A Life in Paris

I Risked it All to Move Abroad

August 23, 2015
Louvre in France - moving to be an expat

You might not be aware of my feisty moments of frustration with life-as-it-was for me in Baltimore. Maybe you don’t know how much I wanted to get out of that city and find a place of beauty, a place with less “grit” and challenge to life. You might not have known how much I struggled with the guilt of wanting to leave – the guilt of abandoning my fellow citizens, and the city that so needs talented smart people to help improve the quality of life there. Boy did I feel guilty.

And then I did it. I took every risk there is to move to France to live with my new husband. Leaving my stable job for a job-search, leaving my very extensive professional network for one I could count on one hand, leaving my proper house for a temporary rental, leaving my incredibly supportive in-town friendship network for … well, nobody. And hardest of all, leaving my parents an ocean away.

It took a ton of courage, a strong gut feeling that it would be alright, and obviously a touch of crazy… Often, I would think to myself, “Am I really doing this?!?” But I wouldn’t even answer myself. I would just charge full-speed ahead with the next bazillion tasks needed to finish up the job, and wrap up the life I had built in Baltimore.

All the while, on this fast-moving train of tasks to get myself to France, I was THRILLED. It was a roller coaster, and boy was I enjoying the ride.

The best part were the visits and the helpers. The move gave me every excuse to spend time with friends and family, some whom I hadn’t seen in many years. Those goodbye parties and farewell lunches and sleep-overs were life-affirming. They made me feel whole and home and loved in the most amazingly genuine way.

Renewing those deep emotional connections and strong bonds with dear friends filled my body with glowing warmth and peace. Visiting one person after the other, the crescendo of joy in my soul became overwhelming. It was sheer bliss to spend all that time with dear ones.

So blissful, in fact, that upon my arrival in France, I bombed. I tanked. I cried and moped and cried some more. I wanted more of that glowing warmth that comes from deep, time-worn emotional bonds. It’s hard to describe, but there’s something about those intense friendships that cannot be replicated by even the most loving new-friend.

The sadness I felt came from another place as well, perhaps odd to some. You may not know how independent I am. For some perspective, as a TWO year old, I told my parents that I would live alone in my grandmother’s downstairs apartment, and they could live upstairs with grandma! Yes, I was two. As an adult, to arrive in France and be car-less, or reliant on my husband to know where we were going and when, or to not have any idea where to find the extra tissue boxes in our apartment… Any one of those would have been a challenge for me, but all of those little ways I lost my independence were a tremendous shock to me. It was like the essence of my whole being had been hidden from me and I was somebody new and unrecognizable.

All of this together: I was a mess.

Fortunately I had a wonderfully patient – new – husband who was there for me every step of the way. He is generous and sweet, kind and thoughtful. I’m truly lucky to have such a fantastic life-partner! The newness, though, cannot be ignored. It was a challenge to be in the throws of a personal meltdown while also getting accustomed to life as a first-time wife.

Bonjour Adventure: an expat in France Bonjour Adventure: an expat in France

I needed to learn to be careful which language I spoke in to be understood, and I realized quickly that the best way to have an easy time between us was to over-communicate about anything that could possibly involve both of us. And since then, it has been easy! It’s clear to me that I made the right decision; that Romain is absolutely the perfect man for me.

Two and a half months into this crazy adventure, and I know where the extra tissue boxes are, and I have found a normal balance of joy. I have come to grips with the absolute fact that I am not, and never will be, as independent as I had been in the US. If for no other reason than I’m married! There is another person with whom I am building a life.

I have returned to a more normal state of happy (though obviously a heightened level of happiness due to the “honeymoon phase” that Romain and I are basking in). Life is GOOD and I’m feeling much more settled in my new home.

I’m sure there will continue to be highs and lows, and I will weather those storms as they come. It will become more and more difficult to be away from dear friends and family for long stretches at a time. I will miss the ease of speaking English with every person I interact with everywhere I go. I will be frustrated with not-knowing French perfectly and relying on my French contacts to explain complicated administrative documents to me.

And yet, I am happy here in a way I could not be in Baltimore.

I may never tire of the aesthetically pleasing sidewalk curbs, lamp posts and park gates. I will forever appreciate the taste of a fresh warm baguette and a box of deliciously moist macarons. I can only hope to enjoy the benefits of the standard 5 weeks of vacation per year, and the guaranteed maternity leave (eventually…). It’s clear that staring in awe at the romantic Parisian architecture or meandering around the impeccably manicured public gardens will bring a smile to my face for years to come.

Bonjour Adventure: life as an expat in France Bonjour Adventure: an expat in France

Bonjour Adventure: life as an expat in France Bonjour Adventure: life as an expat in France

To live a life without regrets, I risked it all. Whatever challenges I have faced in my pursuit of a life in France, so far I can tell you: it was worth it. Will I always feel this way? That remains to be seen. Life has a funny way of adding plot twists when you least expect them, so you never know what lies around the next bend.

When have YOU taken a risk to follow your dream? Do you regret it?

Bonjour Adventure: an expat in France

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1 Comment

  • Reply Ellen August 24, 2015 at 1:00 am

    Life is full of twists and turns. To be autonomous gives way to collaboration. And JOY can be experienced. I wish you and Romain Joy! Ah! And more adventures!

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