Monday, December 17, 2012

What's next

And now the big news regarding our plans for the future…we have decided to make the move back to France!!! And ASAP. So, while plans are not finalized yet and we haven’t purchased any flights or anything, the current plan is to arrive back in France at the end of April-early May.

That said, I don’t even know where I want to go with the rest of this post. My thoughts are jumbled and I have so many things I want to say that I don’t even know exactly where to start. So I’m just going to jump in and if you find it hard to follow, I’m sorry. But that’s how my brain is at the moment.

I am extremely excited about this move and it is the only thing getting me through these last agonizing months at my job. I know it seems ridiculous; we have literally only been in the US a year (got off the boat on Dec. 3, 2011). And now here we are, in the midst of planning and executing ANOTHER international move. I’m not going to lie, I’m getting really sick and tired of moving, especially international moves! I’m putting my foot down and this is going to be the last international move we make for a VERY long time. I just can’t do it’s exhausting and it’s irritating to start setting up your life and then, a few months later, be looking for ways to get rid of most of the stuff you own. Not to mention how expensive this whole process is! 

And I must admit I am more than a little embarrassed by this situation, for multiple reasons. There is the fact that by going back to France we are basically admitting failure and defeat. But overall I’m ok with that because, at the same time, I know that we just didn’t want to fight back and we weren’t truly invested in our lives here. What embarrasses me more is the fact that, for years now, I have been talking about/thinking about/dreaming about how much better life would be for us in the US. Better jobs, more money, bigger apartment, less bureaucracy, more convenience, etc, etc, etc. But it turns out I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Life is not better for us here; it’s just different. And not necessarily a good different, in my opinion.

Though I gotta say that in the end I am not that surprised that we are going back to France so soon. I know that originally we had said that we would give it 2 years in the States before evaluating our situation and making a decision, but to be honest, I was never invested in the move in the first place. I was always very hesitant to make the move and I never got very excited about it, past the no longer teaching English part. I was more stressed and worried about it than anything else. And I never felt ready to leave France; I had always planned to stay longer and I knew I wasn’t prepared to go. All that I had really wanted at the time was a plan to leave Paris for another city in France, but instead Lionel came up with this idea to move to the US. I was so afraid that he would never again express a willingness to move to the US that I decided to go along with it, even though I knew it didn’t feel right. And so now, here we are, a year later, preparing to go back. And I am much more excited about it this time around, in fact, I’m downright antsy. If I had a departure date I would certainly be counting down the days. No offense to any of my friends and family…it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve loved seeing you and spending time with you this past year, but the United States just doesn’t fit our goals, lifestyle or values and it just isn’t the right place for us.

I also wasn’t particularly surprised that this hasn’t worked out because Lionel…let’s see, how to put it nicely…isn’t the most motivated or ambitious person I know. Which has proven to be even more true when he is put in an expat situation. We have been here a year and he has, quite literally, only applied for 1 job the entire time, and that was to work part time as a cook in a restaurant…not exactly a big change from working part time for my dad delivering pizzas. He claims it’s the language, and I totally understand that. I know how it is to feel uncomfortable and inadequate because of your language skills. I know this very well. But that doesn’t mean you can’t at least try. He, however, just doesn’t have the motivation and confidence. If he doesn’t think it will get him anywhere he isn’t going to waste the time. Hence our current situation. And on top of it, he doesn’t think he will feel comfortable enough with the language to really look for a full time job in his sector for another 1-2 years. Let’s just say I’m not willing to play the game of being in a crappy financial situation for another 2 years because he won’t even try. Not to mention that he doesn’t make any effort to use English daily anyway…he hasn’t tried to make any friends, he doesn’t really talk to anyone at work, and he rarely leaves the house at all unless I am with him. His English may actually have gotten worse this past year, if that is possible. Which I guess is partly my fault as well…I should be encouraging him to speak English more and helping him try to improve. Anyway, enough complaining about my dear husband. I really do love him. Suffice it to say that not everyone is meant for expat life, and I think it has become clear over the course of the past year that Lionel is definitely not cut out for living abroad.

So at this point, I figure we are better off cutting our losses and running rather than sticking around in a less than stellar situation for another couple of years only to go back to France later and lose even more of our time. Lionel’s chances of finding a decent job in IT get smaller and smaller the longer he is out of the field and I have just realized that I can’t actually live in the US and that I’m ready to start putting down some actual roots and to get into a more stable and permanent situation.

I’ve personally found it very difficult to come back and try to live in the US again. In fact, I never thought it would be nearly this difficult for me. After all, I am American and this is where I grew up and spent most of my life. But I find it so challenging and stressful being back here. I’ve come to realize that the old American Michele is gone and I no longer feel comfortable in my home country. I don’t feel like I fit in at all; in fact I feel like I stick out more here than I did in France. When out in public in any kind of situation, I almost never feel comfortable or at ease (or it takes a lot of drinks to get me there). I am much quieter than I have ever been and I find I rarely have anything to say or contribute to the conversation unless it is just a small group of very close friends. I always feel awkward and I feel like more of a foreigner here than I did in France. I have always heard that once you really live abroad, you no longer feel like you fit in anywhere, not in your home country or your adopted country. But at least I felt more comfortable in France. In social situations in France usually my biggest concern was my horrible accent, but I still talked a lot and enjoyed myself. Here I can’t even get past finding something to say and contributing to the conversation, and when I do say something or participate it just feels like my comments don’t even fit and set me apart. Then I get stressed and usually just end up sitting quietly and listening to the others.

As if that isn’t bad enough, I find that I have trouble relating to most people in terms of their thoughts, opinions or lifestyles. Things that seem utterly strange to me now are actually normal and common here and sometimes it just amazes me how much I seem to have changed. Before I wouldn’t have even questioned it, and now I can’t even begin to understand it. It just makes it even that much harder to adjust to being back in the US and it makes me yearn for my life in France where I felt like I was finally starting to fit in. My views, opinions and values have changed so drastically that I can’t even identify with anyone else I know here. It’s gotten to the point that I just generally keep my mouth shut and rarely express my opinion for fear of the response I will receive. In the end I just feel self-conscious, uncomfortable, shy and awkward most of the time, and this is not who I usually am and it’s absolutely not who I want to become. Suffice it to say, I seem to no longer be “American,”but I’m not French either; I’m somewhere in between.

So I guess that our many reasons for wanting to leave are very confusing and complicated, but I do feel like we are finally making the right decision. Even though things may be uncertain economically in France and in the world right now, I do feel like this is what is right for us and I am looking very forward to our return to France. However, I will not regret this move to the US. Not only has it given me the opportunity to really understand what it is exactly that I want in life but it has also given me the chance to discover who I am now, to better understand who Lionel and I are as a couple, and to realize what is best for us moving forward. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we will never live in the US and I’ve found out that I am perfectly OK with that.  Life in America doesn't quite line up with my goals and desires, and now I know that for sure and I won't always be wondering if things would be better for us here.  This has been a great chance to decide where we want to live long-term and it’s given me the opportunity to gain some valuable job experience that I hope will help me find a job I like in France. Not to mention it has been incredible to get to spend some time with family and friends that I hadn’t seen much of over the past few years.


  1. All I have to say is good for you for trying. You have it a shot, it didn't work out, but at least now you know, and you won't have to spend the rest of your life in France wondering "Is the grass really greener on the other side?"

  2. I really don't think you should look at this as failure. You had no idea when you left France for the US that you would end up not liking it as much as you thought, and when you did, you made a logical and rational decision to go back to France. That's all! People move around all the time, and I think it's a bit of trial and error before we figure out what and where is best for us. All the best in your moving prep and be sure to keep us posted!

  3. Thanks Ksam and Crystal! I know that it's really a good thing that we tried and that now we know, but I still have a hard time not feeling a little embarrassed when I tell people that we are moving back. Regardless I'm happy with our decision and looking very forward to the move back to France. But it's hard not to feel a bit foollish. Especially when even the people working at the French consulate in Chicago couldn't believe that we would move back so quickly! But in the end I know that it doesn't matter what others think, what matters is what is best for us and I'm sure this is really the right decision. More details on the move and preparations for the move will be coming as we go through the process!

  4. I can relate to you so much! I have also moved around quite a bit and found at first that I related better with people who had also experienced living abroad. You're right, time is key and settles everything. I moved to the UK when I was a teenager and had a really bad middle/high-school experience. I used to be quite chatty but could barely open my mouth by the end and the smallest social interaction made me shake. I finished high school in France and loved it but decided to return to the UK for university. I've had it hard but gradually I'm more and more used to my environment and due to personal circumstances (similar to yours in fact) I am likely to stay here. I think you are a very brave woman and I am sure that little by little you will come to really like France. Rude people exist EVERYWHERE and I have finally come across a fair share of very rude American people. France is more of a 'coconut country' rather than the superficial American friendliness that rarely leads to long lasting friendships. Of course it depends upon the person, I may be just generalizing (although there's a bit of truth in every stereotype). Take care.

    1. I definitely agree with you when you say that France is more of a "coconut country" vs. the US which is very superficially friendly. I don't know if it's because I've gotten used to the French way or what, but in the end I guess I kind of prefer the "coconut country" because at least you know where you stand. But oh well, soon I will be back in France and I imagine that I will appreciate some of the French "quirks" more for my time back in the US. And at least I will feel a little more comfortable around people than I do now!

  5. I'm SO glad you tried, Michele! :-)

    Wow, it has been fun reading all these back posts and from my perspective, too, of being back in the US, suddenly, and under such awful circumstances for me, personally.

    I'm freaking out because I am *stuck* here -- my recent post on AAP explains a lot -- and now I have no one to go back to in France, anyway. It's been heartbreaking. But it is really good to read these posts and find common ground in the things that we appreciate about the US and France, both.

    Who knows. Maybe someday I will wind up back in France on my own. :-)

    I confess in many ways I am like Lionel concerning the job stuff, and I am AMERICAN for crying out loud! It's just NOT the bees knees here, not at all. It has transformed a lot since I was last on the job market, which is a while back now.

    But, I also have some excellent reasons for being here as well, and if there is one thing I have learned, if a person cannot bloom in some way where he or she is planted, then it is not the place that is the problem. It's something we need to find in ourselves to be happy no matter where we are. BUT, I agree that if we have the power to choose the place that makes us happiest, then we need to DO IT! I am so glad you are going back!

    I have been to Bordeaux, oh and HEY!! I have a friend there! Her name is Amy Reverdy -- just thought of her. She and her husband moved there last year from Paris (she'd lived in Paris for several years, too). Her husband is French and she is American, and I adore her. Okay, so are you on Facebook? I have my page linked up to my new blog, I think. If we are not already connected there, please find me. I am one of Amber's connections. I will put you in touch with Amy, whom I really love. She is funny, too. I think you would get a kick out of her.

    Anyway, Bordeaux is hella different than Paris, and I think based on what I have read here about what you DO like about France and DON'T like about the US, but also the things you don't like in France, you are going to be just fine. (I agreed with the person -- forgot who it is now -- who said that a lot of the "Don't Likes" about France are actually Paris-related. I AGREE. My best friend, who has lived in Antibes for over 16 years, really loves it, and having visited her, I do, too. She has had so few of the problems that come with Paris living, and a lot of the things you don't like definitely are due to that big city, IMO.)

    So. Very nice to get caught up, Michele. I hope that I can "tune in" more frequently to what is going on. Things since this past May have been just pretty awful in so many ways, I was not really reading many blogs. But I have very much enjoyed re-visiting your life and it feels like getting all caught up with someone I know. :-)

    Be well & good luck with the next couple months of tying up all the US ends of life!


    1. Karin, thanks for the well wishes and I'm so sorry to hear about all the things going on in your life. You are so brave and courageous to confront all of these issues head on and to talk about them so openly. I really hope that things go well for you in the future and that you are able to reestablish yourself happily in Denver. I'm sure the job situation will work out, even if looking for a job these days is an extremely stressful, trying and exhausting task.

      I'm hoping things will go well for us in Bordeaux. I lived in another city in France before meeting Lionel, as a student, and there were definitely things I loved and things I hated about it as well. But I'm looking forward to trying life in Bordeaux and hoping that we will be happy there. I'm just dreading the economic situation in France and the job hunt, but, though it rarely seems like it, I must be an eternal optimist because I can't help but think that something will work out.

      At this point I'm just trying to get past these last few months in the US, as horrible as that is to say. I just sometimes feel like it's such a hurdle to get over and I hate the feeling of just sitting around and waiting for the next step to come, knowing that nothing else is going to happen here. It's a very strange feeling and I find it really frustrating because for the moment there is nothing I can really do to move forward, I just have to wait and wait and wait.

      Well, I look forward to reading more about your life in Denver and I wish you the best of luck!