An 18-pound cat

You know that feeling when your chest is constricted and you can’t breathe and it feels like an 18-pound cat is sitting on top of you and you can’t move it? No? Just me?

For those who need a visual aid:

Georgie, the 18-pound cat

Georgie, the 18-pound cat

An 18-pound cat is sitting on my chest, and I can’t breathe.

Our apartment fell through.

We got this apartment locked down weeks ago; I felt great. Flights? Check. Place to live? Check. We were all set and I felt confident that we were well-situated for my arrival so I didn’t have to stress.

The apartment was huge – way bigger than we needed – but we got a great deal. It was a temporary rental (Frenchman doesn’t want to pick anything permanent without me there to see it, too) but it had everything we needed. Furnished, 2 bedrooms, with a desk/office, great location – perfect. The only caveat was that the woman was trying to sell the place, so we signed on monthly with the risk of having to leave sooner than expected.

Way sooner than expected.

She sold it, and we got an email this morning that part of the agreement is that she cannot rent it. Apparently this is kosher in France despite us having signed a contract already.

Merde.

I arrive in just 2 weeks and we have nowhere to live. Juuuust great.

It was hard enough to find an apartment the first time around. There were a lot of things to consider: location, features, square footage (meterage), and all the tiny details to see whether we could see ourselves living there.

Apartment requirements:

  • Furnished
  • Close to a metro stop
  • Safe neighborhood
  • Cats allowed
  • Within our budget
  • 2 bedrooms (preferably – for guests!)
  • Workspace (I’m working remotely, indefinitely. I need a desk)
  • Real shower (no open bathtub with a shower head laying down)
  • All normal kitchen appliances

But, we had time to research and dig and find just the right place…

The apartment we had found had everything we needed. You’d be surprised how many listings we looked at that didn’t have an oven, or the second bedroom was through the first bedroom, so any guests would basically have to crawl over us to pee in the middle of the night. And I absolutely refuse to live in an apartment that doesn’t have a real shower. I 100% believe that I would have a complete nervous breakdown if, after a stressful or difficult day, I couldn’t just take a normal shower but instead struggle to hold the showerhead and soap myself and try not to soak the room. I could do it once, but every day?

Nightmare French Shower

My nightmare: no walls, loose shower head. HOW are you supposed to wash your hair?!

And now we’re homeless and need to start all over again… with just 2 weeks’ notice to our move-in deadline.

Breathe in… breathe out… move the 18-pound cat.

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A series of concerns: My stuff

I first started writing this post months ago, when I was first mulling over the how’s and why’s and whether-or-nots of the moving to Paris decision-making process. It was my first foray into how I might deal with my things. A framework for it, at least.

“Do I get a storage unit? Do I sell it? Do I stick it in my parents’ basement and hope they don’t mind?”

These were the questions of the day.

The answer, inevitably, was a storage unit. And also sell it. And also stick stuff in my parents’ basement.

Much to my chagrin (and the pleasure of my parents) getting my own storage space for my things was the only logical solution. There was no way the basement of my parents’ downsized condo would be a reasonable place to put my whole life’s worth of stuff. While a good size, it certainly doesn’t have space enough for my furniture and armchair and bins clothing and boxes upon boxes of kitchen stuff (that’s all your fault, Mom).

But I also had to decide what was worth storing. I don’t know about your part of the world, but storage units can be pricey. And when you’re storing everything you own, indefinitely, it gets pricier. I had to make some tough choices about what I felt was worth it to me to take up space in that precious _X_ unit — and what could go.

When I moved into this apartment 2 years ago, I had the unfortunate, now-ironic, thought process “Hey, I’m going to be here for a while, and I’m an adult. I’m going to treat myself to real, quality stuff!” And so, in the name of adulting, I bought nice TVs and moderately expensive furniture, and generally higher quality items than I would have, had I known it was all being abandoned in 2 short years.

So what makes the cut and what gets cut? That decision could only be made after carefully juggling square footage, cost, and volume of stuff. If I get this  size, then I can afford to eat every month, but I can’t keep my mattress. If I get this one, then I don’t have to get rid of my chair, and I can mostly eat…

It’s a delicate balance. The TVs did not make the final casting call for this fall’s production of My Stuff: A Storage Saga. Neither did a few other pieces of furniture. My chair stays. I love that chair.

And now, to keep packing.

A series of concerns: Telling my parents

So you want to pick up and move halfway across the world. For… how long? TBD? Indefinite? With the man you’ve been just dating for a year or so? Oh, ok. No biggie.

That is not how that conversation will go.

Thinking about “breaking the news” to my parents that I’m even considering moving to Paris has me sweating. What if they say no? Don’t go? This is a terrible idea? Maybe they’ll say “fantastic!”

I have no idea.

I honestly, literally, completely have no idea how my parents (read: my mom) will react to me saying I’m thinking of moving to France.

My plan, though, is not to say I’m moving to France. It’s a simple 3-part plan that I think will soften the blow and ease them into the idea.

1. Say I’m considering it. No finality there, just something that has crossed my mind. Almost as a passing whim, barely even registered. Hardly a commitment to panic at.

2. Say I’m considering looking for a job in Paris. Not moving-to-be-with-the-love-of-my-life-I’ll-follow-him-anywhere. Clearly aiming to establish my own reasons and my own life. Never fear, parents, I’m my own independent person!

3. Say it’s not forever. Because it doesn’t have to be, and likely won’t be. A year or two is nothing. Time flies when you’re eating cheese. And that kind of interlude in a resume could be a fantastic opportunity.

That’s not so bad, right? I’m not chasing after a man, though he is the spark that could lead me to do this crazy thing. If you’ve always dreamt of doing something, but never had the guts or belief that you could do it, is it so bad if a partner is the instigator that makes it happen?

But why am I so nervous? Should I be? Is it a sign that I don’t believe in my own decision? Like when you’re a teenager and you don’t want to ask for something or tell your parents because you know they’ll be disappointed in you, or you know it’s a bad decision deep down.

I’m afraid that they’re going to disapprove of the idea, for sure. That they’ll think it’s a bad choice. I’m also afraid that they’ll ask me questions I don’t know how to answer. Or, worse, that they’ll ask me questions that I don’t want to answer. And. What if they’re right? What if they make solid arguments why it’s a bad idea and then I have to admit that they’re right and tell Frenchman that I can’t come with him to Paris and that we might not see each other again?

I don’t want that to happen.

I think I want to go to Paris.

A series of concerns: Language

Language. Do you speak it?

I don’t know if I do. Now, I know that I’ve got the basics down. I learned how to construct a simple sentence in French 1 at the age of 11 (Je m’appelle Elizabeth). I know how to politely order something in a restaurant (Je voudrais…). I know the basics.

I know my Frenchman thinks I’m fluent and celebrates my every attempt as a complete success. (C’etait PARFAIT!). I know that I plan those sentences very carefully in my head before I say them out loud.

I don’t know if I can navigate real life.

In real life, the conversation doesn’t stop after you order your steak frites, merci. There are more questions. There are rapid-fire statements. There are people yelling and staring and waiting for you to respond to a question you didn’t even know they asked.

And it’s not just the fear of looking foolish in a restaurant. What about an office?

Am I really business-level proficient enough in Français to be able to tackle a real work situation? I can barely keep up with the jargon of my industry in English, let along play catch-up with the French equivalents. What happens when I’m actually expected to solve a problem or handle a project when, thank my lucky stars, I’ve managed to land myself a job? Even at an American company, I imagine there will be plenty of French spoken by, you know, the French people. Am I able to handle that? I have no idea.

There’s a certain Je ne sais quoi … when you really truly don’t know (ne sais pas) what a person is saying to you.

A series of concerns: Living together

Concern #1: Living Together

I’ve lived with a boyfriend before. If you’re paying attention at all, it’s clear just how well that worked out. (spoiler: not. well.)

Moving in with a significant other is a big step. It means things.

You may think you know what it’ll be like, you know ’cause you practically live together already spending, like, all of your time at each other’s places and stuff. But you don’t know. Living together is different. You are forced to experience the worst of each other, fast. And I’m not talking the gross things we humans do. Obviously you get to experience that up close in person (another spoiler: the book was right. Your schmoopy does, in fact, poop.) But when I say the worst of each other, I mean the worst parts of our personalities.

You’re on top of each other, and suddenly, there’s no escape. You have to merge your stuff. You think your blank is better, but he really likes his blank. Tug of war ensues.

I encountered this struggle. The gnashing of teeth and lives as your worlds collide inescapably.

He got annoyed when I organized. Really mad when I decided the utility closet was a better place for lightbulbs and batteries than the kitchen cupboard, where I put tea and food items instead. He was irritable about everything and I couldn’t figure out why. In hindsight, this was a red flag.

He never made space for me in his world. And it was his world. Not our world.

Living together is scary.

You get mad at each other for stupid things. Mad at yourself for being mad about stupid things. Mad that you’re mad at the person you love but godhelpmeifhedoesn’tstopdoingTHATTHING.

But then he says something like “I was thinking how it would be really important for you to have your own space, somewhere you could go to have time to yourself that’s all yours.” And you never said anything about how that’s important to you. He just knew it.

And he buys kiwis every week and cuts them for you and you’re not supposed to help because these are your kiwis. Because he likes buying you kiwis.

And he doesn’t get mad when you get cranky and don’t realize that you’re cranky. He just gets you a snack. Because you’re hangry. Or water, because you’re dehydrated. Or just keeps on going because it doesn’t matter.

Living together is scary. But it could work if you’re patient and kind and try not to get too hangry. If you apologize and forgive and forget. Right?