Friday, March 5, 2010

Reflections on a year

I’ve been in Paris for exactly a year. Happy Anniversary to me!

Accordingly, I’ve been reflecting on my time here this week, trying to gather the highlights and learnings. There are lots to think about, but here are my basic takeaways.

Change is good. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but surrounding yourself in a new environment, meeting new people, creating new habits, and confronting new challenges—change—is one of the riskiest, most rewarding, most exciting experiences life can offer. Having moved here at the age of 36, after eight years in New York, I am convinced of this.

Things can get pretty low. I had a couple months of mild depression in the fall. I never expected it (especially after six months of nearly non-stop euphoria), and I hated it. I wanted to cry, I craved sympathy, I lashed out at strangers. It was a horrible time. As happy as I’ve been, it hasn’t been perfect. Nothing is.

Loneliness is one of the worst feelings in the world. The pangs of not feeling understood, knowing you’re thousands of miles from friends and family, not having someone to just grab a cocktail with at the end of a day—these were little things that felt even worse than the depression. Thank god I can now count on a handful of really good friends here in Paris and rarely do I feel lonely. I still miss everyone back home dearly— more than you think—but it’s good to have a new community of friends whom I adore and trust and love being with.

And on that positive note…

It’s been a year of appreciation. What a wonderful feeling it is, walking around this city and being seduced by everything from a random flower stand to the smell of warm bread to the perfect architecture. It’s like being in love. With a city.

The initial phase of being here was like nothing else, and I will always relish it. It’s that charmed time of being so open—open to meeting people, going places, trying new things even if I knew I was going to hate them (and get mauled). It just didn’t matter because it was all part of the experience. Sadly, that precious phase is over. It was a unique and fleeting time. But only because a deeper, more fulfilling—and more demanding—phase has replaced it.

The food? Nothing short of incredible. I do not exaggerate. The fruit and veggies, the full-fat yogurt and café crèmes, the myriad cheeses and wines, champagne and chocolate, and of course, the bread and the pastries. Sigh. In-cred-ible.

France is beautiful. There is still so much to see and explore, but from Nantes to Nice, Lille to Biarritz, nothing in this country has disappointed me yet.

God, do I love the Velibs and biking through Paris!

It’s interesting being part of two cultures; straddling two lives. It’s both alienating and exhilerating. I wasn’t keen to be part of an ex-pat community when I moved here, but laughing with people who understand how absurd all the paperwork and protocol and bad humor is has really kept me sane. So now I am two citizens, twice over: of New York and Paris, and of the local and Anglophone communities.

I am a girl of solitude. I’ve always wished I were a better conversationalist, but the French proclivity to talk, talk, talk drives me bonkers and makes me a little more proud of not having to always fill silences. And of not always having something to say.

I love the care the shopkeepers take with their windows, each one like a mini museum exhibition; a shrine to objects, pleasures and ideas.

French kids are pretty damn cute. Almost, almost, as cute as Annika and Aidan.

You have to be happy in your space. I love my treehouse, especially in the summer months when it’s bright and sunny and I catch a glimpse of the Pompidou or the chimneys peppering the rooftops. But in the cold winter months, I hated being home.

I have a lot to learn about cheese and wine and champagne and cooking and baking and French history and art and, and, and...

It’s cool that you can still learn about yourself after 30-something years of being stuck with yourself. I don’t always like what I see in the mirror, I’m not always proud of the thoughts that pass through my head, but life is all about learning. And this Parisian adventure has been fun, fulfilling and an indulgent and wonderful time to learn just a little bit more about myself.


  1. I read your blog almost everyday and always enjoy it. Keep up the good work.

  2. Awesome lady!!! Just love your language... You clearly express what you want to convey and it actually shocked me when you mentioned you were a girl of solitude b'coz you dont seem to be like it, atleast in you blogs :)

  3. You are an amazing woman, Amy Thomas. I am so happy that you have chosen me to be among your oh-so-very lucky friends. What a privilege. Happy anniversary, mon amie! Love, Mel

  4. Joyeaux anniversaire! Have only been reading for a few weeks and so glad to have found you!

  5. I so enjoy reading your blog. What a fun, exciting and brave life you are leading! Happy Anniversary!

  6. !!!
    Merci, mes amies - thank you for reading, thank you for your thoughts and support, and thanks for being part of this past year. :)

  7. Congratulations on one year down. I'm six month behinds and feel like maybe the next six may be a little easier if I keep reading your thoughts and tips. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Amy, really loved this honest and open post. Funny most people would think it impossible to get depressed in Paris, thanks for sharing. I bet it felt better to share that...I'm more of an extrovert than yourself so for me I get energy from interacting with others.
    The whole world is going through massive change now, it will continue on, time speeding up, stuff coming up but it needs to come up and out so you're on track and hey being in Paris has gotta be a wonderful thing as you've pointed out!
    Big hugs and take care, love your blog!
    Lise xxx

  9. I love your blog, and I've only just discovered it. It is so cool that you are living in Paris. I have long wanted and planned to live in Rome. I never thought about the honeymoon period and how that initial delight might give way to something else. Thank you for that insight. Your blog is great, please keep it up.

  10. What an amazing post. You seem to live life to the fullest and truly celebrate it. I love that =)

  11. Merci encore, everyone! Seriously, your words of support, encouragement and kindness mean so much to me. Thanks for sharing the experience with me.

  12. Hi Amy. I love this post. I'm a thirtysomething New York/Paris girl, too and I identify with so much of what you say. We are on an adventure - and with that comes both ups and downs. After three years I finally started blogging to share it all. When I was feeling down, it was hard to have people tell me, "but you live in Paris!" As if that were explanation enough to wipe away the challenges of living in another country/culture/language. And so, I write about "paris (im)perfect" because as you say, Paris is not perfect - nowhere is. I am falling in love with the city again, though. Thank you for sharing your thoughts - and bringing us on the ride!