365 Jours: 1 Year as an American (Expat) in Paris
It was an impressive day—a day overflowing with emotions, expectations, and dreams. Still, nothing was guaranteed. As we say, “go big or go home,” except I had just left my home. I put (almost) all my eggs in one basket called “Paris.” Would it be a renaissance or disaster? Despite all the unknown, I knew that Paris would be more like home than my own. With two suitcases, my cat, few French words and a heart full of courage, I boarded the plane and embarked toward my new life as an expat/immigrant in Paris.
The word “risk” is not sufficient. But is it really a risk when you follow your heart to your true nature, your true self? Honestly, I think the biggest risk is not to act when you know you have found your way.
I gave up a lot to follow my found path. On the other hand, had I stayed in Florida, had I continued my daily life, I would have given up much more. And I would have lost my chance, maybe my once-in-a-lifetime chance, to re-find ME.
It had been a long time since I had been healthy enough to work. On a normal week, I had three to five doctor appointments, and I left the States with no provisions or health team in place except the air of Hugo’s Paris: “Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’âme.” (To breathe Paris, this preserves the soul.) A year before I had tasted the hope of life, this conservation of the soul, and I had to chase after it. The race that followed was difficult and winding, albeit clear. There is absolutely nothing simple about deciding to become an immigrant crossing the Atlantic.
“TO BREATHE PARIS, THIS CONSERVES THE SOUL”
Today, after a complete turn around the sun, I think back to last 365 days—a full year as an expat in Paris. Were they as difficult as I had imagined? Yes. Were they as wonderful as I had imagined? Yes—even more so.
Last year, I wanted to learn the language, find me, see more of the world, and press restart, all the while proving to myself that I could do hard things. It had been many years since I felt I could do hard things, or even things, because of these illnesses. If I was going to start over, I had to know I still had in me the girl that was strong, courageous and capable—the girl I felt I had lost many years ago. But what the year had in store for me was so much more than the chance to push restart and find “Mélissa” (the French version of Melissa). In a short 365 days, I created a life that makes my former feel the more foreign. Every day still has it’s challenges, but I try to see them as lessons—always searching for the nugget of gold or the silver lining. One thing is for sure: it has been an adventure and the next year undoubtedly has more defining adventure in store. I can’t wait. The expat journey continues.