It happened. My one year anniversary of moving to France came and went with no fanfare while I was on a work trip to China on January 13. So much has happened and at the same time I feel like I just got here. So…where to begin?
I’ll start with accomplishments; things I’ve done. Most of this has been documented on my blog already. I quit a great job at a fantastic company. I sold most of my furniture and awesome car. My heart breaks a little every time I see an Audi A3 here. I rented out my house. I said goodbye to my wonderful friends, all of whom were strangers at one point and became like family, partners in crime, and confidantes. I saw the moving truck come and take everything I owned in boxes. I spent my last night in town at my neighbor’s house. I said goodbye to quirky Portland and beautiful Oregon and flew one-way to Toronto, Canada with my cat, Cleo. Thank you to Chris Mazelin, though we hadn’t stayed in steady contact since she left Nike, who drove me to PDX. From mid-November 2013 to January 13, 2014 I moved back in with my parents at my childhood home. It was a particularly harsh winter that included an ice storm and power failure right before Christmas. I handed in my OR driver’s license to get an Ontario license that would be easy to transfer into a French one. I got all kinds of paperwork translated, authenticated, and apostilled. I experienced some culture shock being back in Canada. I never lived or worked there as an adult since I left after high school so I was accustomed to American stores, brands, services, and not so much hockey. While in Canada I got all of Cleo’s veterinary papers to move her to France. I saw relatives I hadn’t seen in ages and friends from high school and *gasp* grade school!
Fast forward to January 13, 2014. I land in Geneva and my ride is there to take me to my temporary miniature apartment. You can revisit my earlier posts to read about that. No turning back, I was thrown into everything at once. There were many struggles along the way, from finding an apartment, to installing a kitchen, to buying a car, and of course, starting a new job. Now I’m more settled in my apartment and neighborhood. My neighbors recognize me. I know my way around town and where the good coffee and burgers are. I’m recognized at the Boston Café with a friendly greeting and smile. I found a dentist for me and a great veterinarian for Cleo. I’m making new friends both at work and through the expat community, some I hope to stay in touch with for years to come and have made life here so much better. I’ve learned patience, organization, and to be an advocate for myself. I’ve learned to ask for help and that Things. Will. Get. Done. Maybe not in the way I wanted or planned or in the timeframe I had in mind, but they will get done. I will find a way. I can do just about anything I set my mind to.
I’ve also learned that I can survive without a TV, a microwave, a dishwasher, and a washer/dryer, though the last two are open to debate now that it’s winter. I can live in a much smaller space. I can manage with stores closed on Sunday. I no longer buy stockpiles of food and sundries. I buy fresh food that will be eaten that day or in the next couple days. Milk and eggs here are not refrigerated and it’s OK. In fact, I’ve grown to really like the eggs here. Water can be cheaper than wine on the menu. My French has improved. It’s still a daily struggle; it’s tough not being able to fully communicate and express myself.
In general, I’m learning that a slower pace of life isn’t bad. Some people have told me that I’m brave and living a dream. I don’t feel this way at all. I decided at one point that I wanted more life experiences and for me that meant living and working in Europe. Learning the culture, the language, getting familiar with a new place–I’ve always liked the challenge of this. What was once foreign becomes familiar and part of my regular routine. I’ve done it a few times now and the result is always the same. Any place can become home after a while. Even the tiny, crappy temp apt I had for 6 weeks when I first arrived became my nest and comfort zone. It has been very, very difficult and beyond frustrating at times and I still have some of these moments. These parts have not been dreamy or a romantic ideal of what living in France is like. My experience with this is that these low points to turn and go back up. They have to. I’ve questioned if I made the right choice in moving to France and I still do, I think it’s normal.
So what’s next? Definitely more travel. That’s a huge part of why I came out here, so I have to take advantage that so many places are a short, cheap flight away. I want to start being more creative at home. Make time for art and creating with my hands. It’s something I stopped doing several years ago and now I have the time and desire to get back to it. They say the first year is the toughest so we’ll see where I’m at 4 months from now. Then 6, then 12–the two year mark. I’m looking forward to it.