The past month has given me lots of alone time to reflect. Recently, two of my closest friends moved out of France, and in September, my husband Erik went to the US to await his Green Card, leaving me with just a single friend to hang out with, and lots of quiet evenings alone. It’s been interesting.
Without an extra person next to me when I sleep, or someone waiting for me when I come back from the grocery store, things have been a little bit strange. Yesterday I realized I had barely used my voice for the entire day, and I wondered jokingly if my vocal chords still worked. Even though I had been wandering around Paris for the entire day, surrounded by people on the street, I still felt isolated, simply because most of the people I love weren’t with me.
I’ve always held on to the idea that even though I’m part of a marriage, I will always maintain a personal, independent self. I think it’s healthy to have a life outside of your relationship – hobbies, friends, and activities that you can spend time with on your own terms. It’s hard, though, to fully embrace a solo lifestyle when you’ve been in the immediate vicinity of your significant other almost constantly for the past 3 years. We still FaceTime and text constantly, but it’s strange how quiet life gets when they’re away.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future, but also the past. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be leaving France in a month and a half. That’s no time at all, but in the anticipation of this major life change, I can’t help but think about my time here, and although there have been many amazing moments, there is a generous helping of… shall we say, disappointment.
If you’ve read any of my past Visual Diary posts, you’ll know that living in France hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t want to label my past failures or struggles as “regret,” but I’m struggling to come up with another word for them. I could have lived a very different life here, I could have explored my passions and creativity more, made more friends, mastered the French language, and fully embraced the nuances of French culture. I could have lived a fuller day-to-day life.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had some great experiences, because I have! I’ve been able to travel to so many awesome places around Europe, eat some seriously delicious foods, and have unforgettable experiences with my friends and family. I will never ever regret those experiences, and I think that they are SO worth any amount of emotional discomfort I have experienced. I got to road trip around France with my best friend, take my sister on her first international adventure, couch surf through Germany, dress up like Marie Antoinette for a masquerade ball at the castle, see one of the most beautiful places on earth with my lover, put on a flower crown and celebrate Midsummer the Swedish way, and witness the beautiful wedding of some of my dearest friends. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything, but that doesn’t mean that life in between these incredible experiences has been super fantastic.
I don’t really believe in regrets, because every past decision I’ve made has led me to where I am now. I don’t want to change anything that’s happened to me in the past, but let’s just say that I’m excited to move on from this French chapter of my life. I’m ready to start feeling confident and capable in my native culture and language, to stop feeling like a foreigner, to stop feeling uncomfortable. I’ve never really liked the apartment we live in. I don’t think I ever once walked inside and felt that cozy satisfaction you feel when you’re proud of your space. I’m ready to create a home that brings me joy, and throw away the temporary life of crappy, cheap furniture and dirty old corners that are impossible to clean.
Honestly, since I moved to France, my weight has gone up, my bad habits have increased, my self confidence has gone down and I feel like I’ve lost part of myself. My mental health is just not where I want it to be, and I honestly think a huge part of that has been my environment. I’m definitely much better off than I was in the depth of my depression two years ago, but things still aren’t quite right. I need to be close to my family again.
I’ll always treasure the experiences I’ve been able to have here in France, but I want to leave all the emotional baggage behind. I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to start fresh, to find the positive and joyful spark within myself again. I’ve never been more ready.