I have found a book that is absolutely perfect in describing how I feel as an outsider living in Paris. It is called "Almost French" and it is written by Sarah Turnbull, an Australian woman who fell in love with a Frenchman and ended up staying in Paris. She brings up so many different things that I have experienced. I am not yet finished with the book, but I am loving it and recommend it. I am just going to include a few quotes that have really impacted me.
"After four months of traveling, I know only one thing with absolute certainty: if I don't go to France...I might regret it forever. I'll always be wondering about the love of my life that could have been, the entirely different future that might have been if only I'd taken the risk. Sure, there's no guarantee that it will work, but then nothing ventured, nothing gained. All I know is a chance encounter has thrown open an unexpected door. Instinct tells me to step through it."
This quote hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know what my future holds, but I know that if I come home as planned and don't try to be with Olivier, I will always wonder what might have been. The path I had always envisioned for myself has shifted drastically from a life in the US to one in France. The next quote is also very meaningful. I feel like I am an "in-betweener." I feel so American in France, but when I am home in the United States, I feel like a part of me is missing. I see France in everything...I think of it every day. While in Greece, the author encountered a man who was also from Australia, but had spent a lot of his life in Greece.
"'It's a bittersweet thing, knowing two cultures...It's a curse to love two countries.' ...I had no idea then how radically my life was about to change and how well I would come to understand what the Greek had said."
The last quote has to deal with some of the frustration that comes from living in a world where my first language is not spoken on a normal basis. After a dinner party, Sarah was perceived as being shy and quiet for not talking a lot. I feel just like her because I simply cannot always follow conversations and I feel like when I do try to add something, I end up sounding stupid. This is not so bad right now, but before, it could really be frustrating.
"It does matter to me that I'm now perceived as quiet, nice and boring. And the reason it bothers me is because it's true. Looking back, I'd said very little all night. When I did speak, it was to issue childlike statements or ask simple questions which made me cringe at my own dumbness."
In general, this book has really helped me realize the differences in French life and culture, and helped me to better understand that what I am going through is similar for other expats.