reflections one year after leaving paris

Date
Oct, 10, 2020

Today is my one year anniversary back in the States. France feels so far away, sometimes it’s hard to believe I actually lived there. I feel lots of things – nostalgia, a bit of longing, and mainly gratitude to myself for listening to the calling to come back. It was the most difficult and healthiest decision I made.

I’ll never forget my first days back in the US (LA, specifically) — the feeling of being a foreigner in my own country, experiencing culture shock from ‘my’ own culture. I never felt French in France, but I had been there long enough that I definitely didn’t feel American in America either. After adjusting to life in a country smaller than the size of Texas, the United States felt jarring and overwhelming. The grocery store was too big, I didn’t understand small talk or why restaurant servers kept interrupting my meal to ask if everything was “okay.” Nothing was okay.

I moved back in search of the feeling of home, but was starting to think there was no home for me. Not Paris, not LA, not even Virginia where I’m from. I was expecting for everything to be automatically easier, but instead felt like I didn’t belong anywhere at all.

That was last October, and a lot has changed since. It took time, but I settled in and today feel more American than ever. I’m proud of my time living in France and also have a special appreciation for my home country – the type of appreciation (not to be confused with nationalism) I don’t think I could have cultivated had I not left for 2.5 years.

There is a huge place in my heart for the ungrounded, ambitious, adventurous 23 year old girl who fearlessly packed up her life to live in France, tried so hard to make it work, packed up again to live in LA, and again 3 more times for NYC, VA, DC. Movement between the last 4 locations happened in a span of less than 11 months.

Only the past month have I discovered the feeling of true home and flow, honestly for the first time in my life. Contrary to Paris, or anytime really, opportunities seem to be falling into my lap (and I’m saying yes to them). My people are here, I love them. There’s lots of vegan food, familiar faces, and a big forest within city limits. Everything about living here feels right for me. I am ready to let my roots sink into the earth a little bit — not out of desperation for the feeling of home, but because DC naturally feels like it. I can honestly say I’m happier and healthier at this stage in my life than I ever have been.

Being able to take for granted the fact that I am a citizen, speak the language fluently, can work anywhere I want, and don’t need to fight to renew immigration papers has freed up so much of my energy. I’m no longer in survival mode and can actively build the life I’ve wanted.

Ultimately, France is a part of who I am forever — it showed me the extent of my own resilience, healing, awakening, love, and the power of community. Many of my best friends still live there. I love Paris, I love France. But right now, DC is home, and it will be for a long while.

I hope to write more about my time in Paris – not only to share, but also to help me integrate the lessons of that period of my life. I entered and exited France a very different person, the version of me I am most in love with. Paris will always be the place that shaped me.

Mille remerciements Paris, je t’aime toujours et sans limites. Après la pandémie (lol)

xx Lena

lenazell

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