Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Well, I’ve been a bit of a lazy blogger recently, but that is because I’ve been keeping a secret: Lionel and I are moving to the US. We’ve been talking about it since the end of April, and we finally made the decision (more like, I finally made my decision) at the end of May.

So, why has it taken me so long to say something about it? I guess it’s because I’m still not sure how I feel about the move. And that shocks me. After all this time being unhappy and complaining about France, I should be thrilled about moving to the US, but instead, I’m still not sure how I feel.

When we first talked about this at the end of April, Lionel was completely ready to go and excited about it (a big surprise for me because before this he has never really wanted to ever move to the US), but I hesitated, and hesitated, and hesitated. I spent nearly a month weighing the pros and cons, torturing myself with “what ifs”, and trying to understand why I wasn’t as excited as I always thought I would be at the chance to move back to the States.

Obviously, I did finally make the decision to move back because I realized that my reasons for wanting to stay in France were silly. I mainly wanted to stay for the travel opportunities (not to mention the vacation time!), but also because I felt kind of like this was my identity. Clearly I know that wanting to travel is not a good reason to decide to live somewhere (especially when you aren’t even happy there), so I ultimately choose the US for the career opportunities, the quality of life, the chance to be near friends and family again and in the hopes of being happy again.

But since deciding to move back, I have come to realize that there is another reason why I can’t seem to be 100% happy about this idea…because I feel like I have failed. After studying abroad for the first time, all I wanted was to live abroad, preferably in France. Of course, I always thought I would get there by working for an international company, not by meeting a guy, but Lionel was just icing on the cake, and I’m so happy to have him in my life. And then it happened and I moved to France, not just to study, but “permanently” to be with Lionel. I was so happy and so excited about spending our lives together and about doing it in France. But now, here I am, only 4 years after really moving here, and I am going back. I feel defeated and I feel like maybe I should have tried harder, kept working at it, stuck it out for another few years to see if I could find a way to be happy here. But instead, I am giving up and going back to the States. I have failed. I truly feel like I have failed and it’s humiliating. I should have done more to try to find a better job or we should have moved somewhere else in France to see if we would be happier there or I should have made more of an effort to meet people and network. But I didn’t. Instead I sank deeper and deeper into unhappiness and (dare I say it?) depression. And now I feel like I am going back to the US, having failed at something for the first time in my life, with my tail between my legs, admitting defeat. I think this is what bothers me the most about this move.

So, I am moving back to the US and I should be really excited about it. I should be jumping up and down for joy, but instead I am still uncertain. I’m sure things will be fine once I get there and settle back in, but for now the only thing I am really excited about is ending my job at the end of this month!

More to come later about details of the move and our last few months in France.

***Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, NO, this does not mean that I am not looking forward to seeing you, and NO, I am not going to change my mind now.


  1. well, let's see if i can make you feel a little better. i so know what you're talking about. sam and i lived in the states for 6 years before we moved back to france and i think that he and perhaps his family and maybe even me consider it a failed attempt to thrive in another country. (now we're experiencing it the other way around with all of its ups and downs) BUT! life is ultimately about a journey of happiness and that happiness depends on a very careful balance that we must constantly work at. so be proud of yourself that you have been honest with you, with your spouse, with your family and that you are willing to take a risk to restore order, balance and happiness to your life and couple. failed attempt or not, the choice is yours and you will go back to the u.s. with such an expanded vision of life, with greater compassion, for example for foreigners trying to adapt to life in the u.s., with rich experiences of having lived abroad and traveled that will only enrich your life and the lives of others and that is what i call a success! so leave the negative behind, although, i think from reading your post that you will be leaving behind many positive things, that's why part of you is sad to leave! embrace your new experiences and receive all that this new chapter in your life has to offer you! how wonderful that your significant other is so supportive! bon courage to you! bises! Maria @ Busy as a Bee in Paris

    September 14, 2011 11:34 PM

  2. I hear you on this, part of the reason I stayed in Bretagne so long (even though I was miserable) was because I was too stubborn to move back home and admit how miserable I was. I had that same sense of failure - like Why couldn't I make it work? I know now that Bretagne just wasn't the right place for me - they're wary of foreigners, my living situation wasn't the best, there are no jobs & the weather sucks.

    I'm happy I got a chance to live somewhere else in France and I really like my life here now - but let's imagine for a second that Fab and I were still together - I would probably still be miserable in Bretagne due to stubbornness and pride. Looking back at it now, that just seems dumb. If you think going back to the US will make you happy, then by all means do it. I totally understand why you would feel like you failed, but consider this - at least you gave it a TRY. I think that stands for a lot and you should go home with your head held high - there are so many people out there that would have never even dared to move to France in the first place!

  3. I agree with Sam. You tried it out, and decided it wasn't the best fit for you, so you're going back (with your guy in tow). No big deal! A lot of expats have done the same thing, and I personally think about it all the time. You'll start a new fabulous life back in the States and remember your time in France as a period of time when you discovered yourself a bit more and realized what it takes to make you happy. None of us are judging you and au contraire, I think making this move is very brave. No one ever said you HAD to stay in France for the rest of your life. Don't feel like you failed. You most certainly did not :)

  4. I definitely agree with Sam -- just coming here in the first place is HUGE! Plus, it's not like it's the end -- maybe you'll come back some day if you feel the urge. At least you know now that you can live here! I wouldn't consider it a failure at all.
    I've been thinking a lot about the same thing but we're looking at Canada as a possibility too. Ultimately you have to do what makes you happy -- life is too short to sit around feeling miserable all the time!
    Can't wait to hear the details, and i'd definitely love to hear about the visa process for Lionel since we might do the same some day.

  5. I totally agree with Crystal, moving back is definitely brave! If I end up staying here, it's because I'm afraid of the whole international moving process being a huge hassle and it's just "easier" in some ways to stay here, lol. I came here to teach and just kind of stayed and brought stuff over little by little, I never had a "I'm moving to France!" moment and ensuing big move. I am just in awe of the people who move to/from the states, I wish I could be that courageous! (This whole paragraph makes me sound so lazy I just realized, haha, but I hope you see what I'm trying to say!)

    Also, 4 years is a long time, think of yourself as a freshman in college and then as a senior! So it's like you're "graduating" France for a new life in the states :-) What you learned here will help you with whatever you do next, I don't think any experience abroad could ever be a failure, it helped you get to where you're going to be.

    Are you moving back to the same city? Because I wouldn't call it moving BACK really. Maybe mentally it'd be better to tell yourself "I'm moving to . . ." because it's a new adventure in a new place. And even if it is the same area, you'll see it in a whole new way through Lionel so either way you'll get to (re)discover the states together! Can't wait to hear the details!

  6. Read "Sheep Under The Sea", I think you'll identify with it.

  7. I'm really proud of myself for moving to France and surviving for two years (so far). But it never becomes easy to be so far away from family, friends and the culture I grew up with. I think it would be difficult for me to give up and move home, even if I knew I would be happier/more successful etc etc because it's been such an intense experience it's somehow become part of my identity. It's easier to grit my teeth and hold on white knuckled and miserable than to move back home.

  8. Hi Michele! Long time, no comment! (from me) Yesterday Keith at A Taste of Garlic mentioned about this post, and so I high-tailed it over here to check out what's up.

    First off, based on the fact that I have been reading your blog (inconsistently, but still...) for two years now, I am not surprised by this, and I am SUPER HAPPY FOR YOU!!!! Yay!! I know the difficult times you have had adjusting, and so that leads me to my second point:

    YOU HAVE *NOT* FAILED!! I can tell you might want to argue that with me. :D Here's the thing -- you have learned. You have learned that this is not your place. You have learned that for this time in your life, for right now, you are meant to be in the US, establishing a life there instead. You needed this time here to completely figure it out, and in my book, by my definition, that is not failure. Not by a long shot! How I see it is that you have SUCCEEDED at living in Paris, or, well, KBC, for four years. You did it! You really did!

    So stop feeling bad about it. :) Not that a little grief and disappointment is not an appropriate part of the process of putting everything into its proper place and perspective, mentally-speaking. I totally get that. But I am really hoping that you can re-frame the "failure feelings" into some that are more optimistic, and more realistic in terms of what you have successfully accomplished. Just because you did not live here 10 or 20 years, loving every minute of it does not mean failure. Actually, for some people I know who have been here a long time it has been somewhat of a cop-out that they stayed so long.

    I think the important thing to keep in mind here is that you are doing what is important for YOU and your relationship with the one you love.

    Good, good vibes to you as you negotiate the process of relocation. I hope that you will continue blogging about that process as you can, as I am certain people will find it really enlightening. I know of at least two bloggers I've read who have relocated back to the US since starting their blogs, and I have appreciated those that continue to write about the re-entry experience.

    Best to you, Michele!! :)

  9. P.S. "mentioned about" GROAN. Three+ years for my being here, and even though my French is still crap, I have corrupted my English with horrible errors in Franglais! Argh!! (lol) I keep doing this with verbs like "suggest" and -- oh one other one, too, but I can't think of it at the mo'. Awful!

  10. Thanks everyone for the support! I really appreciate it!

    Maria - Thanks, you did make me feel better!

    Ksam - I do agree, it does seem dumb to stay somewhere you aren't happy just for your pride, and I know that is one of the reasons I would have stayed here in Paris. I think my biggest problem is that we had originally been talking about moving to another city in France, and I was really ready to give it a try. My 4 years in Paris have taught me that I really hate living in a big city, but I have been very happy in a smaller city in France before (except, of course, the bureaucracy), and I was looking forward to giving it another try before leaving the country entirely. So I guess I'm feeling like there was something else I could have tried before leaving for the US. But I definitely have no qualms about leaving Paris!

    Crystal - Thanks, it's crazy to think that someone could think I am being brave! And I know tons of people have done it before and even more dream of doing it, which does make me feel a little better!

    Amber - What makes me feel better is knowing that we can always come back one day if we want. And don't worry, I will be posting more details about the move as soon as I have the time to really sit down and write it properly. And I will also be writing more about Lionel's visa process when I get the chance.

    Andromeda - Thanks for thinking this is brave as well! I definitely know how you feel as I originally came to Paris to teach and try things out with Lionel, but I never had that big "I'm moving to France" moment either. I brought everything over little by little, and now I'm worrying about how to get it all back! But I have to say, so far the entire process is going much smoother than expected!

    Liv - Thanks for the recommendation, I'll have to check it out!

    Anonymous - I definitely know how you feel about this becoming part of your identity. I feel the same, and I think that is one of the things making the move so hard.

    Karin - Glad to see you're back! And thanks for the encouragment. I must say, some days I'm very optimistic about the whole thing and then others I'm very pessimistic and uncertain about this move. But I'm trying to be more and more positive because, well, there's no going back now, and we can always come back to France in a few years if we aren't happy in the US. Nothing is keeping us in one place forever. And you're right, I have learned a lot, so that is a great thing! Also, don't worry about the franglais, I have the same problem!