How Lucky I Am…

Today is my last day in Paris.

It’s hard to believe that my little Parisian adventure is coming to an end, and yet, here I am. I’m feeling a bit wobbly about it all. I’ve cried more than a few times this week as I thought about leaving. The horrific fire at Notre Dame on Monday certainly stirred up my feelings of love for this city but I’d been having a hard time even before that. Honestly, it’s not unlike how I was feeling about Dublin when I was getting ready to move to Paris. So, this is kind of just what I do. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m still excited to be moving back to Dublin. Professionally, it’s an absolute no-brainer that Dublin is where I belong and where this next part of my career will thrive. I’m returning to my beloved Dublin neighborhood of Ranelagh, and actually, in a funny twist, I’ll be living in the apartment complex I lived in during my first year in Dublin. Personally, it’s a mixed bag – I have wonderful friends in Dublin that I’m so happy to get back to, but I’m leaving behind some equally wonderful friends in Paris. They actually surprised me with an early birthday celebration on Friday, so they aren’t making leaving any easier that’s for sure.

But as I reflect on this past year, what I truly feel is grateful. Living in Paris has been a dream of mine for such a long time and I actually made that dream come true. How many people can say that? Living here certainly came with challenges – French bureaucracy’s reputation is well-earned and my struggles with the language never got any easier. But everyday I was astounded and humbled by the beauty of this city. The French people were, for the most part, very kind and very welcoming. And don’t even get me started on the wine and the cheese.

So tomorrow as I lock up the apartment I have loved living in this past year, as I leave the city I have called home, I am sure I will shed more than a few tears. But that means to me that this time in Paris had meaning, that this time in Paris had an impact on me, that this time in Paris was very, very special.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

 -A.A.  Milne

 

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My Paris, in pictures…

I’m heading to Dublin tomorrow (pretty apropos for St. Paddy’s Day, huh?!) for the next phase of my move. I have so much going on right now that most of the time I’m not sure if I’m coming or going. Amidst all the chaos of moving, I’m trying to find time to reflect on this past year in Paris and to enjoy the time I have left here – easier said than done when your to-do list has a to-do list. There are so many things that I am going to miss once I leave, things that are more about living here. So, I’ve started to take pictures of them…

 

This is the view from my window. This Indian restaurant is the closest thing I’ve got to a local in Paris. I order from here far too often, but it’s so good. They know my regular order, they wave to me when they see me in my window, they always include a little something free in my order, and when I opt to eat in the restaurant, there is always a free liquer to finish off the meal. I shall miss my Taj Mahal.

 

The beauty of this picture may be lost on my American readers but those in Europe will understand the absolute luxury it has been to have a separate washer and dryer, and brand new to boot! I have an older combo washer/dryer in my new Dublin apartment and it’ll do the trick but I’m fully aware that my clothes will now be “dry” rather than actually dry.

 

This little nook is my favorite spot in my Paris apartment. It’s just so cute, and French. It fills me with joy on a daily basis.

 

This is my neighborhood bodega – the new yorker in me doesn’t know what else to call it. It’s right across the street from my place and is great for those quick items when I don’t want to go all the way (meaning, to the end of my block) to the grocery store. I can literally run down to buy a quick snack (or bottle of wine) during a commercial break on the telly. And the two men who work there are so sweet. I love little shops like this.

 

There are no less than three boulangeries within a one block radius of my apartment but this one is by far the best. The line to get a baguette is often out the door. Baguettes are a way of life in Paris – not a great thing for someone like me who tries to eat low carb, but I shall miss them nonetheless.

 

The waiters here are dicks in the way only french waiters can be but the food is really good and I’ve had so many meals here with friends from all over the world, as well as on my own. Lots of wonderful memories here, just not of the waiters. It’s also got the best terrace on Rue Cler.

And speaking of Rue Cler…

My absolutely favorite street in Paris. End of.

 

Also on Rue Cler, the waiters at Cafe Roussillon are definitely not dicks. This restaurant is also where I randomly met someone (okay I was being nosy and honed in on her conversation with her husband) who has become a dear friend, so I’ve got a special fondness for this place because of that synchronous meeting. (Fun fact, when he is not in the Elysees Palace, Macron lives just a couple doors down from here.)

 

The produce in the actual grocery stores is pretty lackluster but I love my fruit and veggie shop on Rue Cler.

 

I always like to have fresh cut flowers in my home, preferably tulips if they are in season. I’m in my flower shop on Rue Cler nearly every week. They always ask if the flowers are a gift and I always answer that they are un cadeau pour moi – a gift for me, which they certainly are.


My fromagerie on Rue Cler. It’s not just cheese, it’s art.

 

This sweet little cafe is where me and the friend I met at Roussillon have spent many an hour chatting about nearly everything. It’s teeny tiny and super cosy and they have really good, cheap food.

 

The wine selection at my local grocery store. Yes, I can buy wine at grocery stores in Dublin, but…

… I certainly won’t be getting any bottle of Côtes du Rhône for €4. Let’s face it, I won’t be getting a bottle of any wine for €4 in Dublin. My palette has become much more selective regarding wine after a year in Paris and I fear that once I’m back in Dublin, my wallet will feel the greatest impact.

 

And then there’s this beauty who still takes my breath away every time I see her. It’s been a dream come true to live so close to her this past year.

I will miss her, however, this is not au revoir, but rather, a bientôt.

Time To Go…

Do you follow Quinn Cummings on twitter? If not, you should. Some may remember her as a child actor nominated for an Oscar for The Goodbye Girl but now she’s a writer – a good one. She writes threads on twitter she calls “small stories” and recently she posted one about about how there are two types of people: Stays and Gos.

The Stays do exactly that, they stay. Stays will “arrange to spend their lives within forty-five minutes of the house in which they grew up. If forced to leave for reasons beyond their control, they will spend their lives trying to get back.” That’s not a bad thing. The author herself is an undeniable Stay and happy with that. And then there are the Gos, the people who live their lives with wanderlust blueballs.

I was a Go even before I became an expat. I never tire of traveling and there are few places in the world I don’t have a desire to visit. I’ve been moving around, chasing various dreams, since college. If I spend too long in one place, I get itchy.

Exactly one year ago today, this Go moved to Paris. It’s been an amazing year, one I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s something I absolutely needed to do, a dream that needed fulfilling. But I had always said that I was only committing to Paris for one year and as the end of this year approached, I was really struggling to understand where I belong. But I think I’ve figured it out.

I belong in Dublin.

That’s right, I’m moving back. There are a bunch of reasons, both professional and personal, as to why this makes this makes sense for me. None of the reasons are because I’ve fallen out of love with Paris. Quite the contrary. I love this city more than ever. It’s been such a privilege to live here. The thought of leaving my apartment, my neighborhood and of course, my friends, literally brings me to tears. But I have struggled to feel a sense of belonging this past year and this whole time it’s like Dublin has been tapping me on my shoulder, reminding me it’s still around, ready for me whenever I’m ready.

Well, I’m ready. And hard as it is going to be to leave Paris, the thought of returning to Dublin fills me with such joy and excitement.

So, for this Go, it’s time to go again. Who knows? Maybe once I’m back in Dublin I’ll turn into a Stay.

Yeah. Probably not.

 

The Beauty Of Our Dreams…

It’s a New Year. And whether we like it or not, it’s a time to reflect on the year that has past and the one that looms ahead.

On a macro level, 2018 was pretty much a shit show. I worked myself up into more than one tizzy because of the bloated orange asshole in the White House. I’ve had to stop letting it slide when I come face-to-face with one of his supporters. We are two years in now and, I’m sorry, but if you still support him then you are a racist, and also an idiot. The grace period is over on that one, as far as I’m concerned. And then there’s Brexit, too many natural disasters to count, way too many mass shootings, climate change, North Korea, the war in Syria, the genocide in Yemen… it’s a lot. And it all sucks.

But on a micro level, for me personally, 2018 was kind of cool. I realized a long-held dream to live in Paris. I traveled to Japan, the place that’d been number one on my travel bucket list for quite a while. I was nominated for an Emmy and, at the last minute, decided to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles. I finally got to see “Hamilton” (three times!) and “Dear Evan Hansen”.

Lots of my dreams were fulfilled in 2018. Mostly because I made them happen. I’ve never been one to sit around and wait for my dreams to come true – I’m a bit more action-oriented than that. But still, to have actualized so many of my dreams in 2018 was pretty cool.

I’m already at work on making things happen, dream-wise, in 2019. And I hope you are too. The world is a dumpster fire right now. When there is so much to feel hopeless about, our dreams are more important than ever. If we don’t have our dreams, if we don’t work to make them a reality, then what’s the point really?

Eleanor Roosevelt managed to say it far more eloquently that I could ever hope to:

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

It’s a New Year. Your dreams are beautiful. Believe in them. Make them happen.

 

More or Less…

I was back in the States for three weeks in August – one week in New York City for the first time in twelve years and two visiting friends and family in Buffalo. While in New York, I stayed with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in person since she was in Dublin for a quick work trip more than five years ago. She remarked during my stay that when she last saw me, I was definitely an American in Europe but now I seemed more European than American to her.

What she said surprised me a bit at first. I’m still American – just listen to my accent! But, upon reflection, I have discovered that, after nearly six years living in Europe, I have become more European in both big and small ways.

Probably the biggest shift for me is how I think of and approach healthcare. This same friend came home after a physio appointment while I was staying with her and was upset because she needed to get an MRI on her foot. I thought she was nervous about the actual MRI and I explained to her that I’d had several on my foot and they were no big deal. But that wasn’t it. She’d had an MRI on her foot before and it cost her hundreds of dollars because the only insurance she can afford has an extremely high deductible. The MRIs I’d had in Dublin cost me exactly nothing.

Since moving to Europe, I have grown used to the notion that healthcare is for everyone and not tied to your job in any way. Having been a freelancer for a good part of my career and also having been laid off several times during said career, not having to worry about where my healthcare is coming from while also worrying about where my next paycheck is coming from is incredibly liberating. I am not going to get into a political debate on the merits and faults of the US healthcare system versus that of Ireland or France. That is not what this post is about. But regarding healthcare and one’s access to it, my mindset is decidedly European.

And there are other smaller, more innocuous ways that Europe has crept into the way I think or do things but I hadn’t really noticed them until this trip:

  • I’ve forgotten how to tip. At restaurants, I have to ask friends how much tip to leave because I no longer know what a proper amount would be. And I’ve forgotten that in the US, not only do you tip restaurant servers, but just about everyone else too. It’s maddening!
  • I get all confused with US money now because it’s all the same size and same color.
  • Also, the size of coins no longer makes any sense to me. Why are nickels larger than dimes?! Why are even pennies larger than dimes?! Why the heck are dimes so dang small?!
  • I keep forgetting that the price of an item is not actually the price of the item – sales tax has to be added. Several times, I’ve muddled my way through the same-size green bills and oddly-sized coins to come up with the exact amount, only to be told that the amount I owe is in fact about 8% higher.
  • I have to think long and hard about which button to push in an elevator. Over here, first floors are the actual first floor of a building (which in fairness, I do think makes more logical sense). I wound up in the “garage” when riding an elevator because I thought the “G” meant “ground floor”. It didn’t.
  • Why are there so many commercials on TV and why do most of them seem to be for erectile dysfunction medications?

Now don’t get me wrong, I still miss quintessentially American things like ice, air conditioning and Target. And I’ll always be American (who knows, maybe someday I’ll even be proud of that again). But as time passes, I’m becoming more and more European – and I don’t mind that one bit.

 

A Tale of Two Cities…

I’ve been living in Paris for nearly six months now and had my first trip back to Dublin a couple weeks ago. It was… weird. During my time living in Dublin I’d done several extended stays in Paris so in many ways it felt like I was returning home after one of those, except that I didn’t have a home to return to.

But that sense of familiarity was there from the moment I stepped off the plane. And the sense of familiarity soon gave way to a renewed sense of belonging. It was great to return to my beloved Ranelagh neighborhood – I even walked by my old house (gee, I wonder if the new tenants have running water?). I returned to my local and they greeted me with open arms. I ran errands on Grafton Street, daydreamed as I walked along the canal, visited one of the studios where I used to work. It was truly like I never left.

And of course, there were my people. Some I’d seen a few times on various work and play trips since my move, some I hadn’t seen since my leaving drinks last January, but it sure was lovely to see them all again here in Dublin. On my last evening in town, a small group of most of my closest Dublin friends met up at my local for one last pint. They are the people who ground me in my Dublin-ness and we’ve remained close even though I am now in Paris. Those peeps, my peeps, reminded me of how much I still have in Dublin.

Of course, this visit was certainly more than a bit rose-tinged. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I was pretty much forced out of Dublin because of the current housing situation. They will recall that this past winter I had no heat and intermittent-at-best running water. I would also go weeks without seeing any of my aforementioned people. That’s not on them, that’s on me – I have hermity tendencies and my self-esteem is low enough so that I think that no one will want to do anything social with me so why bother asking. Couple these issues of mine with the fact that everyone is busy with work and life, and my last few months in Dublin were actually rather lonely.

And then there’s Paris. I have people in Paris too. Awesome people. But now that I’ve been here for a few months, my hermity ways are getting the better of me again and that, combined with a lot of travel, means I haven’t really seen anyone in quite some time. Sure, everyone’s busy but, as with Dublin, I’ve no one to blame but myself.

That sense of familiarity and belonging is here too. I know Paris better than I know any city in the world. I’ve always felt that I belong in Paris and the day I moved here in February, everything was instantly so familiar.

I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from these ruminations. Except that I know these two cities are both a part of me. And I feel like I belong in, and need, both of them.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

I stared at my computer monitor in vain for over an hour trying to get this post started yesterday. And then I have stopped and started so much since then that I wondered if this post was even worth writing. I have so much that I want and need to say yet I can’t seem to get my thoughts out. To quote Evan Hansen, “Words fail.”

My native country has been a tire fire for nearly two years now but the events that unfolded at the Mexican border this past week took my breath away.

Children. Some of them infants, some with disabilities, all of them in a situation through no fault of their own, ripped away from their parents. Those parents, not the rapists and murderers Fox News would have you believe, but people fleeing actual murderers and drug cartels and abject poverty. People seeking ASYLUM. People who yes, committed a crime at the border, but a MISDEMEANOR. And a necessary crime because one can only apply for asylum if you are physically present in the United States. Wouldn’t you commit this “necessary” crime if it meant a better, safer life for your children?

I’ve written a couple of times previously in this blog about myself as an immigrant and an expat (you can read those posts here and here). About how being an “expat” conjures of notions of romance and adventure but “immigrant” has become a four-letter-word. And it’s only gotten worse in the years since I wrote those posts. The utter lack of empathy and common decency amongst people has me stymied. I don’t understand how people can be so uncaring, so cold, so cruel.

And I’m not talking only about the oompa-loompa in the oval office or his administration. I know, through their policies on women’s rights, LBGTQ rights, and healthcare that this administration’s status quo is cruelty. But what has truly made me despair is the cruelty of everyday Americans.

Even in my European, liberal, socialist bubble, I see the hate and cruelty seeping in. People who think border crossers should be shot on sight, people who cry “but Clinton, but Obama, but her emails”, people who have conveniently forgotten that, unless they happen to be Native American, they come from immigrants.

You know what these people are? Lucky. They got dealt a good hand, and the people seeking asylum got dealt a bad one. We Americans don’t deserve our situation any more than these desperate asylum seekers deserve theirs. Luck. Chance. That. Is. It.

I cannot imagine the terror that these children are feeling. I cannot imagine the trauma they (and their parents) are going through. Good lord, when I moved to Dublin I was an utter mess, inconsolable because I was separated from the life I knew and the people I loved. I was an adult who made the active choice to immigrate to Ireland – and I have never felt so desperate, sad and alone in my life. I could barely deal with my situation – how the hell are these children expected to deal with theirs? Oh wait, to quote Melania’s jacket “I really don’t care, do u?”.

I am despairing because I think Melania’s jacket speaks for far too many people in America right now. To have so many not caring about this, or worse yet, supporting the separation of these children from their parents is truly a national tragedy.

As an American, as a human being, I am ashamed that more of us aren’t ashamed.