Against all instincts

Every inch of my body is struggling against this choice, ready to leap at the chance to cancel it all. Every ounce of my being is panicking at the stress, the overwhelming nature of not only all the steps that need to be taken in order to go, the very heart of what I’m about to do.

All I want is to say  “Forget it” and curl up in my bed in my apartment with my stuff and pretend this never happened. For something to come up and say “oops, guess I can’t go after all!”

I am a risk-averse person.

I don’t often like change. I don’t like stress. I don’t like complicated steps and stages. I don’t like getting rid of things.

I am doing all of these things. Continue reading

I’m committed.

I booked my flights. Or rather, Flight. Singular. No s.

This is now very very real. As if  the boxes piling up in the corner of my apartment hadn’t also been a clue, or the fact that I’ve done nothing but think about packing, or how I haven’t slept well in weeks…. But seriously. Seriously serious. It’s real.

I booked my one-way ticket to Paris.

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.

It’s happening.

I realize there has been a bit of a hiatus in my posts.

There’s a reason for the unintended break.

Once we realized that Frenchman didn’t win the lottery (literally and figuratively), and was therefore not receiving an H1B visa, and could therefore not stay in the country… things got busy. There are so many drafts with haphazard notes of posts I meant to write.

Even after having theoretically announced that I was going to go for it… I had to commit to my decision – and get active.

Starting in mid-May, I began researching and applying to as many job postings as I could find. I was drafting resumes and cover letters left and right, up and down, til my eyes went blurry. I can’t tell you the number of applications I sent.

But you know all that already…

THEN!

After weeks of frustration and optimism and cramped clicking-finger, suddenly a new option.

In a fortuitous turn of events, I was offered the opportunity to continue working for my current job — in Paris.

You read that right. The head honcho Über Boss of my company off-handedly just suggested up the idea. And you bet your bonnet I followed up! A couple of meetings and some meticulously organized research on international remote work later, and Voilà! This girl gets to go to Paris.

*Heavenly chorus* AHHHHHH HALLELUJAH!

Aaand then the real chaos began. Because now it’s really happening. I had to start planning my workflow and creating proposals for how I’ll manage my work across time zones and oceans. And with a 3-months-to-start arrangement, I need to get this nailed so I can hit the ground running and not skip a beat (or a comma – get it? cause I’m a writer?)

We agreed that I wouldn’t be leaving immediately. With some changes and timeframes at work, it made sense to say the end of September or beginning of October as my departure date. That gave me 3 months to figure everything out.

Fortunately, Frenchman was still here and was a MASSIVE help in all of the steps along the way. He was researching jobs and visas and drafting documents and helping me strategize for conversations and future projects.

At the end of July, my Frenchman left the country.

We filled his last weeks with activity and meals and fun. And sorting out his things. And now I have to start figuring out what to do about my apartment and my things. Oof.

Write. Send. Rinse. (Research). Repeat.

Now that I’m really doing this, it’s time to really do it.

I’m actually applying to jobs in Paris.

What a wild thing to say. I’m actually, actively researching job sites and sending applications. It’s so familiar and yet so (obviously) (literally) foreign.

So the French use CVs and the Americans use resumes. Do I need a French CV? Does it need to be in French or just in CV format? Can I use an American resume for American companies, or for jobs seeking a native English/American speaker?

Honestly I find writing a resume in English to be hard enough. I really detest it. And the CV is a totally different style, too. If I’m going to offer up a French CV how do I even begin? To start, they’re different formats, on top of being in different languages.

Oy.

I’m fortunate enough to have been able to get in touch with someone in my industry in Paris. She has been incredibly nice and friendly and helpful. She offered up contacts and ideas and recommendations of where to start looking.

She also told me (in a very French “bah, no, it’s fine” kind of way) not to bother creating a CV in French. Nor in English, for that matter. I’m going to do it anyway, just in case, but it was nice to have a French industry person tell me people wouldn’t care if I sent my regular old English resume.

So I’ve tailored my resume, written a cover letter or 7 (in French!) – with the assistance of my Frenchman, thankfully – and searched searched searched.

This contact also told me that there are a ton of French companies and startups who are looking for content marketers, especially ones who speak English. She made it sound quite optimistic.

She wasn’t wrong. I’ve actually seen quite a few jobs posted in just the last few weeks specifying their desire for a native English speaking content marketer. I’ve applied to every damn one of them.

And now we wait.

Wait for replies. Wait for more job postings. Wait and watch the clock tick by and the calendar days fly past as we approach Frenchman’s expiration date here in the US.

We wait, we search job boards, we cross our fingers.

Mildly anticlimactic

My parents didn’t care.

Scratch that. They cared. And were overall supportive. I guess. There was just something… missing.

There was no surprise. No *Gasp!* or “Oh wow! That’s awesome!” or “Woahh” or “OMG Don’t do it!” Nada.

Telling my parents about my intentions to move to Paris was… anticlimactic. And I had been so anxious, so unsure of how they would respond. I wrote about it. And, to be fair, I didn’t know what to expect. What I got certainly wasn’t the way I thought it might go.

I blurted it out because my mom asked how Frenchman was dealing with the fact that he has to leave the country. And she asked how I was dealing with it. So I ripped off the band-aid even though I had planned to wait until my sister was there so support and soften the blow and provide a voice of positivity in the face of potentially debbie-downer questions.

I just said “well… actually… I’m looking for jobs in Paris.” And my mother just slightly smiled. And I started defending my reasons with statements of “…looking for jobs anyway” and “… I mean it’s Paris, right?” and “… good opportunity…” while she didn’t say much of anything. Except that she thought I might.

I mean. In all my life I’ve never seen my mother be so… nonchalant about a life decision. Not even a big one. For any decision, she has a million questions and opinions about all the things that make it hard or could go wrong. Or discouraging comments like “well what are you going to do about ___ ?!” said in a way that makes you feel defensive even if it’s a concern you’ve already taken care of.

No. This time there were no questions. No discussion of my options, of what needs to be done in order to make it happen, not even a query as to how the job market is in Paris or whether I had any leads. Nothing.

It was… bizarre.

And my father, he just sort of shrugged and said ok. Looked a little surprised. And the main thing he said was just that I better come home to visit because he wouldn’t be going there.

I’m my father’s baby and I know he’ll always be sad if I’m not nearby and he’ll always be proud if I’m doing something cool. I also know that he’s not really a traveler and France seems mighty far away when you’ve never gone and seen it yourself.

Don’t worry, Pops. It’s not so far. And it’s not forever. I’m going to do my best to convince you to come see my new home and my new life and this new continent you’ve never been to, but in the meantime it won’t be so long between trips home.

I can’t say I’m disappointed in my parents’ reactions. They didn’t disapprove.

In fact, they were really quite comfortable with it. Maybe they think I’ve got it all covered and I know what I’m doing? Weird.

Moving to Paris in 47 Easy* Steps

*not easy at all. It’s actually really complicated. And involves a lot of paperwork.

I’ve been doing a lot of research. A LOT. And there’s a bazillion different things to consider and keep in mind and juggle and balance and straddle when looking to move to France. And then there’s the bureaucracy.

And boyyyy do the French love (to hate) bureaucracy.

If you think dealing with the American government and process is frustrating, just read a few expat blogs about their experiences filing paperwork and dealing with French bureaucratic offices and red tape. I guarantee you’ll immediately feel better about your own “struggles” if you can even call them that anymore.

As you might imagine, moving to a foreign country is a lot of work. It involves a lot of steps and process. Much more than just buying a plane ticket and packing a suitcase. (The movies lie, guys. Seriously)

So here I’ve started outlining all the things I’ll need to do, in order, I think, in order to move to Paris:

  1. Translate & Reformat my resume. The French CV structure is very different from the American resume, despite the fact that we stole a French-ish word (that they don’t even use) for the document. A CV Français can (and should) include your picture, your address, your age, and a whole lot of other personal information you would never ever put on your resume. And then you talk about your experience & background – in French.
  2. Get a job. Apply, apply, apply. Between Glassdoor, Indeed, and similar French sites, it’s time to go to town sending out my CV. And networking, and reaching out to anyone I know that could help me get a job. Because without a job, I can’t…
  3. Get a visa. And without a visa, I can’t work or live in the country. So I need the aforementioned job to sponsor my visa application. This requires a LOT of paperwork. Seriously. A crap-ton of documentation:
    • Work contract (approved by the French government). The company has to prove/argue that they can’t hire a French person to do the job instead of you.
    • Passport (plus copies)
    • Application form (plus copies)
    • Photos (2)
    • Processing fee ($$)
    • Bonus: you have to apply in person! Yup, no mailing it in. Even if your closest French consulate is several states over.
  4. Get more documentation. Seriously. Because once you get to France, there’s even more paperwork to be done! You’ll need your birth certificate officially translated (plus copies), more ID photos, bank statements, your first born child…
  5. Deal with your stuff. Pack things in boxes. Sell things you love but don’t need. Give away things you want to see loved by others. Toss all the stuff you probably should have gotten rid of years ago. Get a storage unit. Maybe that’s your parents’ basement. Now’s the time when you decide what to take and what not to take.
  6. Register with the French authorities. This is apparently a thing. Also a large part of the “more documentation” section. I think you need to show proof of residence? Bank statements or French bank statements? And your visa, of course.
  7. Go to the French doctor. In order to get your magical socialized healthcare, you have to go to an official check-up. Also cause for extraordinary documentation. Also apparently really bad if you miss your appointment. Dear future self. For the love of god, do not miss your appointment
  8. Carte de Séjour (residence permit): Apply for this at least 2 months before your visa expires (or sooner!!), if you’re planning on staying in France long-term. Again, you get to do this in person (!) at a local office. And again, all the documentation.
  9. Yearly renewal. You get to relive the madness! Don’t think that you can get away so easily once you’re a carte-carrying resident. You have to renew it every year! More applications! More documents!
    • After 5 years, you can apply for a longer-term residence card that is good for 10 years.
  10. A bunch more steps. There’s no way this list is comprehensive. Once I’ve gone through it all myself, maybe I’ll update with all the things I never knew to fear.

See, moving to France is easy! jk. this is going to be insane.

However, I firmly believe that all this bureaucracy is the source of the French attitude and/or ennui. Suffering through it is your initiation, and surviving gives you the right and privilege to scoff, shrug, and make non-committal French sounds of disdain or disinterest.

Bahh, non… Bof…

In the meantime, I’m thinking of investing in a photocopier for all those documents…

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?