One year ago today, I arrived in Paris to start a new life.
My husband had already been here for several weeks and I was jealous that he already knew where the market was, how to unlock the tricky front door, how to get to the métro. All I knew was that I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing here–the future looked hazy and unrecognizable. All I could do was dive in and hope for the best.
Life as an expat can be hard; it’s not all croissants and berets and Bordeaux. When you move to another country, you momentarily lose a piece of yourself. You’re a stranger in a strange land–and there are reminders of that fact at nearly every turn. Buying groceries becomes a game of hand gestures and the present tense. Chatting with locals reduces you to an awkward teenage state, making jokes that no one gets but praying they’ll like you and become your friend. You feel like your personality and all its originality has been stripped away.
In the midst of all this confusion, something changes. Something clicks. All of a sudden, it’s no big deal to navigate the streets. Despite language barriers, you can confidently make yourself understood. When you land at the local airport, you have the happy sense of coming back. You pick up the pieces of your personality–slightly and irrevocably altered–and put them back together again. You become you again. And that’s when you can really inhabit your new home.