I often find myself thinking about how in the world I ended up in France. I'm still young...maybe I don't actually end up in France, but for now, well...here I am. Ever since my first visit to France, I knew I wanted to spend a semester or something in France, to really get the not-just-a-tourist feel of it all. After a while, as my life went in other directions, like history and math, thoughts of life in France became dimmer and dimmer. Then one summer afternoon, while shaving my legs in the shower, the dream came boldly racing back. Why not? I thought. You better go while you still can. So I went. I figured a summer would be just fine, that it would satisfy my "French hunger," and then I could get back to life. Hah. Guess again.
That summer did nothing but expand my dreams. I needed more. I needed a year. So I became an au pair. When I left that summer, I thought it would be the only time that I would have to say goodbye for a whole year to everyone. It was truly difficult being so far away. I'd wander the streets listening to The Sound of Music to cheer me up. It actually works pretty well.
I am a pretty emotional person. It's in my genes...thanks Porter sisters. I was always scared that I wouldn't be able to last a year, or anything more than that. I remember getting terribly homesick living just two hours from home when I was at MSU. The truth is that living far away from loved ones is terribly hard. I keep their sad faces etched in my mind from each goodbye, remembering what it's like to drive away or watch as a train leaves them behind. I oftentimes want to just call my mom when I am missing her, but I know that calling when I am emotional will only unnecessarily worry her. Even though it is hard to be so far away, there is always another side. I cannot imagine my life any other way than it is right now. My visions of teaching in the US have long since been extinguished. I know that I am lucky because I will be able to come "home" at least every summer and spend a significant amount of time there, soaking up my family. And the only way that I could even begin to do this is with Olivier. He's the other side of the scale. I feel so guilty living so far away from my family, but then I have to remember that I have to follow my dreams. I have to be a little bit selfish. I don't even want to stay in Cadillac, MI, so me being this far just means less visits, but also longer visits (and more expensive visits...hey, at least the euro is worth more right now).
Now back to the other topic: How I got here. I like to think of it as fate. Some people don't believe in it, but I like to. I think I would have left France by Christmas while I was an au pair if I wouldn't have met Olivier. He not only made it okay; being with him made me want to spend my life over here. Even though I have a few sad days here and there, something that helps me get through them is believing that I am not alone. When I can't see the moon, I picture it over the sea. One of the best gifts my grandmother gave me was the comfort in knowing that when I saw the moon, she was thinking of me. Now I believe she is still there, somewhere, keeping an eye on me. I reach down and swirl the ring on my finger; her mother's ring. Then I have this connection, not just to her, but to my mom too. I picture her embrace and I want to think that she knows me now, the person I have become, and not just the child I was then.
To my family and friends on the other side of the pond: I hope that you all know how much I miss you and love you. Even though I miss you and wish I could just drive by for a visit, I am happy here. I can't wait to see what my future holds. So far, it's been quite a ride.