Recently, as my four-month France-iversary crept up, realized that I get asked this question a lot, but I don’t often openly reflect upon the answer.
My interest for the world, travel, and languages sparked when I was young. With the efforts of my French-teaching mother, world-traveling grandmother, inspiring teachers, and self-motivation, I became absolutely obsessed with the idea of being able to express myself in another language. I quickly fell in love with French as well as France, and everything it had to offer: the culture, the people, the history, the food, the architecture, and the way of life. I went to France for the first time when I was seventeen, and I was hooked.
I was bullied quite a bit during high school in regards to both my physical appearance and my personality. I also had an incident when I was sixteen, and never dealt with the post traumatic stress the event had brought on. As a result, I didn’t have virtually any self confidence, and never thought I was desirable or worthy. All of these feelings and emotions came piling on in 2009- my freshman year of college.
I wasn’t happy and I needed an escape, so I decided to complete my study abroad in Caen, France. Little did I know how much Caen would change my life. When I arrived in Paris, France in 2010, it was as if I had stepped off the plane and had instantaneously become a new person. Throughout my time there, I re-discovered my own version of happiness, even if it was on the other side of the world, completely and utterly alone. I liked who I was in France, and I liked my life there and the fact that I had built it for myself. In France, I re-discovered life and fell back in love– with the country, with travel, with life, with myself, and with someone else.
This guy was one of the first men I have known to treat me with dignity and respect. He wanted to be my friend, he wanted to get to know me, and he wanted to show me the best of his country. He respected my character, my personality, my intelligence, and my spunk. He treated me like a person, like a sister, like someone who matters and has value. This man’s genuine personality, humor, and kindness are what particularly melted my heart. Although we were never more than friends, I appreciated our time together more than I was able to express, and have always remembered the positive impact he has had on my life. I was heartbroken when I left France in May 2010; I had to leave my new life and the new me behind. I was afraid of coming home and going backwards; I was afraid that the relationships I had made and established would be forgotten and lost. I was afraid of regressing back to the depressed person I was once just a few short months beforehand; I knew I wasn’t ready to leave and that I would have to find a way to come back.
Three years later I finished my degree, applied to TAPIF, was accepted, and was placed in a completely opposite side and different region of France (as I requested). I wanted a new, different experience– one that would not replace old memories in Normandy but only add new ones. Again, I found a happiness here in France that I just don’t experience back in the United States. I love who I am in France; I love the confidence I have. I love that each new day is exciting; that I have the chance to converse in a new language and overcome daily struggles. Living in France has given me the chance to prove myself to myself, and rediscover the value within myself. It has given me the chance to travel and make new friends, and reinvent myself.
France is my first love. This man is not the reason I came back to France, but he’s one of the reasons I fell in love with this country and wanted to stay. He’s also one of the reasons I was able to start to accept and love myself again. I’ve had the chance to see this person since moving back, and I realize that I will always feel something for him, even though I know those feelings aren’t mutual. Sometimes I feel really stupid, and foolish, because of the way I feel. I know we will always stay friends, and that he loves and cares about me in a brotherly-sisterly sort of way.
I have always done a really admirable job of planning a life out only for me, and focusing on what I want out of life in regards to my career and my own goals as well as pleasures, and not waiting for a certain someone to walk into my life. As of now, I still want to stay in France and continue to build my own French life, even post-TAPIF, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder what would happen if something was to change, or if I was to meet the love of my life tomorrow. I guess I need to ease up a bit on myself, and remember that I am human and that it’s okay and to love someone and it’s okay to feel sad or confused about it, especially when it was someone whom was there during a time in my life when I desperately needed it.
So, my answer to, “So, Why France,” is that I love the way I was able to build my own life here and see and experience my own personal growth. I love the school and work and travel opportunities france has given me. I love the culture and the history and the language and the people… especially the people.
Hopefully, one day, the answer won’t be quite so complicated.