A year ago yesterday, I arrived in the UK.
A million stories and adventures and thoughts and fears and cherished moments filled those 365 days. It feels like one day. It feels like a decade.
When I left Louisiana last October (first to visit my people around the U.S.), I had no idea what I would be doing in a year. Where I’d be living. If I’d be living. Nana’s death hit me hard. Although, yes, she lived a long life brimming with ups and downs, and she’d made it to 94, she didn’t go peacefully like we all hope we will. There is not one day that I don’t think of her. Or of my mother. I still get a jolt sometimes that I forgot to call Mom, and then reach for my phone, only to realize maybe that was her way of calling me. I also don’t go a day without thinking of my loving family of five, as we were so long ago. But here I am. Not in the UK, where I began my international journey. But in France, where I always seemed to know my life would lead me anyway.
It’s weird. When you reach that place you always dreamed of. When everyone who knows you congratulates you, is excited for you, applauds your win. You’ve reached your goal. But your feet still haven’t touched the ground, and you’re not sure if or when they will. You continue to search for the additional pages in the chapter, but they’re missing. Where did they go? They must be around here somewhere. When you have to tell yourself over and over again, “I live in Paris. I live in Paris.” But still, when you’re out shopping, you see something and think, “oh, I’ll have to come back and buy that before I go back ‘home’.” The baguette mold. The spiral bread basket. The tins of foie gras. The oversized books on Versailles. All the copper things. Where is home again?
Everything has changed this past year. My home. My country. My job. My way of living. My friends. I have stepped out of one skin costume into another. And through the stress and sticky toffee puddings and croissants and wine and instability of traveling, I’ve gained a bit of weight since the last fitting. So squeezing into this new life isn’t as comfortable as I’d hoped. Still. I am here.
Saturday, November 26, I had a Thanksgiving/new-home party in my tiny shoebox of a Paris apartment. We were 15 people from many corners of the world, cozied up together in the kitchen/living area noshing on Thanksgiving-themed hors d’oeuvres (Turkey-sausage-stuffing balls with chili-cranberry sauce, green bean casserole vol-au-vents, cheese ball, etc.) plus gumbo, bread pudding, pumpkin cheesecake, wine, champagne, etc. etc. A true feast, of food, of love, of acceptance. One of my French friends asked me if I’d finally accepted my life as a Parisienne. I told him that I keep telling myself, “I live in Paris,” but it hasn’t sunk in yet. He suggested I say it in French.
I live in Paris. J’habite à Paris. Hmmm…
Last week, I celebrated my 52nd birthday. I like that it falls so close to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Everything’s about looking back and seeing how I want to move forward. In order to have the time to do this, I took Monday — the big day — off work. I often whine about how I now work the weekly 9-to-5(6) grind. For years, I’d gotten so used to creating my own freelance schedule, and enjoying the freedom that went along with it. I also now work in tech, an area in which I’d never worked before. But I tell myself, this too is part of the journey I’m on. It’s all a learning experience. Still, it was heaven having three days off in a row, a luxury these days. Stay tuned … my next post may be on breaking work-schedule norms.
During the long weekend, I slept; cheered the French team (sorry Brits); wandered around Paris; realized my boots weren’t made for walking; yoga’d; meditated; discovered; created; listened to music; ate bacon and pancakes (thank you, Sweet Baby Jaysus); drank champagne; had a croissant at a Harry Potter-themed shop/café; shared posh afternoon tea with friends; promised to read more French; read more French; cried; laughed; shopped; soul-searched; wrote; and felt my family right there with me through every step, every bite, every glance; every sip; and every tear (both in sadness and joy).
And I came to a conclusion. I am a 52-year-old-ish American-Parisienne working as a writer in my favorite city. Et oui, j’habite à Paris. If that is not a dream in the making, I don’t know what is.
The real question — as seen in a book I can’t remember the name of and whose cover I swear I snapped a pic of (psst. it’s on a coffee table at Hotel de Crillon) —
“What does the child you were think of the adult you became?”