days.

I am having quite a hard time believe that this is July. The July I am used to is full of BBQs and bikinis, not rain and jackets. Apparently, because we had such a good spring… we are paying for it now. That doesn’t make sense in my head but hey Ill let the French justify their crappy season.

On a high note (well I dont know if this counts as a high note but ill take it), today I noticed myself wearing the same outfit as about 70 percent of the women on the metro today. Beige raincoat, scarf, dark skinny jeans, heels. Have I been here too long? Am I slowly disappearing into the 20-something crowd of commuters on the metro?

I mean, I guess it is about time. I am living here. I have been for quite some time. I know what metro to take when the usual one is too crowded and what lines to avoid. I know where the best falafel in town is and where the best spot is to sit on a sunny afternoon. I now have no fear to ask the sales guy in the tech store if these speakers work with my Mac… in French.

Now, these all may seem like little thing… and they are. But they are little triumphs and that is what matters. In France, I have learned you have to take what you get and enjoy ever second of it. This year has been a test–and one I have struggled to get good grades with I might add–but slowly I am starting to get a few questions right.  And it feels good.

I was talking to an old friend of mine the other day and we were talking about growing up. I have known him since 5th grade… so it was easy to be nostalgic. We were wondering when this whole grown up thing happened. Here I am. Hardly a grown up, yet technically living that life. I have a real 9 to 6 (ish) job. I pay my own bills. I do my own thing. But I still feel like I waiting for it to get real. But it is real now. Am I making sense at all?

Sorry for rambling on but it is still crazy to think where I am and what I am doing. Honestly, I would be happy where ever life took me next. After this, I feel ready for anything. Preferably on a year-long travel adventure… but hey whatever works 🙂

My Year in Review

Its official. One year ago today I was landing in Paris and running into the arms of the girl who helped me get here. I had no idea what was ahead of me and I definitely had no idea what … Continue reading

Silly Sorrows

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia

 

Life in France is strange. But I havent completely decided if that is France’s fault or the whole living on my own as an adult part.

Lately a lot has been going on and there doesn’t seem to be a break really. Dont get me wrong… work is incredible and so is my petite Parisien flat but damn, when it rains it pours.

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk to my mama a lot…. A LOT. She is always trying to lure me home and failing but when it comes down to it, she really wont let me give up. Today was one of those days where there is too much going on in your life for your brain to process it all. And there she was pushing me to look on the bright side of things. Honestly–my personal cheerleader. My mom has this ability to bring me back down to reality. The thing about me is I am pretty laid back and low-key until things get out of control and then its like all hell breaks loose… for about 2 hours until I calm down and see the crazy person I am being. 🙂 But today my mom helped me realize all i have accomplished being here and that everyday I feel like this is another day that I am learning and growing.

I have always had an easy life. To be blatantly honest. Yes, things have gone wrong and I have dealt with major things. However, I have always managed to get basically everything I want. Not easily, but still. I have always had an incredible network of people around me. My family was never far away. But now I am in a crazy new place and i have to get used to things being different.

When I have a bad day, I can’t drive 50 minutes to have my mom cook me dinner. Or when I am broke I can’t have my dad come down to go grocery shopping and put gas in my car. I don’t live in a sorority house with 34 of my close friends and room with my best friend. I don’t have a social calendar anymore. I don’t have a boyfriend to escape to when I can’t party anymore or the girls are driving me mad. I don’t live in a country where they speak the same language as me and where nothing is convenient.

The thing is though…. that strangely that is all ok. Sometimes it bogs me down and I can’t see past what I don’t have. But then (after those 2 hours of craziness) i realize what I do have.

I have more than I ever have before. I have more courage and patience. More knowledge of other cultures and ways of doing things. More independence. More responsibility. More flexibility. More freedom. More experience. More choices.

It is completely my life now. 100 percent. And I couldn’t be more proud. I am so fortunate for everything that I have. With everything going on I have realized what is important and what isn’t. I realize how lucky I am and how important it is to never take a day for granted.

You are alive and breathing. Make the most of it.