March 3, 2014: a cold winter light on Charles de Gaulle Airport, France. What are we doing here? I cannot even remember the date, let alone what time it is…Yet, I know I am holding my most precious thing: my six-month old son.
So here we are, back in France after 10 years of “work exile” and nothing seems the same.
Forget Washington, D.C., its freezing winter, beautiful springtime and “perfect” life (a successful career, gorgeous family, luxurious apartment and car).
Hello from the other side, Hello from the outside (“Hello”- Adele)
Adele must have been in the same situation once! At least, I can say that I tried to save a relationship, the dream of a husband and a father, yet the gap between the idea of this man and the reality was too wide.
He left in peace and left me in pieces (“Same Old Love” – Selena Gomez)
It’s amazing how perfectly some women can put all those feelings into words.
Léon, my precious boy, and I arrived just the two of us after months of cheating, abuse and worries. This “exile” 2.0 would be the blessing and kick I needed and sought for years.
After a decade in the States, I returned to my home country feeling like an expatriate. Everything seemed different, a challenge, an obstacle I had to overcome to prove myself and justify my return to my homeland.
France is legendary for its cuisine, but let’s focus on another less glamorous side: its administration. Like many other expats, Léon and I had to register at each and every organization: the CAF (family benefits office), the Mairie (city hall) and the iconic Pôle Emploi (unemployment office). There, I was told very, very seriously by my counselor that “it may be quite challenging to adjust to the French lifestyle in terms of work,” and she strongly encouraged me to find a job back in the USA. She saw me as being Americanized! Should I get frustrated and upset or laugh? I decided to crack up and left making sure to not seek any more help from bureaucrats…
Aside from some awkward situations where we had to justify our French citizenship, the hardest thing was probably to adapt to the “new” currency: the Euro. I left the country when our Franc Français (FF) was still in use for everything (groceries, payroll, etc.). Therefore, even today after two years back in France, I am still using my familiar FF and cannot accept paying 1,000 FF (150 €) at the hairdresser!
Fortunately, I am not alone. After my return, I reconnected with my family and friends, but also with the true meaning of beauty, love and grace.
The sudden passing of my beloved dad last October helped me understand the value of a life well-lived. While unbearable grief can overwhelm us for many years, in the end, sorrow slowly fades away and only love, beauty and grace remain.
Beauty is wherever you are and whenever your heart is open, not that imaginary vision of yourself. It’s your real you…
So indeed, “Bienvenue en France”, and yes, welcome back to what I tried so hard to escape and erase: my roots.
And with this new beginning, let’s try to write a long and glorious new chapter of our lives. Seek the right things, a world of beauty will suddenly open up and there will be room for this “Amazing Grace” we have all been looking for; it doesn’t only happen in songs!