Falling in love with/in France

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One of the, like, seven photos I’ve taken since I got here because I hate taking photos

My kids just finished two weeks of holidays from school (because apparently All Saints’ Day requires two weeks to reflect upon in France), and for one of those weeks they were shipped off to their grandparents’ house, so I took advantage of the freedom and spent nine days exploring Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Berlin. It was a super cool and super fun trip, but about half way through I found myself really homesick, but not for Canada, for France. And as my plane was landing in Nice on Sunday night, I literally almost cried from pure happiness of being back in the South of France. That was in part because I live in a city where November 1st can be a beach day, but it was mostly because France feels like home.

It’s really shocking how easily I’ve fallen in love with the South of France. Yes, it’s beautiful, the language is beautiful, the people are beautiful, and there’s always an endless supply of bread and rosé. But those are tangible things. It’s easy to love those (especially the bread and rosé). But the feeling I had in my heart when I walked out of the Toulon train station upon arriving last weekend is indescribable. I am so content, it’s rather unbelievable.

I had a hella stressful four years of university, between academics, work, and relationships, and on top of all that going through a rollercoaster of identity, doubting my abilities and self-worth, and discovering the corruptive power of my anxiety. But I am hardly ever anxious anymore. Sure, sometimes I get a little stressed out, but I no longer constantly feel worried about nothing or like I’m forgetting something important. I have finally let myself relax and enjoy what is right in front of me, and it’s incredible.

Keeping children alive and happy is no easy task, but I do realize that I don’t have a real job and I’m essentially living a vacation and that’s probably why I feel so chill. However, I would argue that most people I’ve met here act like they’re on vacation, too. They all enjoy life and everything it has to offer. Maybe it’s something in the salty water.

I had no goal coming into all this for what I’d do after this year is up, but slowly that goal is turning into “figure out how to stay in France by any means possible.” Seriously. I love Canada, I really do, but with every passing day my desire to stay forever grows and grows. So if you happen to receive an invite to a wedding next summer on the Mediterranean Sea just know that it is totally absolutely 100% legal and not at all like Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal nope not at all please RSVP and don’t call immigration.

As for the “in” part of this post’s title? Well, let’s just say France has pleasantly surprised me in all facets of my life. You know what they say about the French language…

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French Month-iversary

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This Friday (September 30th) marks my one month anniversary of moving to France, and you better believe I will treat myself to a pastry from the Boulangerie around the corner to celebrate.

Holy crap it’s been a month. It does not feel like I have been here that long. Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real at all. Even a month in, I still stop myself and think, oh my god, I literally live in France. In. France. You’d think it would have hit me by now, considering how much baguette and wine I consume on the daily.

But one thing is for absolute sure: I do not regret it at all.

In the past month I have not once cried about being homesick. I have not called my parents in a panic. I have not curled up in the floor in a puddle of lamentation for my life in Canada. I never really expected to do any of those things, but I also never expected NOT to do them, ya know?

But how can you feel regret in such a stunning place? The the culture and the scenery and the people and the language and the food and the everything. You can do some cool shit here, and boy have I done some cool shit.

I’ve gone to the beach more times in the past month than I think I have in my entire life. I’ve consumed meals on the beach so often that I am no longer phased by the view. I’ve gone stand up paddle boarding on the Mediterranean. I’ve had dinner on a rooftop with the most beautiful French people, drinking the most delicious champagne. I’ve gone swimming in a pool at a villa on a hill overlooking the sea. And I’ve done a few other wonderful things that I can’t share on such a public platform.

And that’s just the big stuff; don’t even get me started on sipping espresso outside cafés and wandering along cobblestone streets and exploring harbours and speaking more French than I realized I knew and drinking wine, oh my god, drinking wine.

And perhaps the most incredible thing of all is that while doing these things, I have been welcomed with such uninhibited love from everyone I have encountered. Maybe it’s because they feel bad for me because I’m foreign or maybe they’re fascinated by my long legs and pasty skin (JK I FINALLY GOT A TAN!!!) but every person I encounter here treats me like a best friend from the moment they kiss both my cheeks. The most loving of the bunch has been my host family, for whom there are no sufficient words to describe how warmly they’ve welcomed me into their family, and the respect and appreciation I have for them.

I have a family and friends and I am truly making a life for myself here, and it’s so incredibly exciting that I have another year to continue to explore and learn and enjoy (and work on my tan).

Sometimes I feel bad for posting snapchats and instagrams and really anything about my French life because I don’t like bragging. But in talking about my adventures, particularly through my blog, my goal isn’t to boast about how amazing my life is, but to try to inspire anyone who will listen to chase after what they want. I am being very careful to not say “follow your dreams” because dreams happen when you’re asleep and I am very much awake. I know that sounds cheesy, but a friend I have made in France once said to me, in English but with a heavy French accent, “I am not living my dream, I am living my life.” His words really resonated with me (and not just because they sounded hilarious/beautiful with an accent) because, honestly, I don’t know what my dream is. Every since graduating university, I’ve had absolutely no idea how to answer the question, “What is your dream job?” and that is terrifying. But I am starting to learn, with the help of this incredible place and my new friend, that I don’t need to live a dream, I need to live my life. And, honestly, I think I’m doing a pretty damn good job (re: list of cool shit I’ve done).

Live your life. Do whatever you want. As morbid as it sounds, we’re all going to die at some point, so it’s more of a risk to not do what you want when you want to. You could claim that you’re young, you have time. But when you’re young, your life is much more malleable, and I firmly believe that the things you experience now will impact your entire life more than things later on. At the risk of being sued by Nike, I’m telling you to just fucking do it.

Two weeks ago when I was sitting on a paddle board on the Mediterranean, I was low key stranded because my friend had stolen my paddle, so I just sat there and looked out at everything and I honestly felt the happiest I have ever felt in my entire life. And that was the moment I realized that taking this big risk was absolutely worth it.

On ne vit qu’une fois. (That’s french for YOLO.)