Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ups and downs and all-arounds

I was stoked to finally find my request to appear for my medical exam to get my carte de sejour in the mailbox today. I'm not so excited about the actual exam, which has become the slightly-comical destiny of every new French resident, but I'm just relieved that, after three months, I'm finally taking the next step towards solidifying my residency here. My récépissé expires on the 31st of this month, and a couple of weeks ago, after voicing a little concern about the whereabouts of my application, Gui bypassed the préfecture and secured my medical appointment over the phone directly with ANAEM (the French immigration agency). In fact, Gui left them a message about it and they did what no other French bureaucratic agency has done before - they called him back in a very timely manner! They even took down my information, researched the progress of my file and called him back to inform him of the status. And, would you believe that they let me pick the date of the rendez-vous when we explained our plans to be out of town during the month?! I'll still have to go to the dreaded préfecture and wait "patiently" for however many hours tomorrow afternoon to extend my récépissé, but I'm really relieved that I'm headed in the right direction.

It's slightly ironic, however, that this letter came when it did. Today, my emotions have been bouncing around like a slinky. I'm really sick of blogging about my frustrations and homesickness when my life is, in all fairness, rather great. But, I think Paris is provoking me. It's kind of like that to the blessed people who call it home - just as you pass the Eiffel Tower, sipping on an espresso, croissant in-hand and life can't get any better, you get to your métro station and lookie there, it's closed - because someone died there this morning. (Which actually happened to me today, sans the croissant and espresso.) It's as if the city is reminding you that as great as life can appear to be, sometimes it sucks. What an amazing feeling it is to walk to school everyday and pass the Pantheon, to stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg in between classes and stop in for a French express before the bell rings, but when the dreary reality of la vie quotidienne resurfaces, the scales are once again tipped and life becomes just life once again. Today, I reminded myself at least three times each how much I love this city and how much I hate it. Yet, it's not really the city so much as it's my life living here.

It was never really any question when Gui and I married where we would start our lives as a married couple. My job situation, although relatively secure and stable wasn't ideal, and Gui needed to put his degree to work before it got too dusty and lost its appeal to employers. I knew I'd be in for an eventful and sometimes frustrating transition while I settled into being a real resident here, but I don't think I fully prepared myself for the personal challenges I've faced and have yet to face. For me, Paris and France in general never "stole my heart" or "talked to me" like it has for so many people who've made it here. It's certainly growing on me, and I seriously appreciate the beauty of such an historical place, but man, is it sometimes a frustrating place to be! I don't mind that I sometimes have to search high and low for things that bring me comfort, and I love that I've learned so many different techniques and ways of doing things that I once did so differently. I enjoy the diversity of the people, their varied traditions and often bizarre anecdotes. Yet, there's something that feels off-kilter about calling this place home. Almost interdit. I feel like a fraud, like someone who's living someone else's dream (except that in their dream, they didn't get to marry my husband), when I'd rather be sipping a margarita with the girls at happy hour after a grueling 10-hour day of work.

I think I'm coming to the realization that Paris might never be able to replace those people and places I love so much no matter how hard it tries; that as great as the moments I have here are, they would be even greater with those people to share them with. None of this diminishes the fact that I've had amazing times here with some of the most remarkable people who I expect to become lifelong friends. I guess I'm just materializing the recognition that my life here isn't going to be perfect because it will always lack those people and places that have made me the person I've become. Realizing that this makes me sound so much like my dad, I'm now starting to notice how perfectly I balance the traits of both of my parents. My mom is the free-spirited, care-free wanderer of life who lives for spontaneity, while my dad is the uber-traditionalist who champions dedication and planting roots as the fundamentals to living a good life. I guess it's no wonder I have such daily self-conflicts about being here. But having an on-again, off-again relationship with Paris is something I'm learning to live with and hoping to get better at. Even though I hate sometimes feeling so out of love with this place, I love my husband more than anything, and regardless of where he's at, that's where I want to be. Let's just hope he doesn't get the sudden urge to move to Russia - there's one language I could die happily before attempting to learn.

8 comments:

Zelda said...

While I'm sure you get homesick & get cravings for a Mexican Martini every now & then - it seems like you've got a really great life with Gui. That truly is what matters where ever you may be.

Oh & I love those pictures you linked to... I love it!

Candy said...

hi sarah jean castlebury. i miss you so much! reading your post makes me teary eyed because it reminds me of how i first felt (and still sometimes feel) when I first moved to barren Kansas. :(

I wish i could have blogged about it then because I would have conveyed the exact same sentiment about the place as you do about Paris. BTW, when did you become such a great writer?? You've always claimed not to be but you certainly mistaken!

Your nephews want to visit Paris sometime soon and N talks about it ALL the time, so for now just be the best darn Parisian you can right now so that you'll be their most enlightened tour guide. Don't ever forget that Home (Texas) will always be here waiting for you (and me!)

Ksam said...

hello my dear. i know you know i know what you're going through, but i just wanted to say - the people you meet now and the experiences you are having will all help form the person you will be a few years from now. while my life here has definitely not been 'la vie en rose', everything i've been through and everyone i've met has helped me become the person i am today. i'm maybe a bit more cynical than i was in the US, but i'm also a lot stronger. which is why i think that despite everything that's happened, i have no regrets, and i hope you don't either.

and i really admire your attemps to learn french, it's not an easy thing to do, especially when it's been "forced" on you!!

Josephine said...

Sarah: Our lives (as you well know) consist of change...and...more change. I know you miss your friends just as I miss seeing you around the house, but I knew you would grow up one day and get married or live abroad. We always leave a little bit of ourselves in the places we have lived, laughed, loved, and the "w" word....worked. Sarah, give Paris a chance to love you. Remember everything the French people endured during WWII and how all the beautiful churches, buildings, etc. that could have been completely destroyed but we saved for YOU to appreciate Paris. I don't believe you have to love Paris but you must learn to appreciate Paris to its fullest.

You know the old saying, "Home is where the heart is" but I believe, "The heart is always home"

I love you.

Mum

DiaryofWhy said...

Wow! Well congrats on receiving your medical convocation. As someone who is waiting in nervous anticipation for my own, I hope you give us all a thorough rundown on medical visit itself, because I have no idea what to expect!

It's interesting for me to read your take on Paris; for me France has always seemed to "fit" me better than the U.S., and so I'm constantly trying to look for excuses (not having the benefit of a French husband) to get back here. But I love reading about France from your perspective as well, and I hope for you that day by day Paris comes to seem just a little bit more like home.

misplaced texan said...

zelda: thanks...and you're right. I just need to stop looking for the easy button 'cause it ain't there! :)

candy: you know, it never dawned on me that you must have felt the same way when you moved...I remember you being homesick, but as I never actually saw or heard you going through it, it never really sank in. :( And, my nephews BETTER come visit their auntie soon...we should try to plan for next summer. Nathan would love it, I know, even if it's not a place he'd be at all familiar with. It's literally a different world from suburban KS. :)

ksam: you are such an inspiration, seriously. I definitely look to your experiences for guidance and I hope that one day I can embrace this country as much as you have. I'm optimistic for my future here, and it helps to no end having you around to get through it! You rock!

mum: I love you, too!! :)

diaryofwhy: I think that's why I love reading your blog, too...to get a well-told perspective of how someone like you (who "fits" in so smoothly) adjusts to life here. I hope that once I can master the language as you have, I'll feel more like I fit in, too. And, I'm totally going to update about my medical visit!!

Dazed and Confused said...

I, too am living somewhere that does not feel like home (albeit in the same country, but in many ways it is a different world), as we moved recently from Colorado to Tennessee. The way you described it was perfect, without sounding whiney or full of self pity. I seem to use whining and self pity as an art form!
I stumbled upon your blog as it came up on one of those blogher banners.

Fned said...

Hi girl,

The funny thing is that what you're going through is compeltely natural. That's how it was for me too.

When you get here you instantly have a phase of "OMG, OMG I live in PARIS!!!! Everything here is exciting and so magnifique!!!"...

In time, you move on to realizing that living in Paris is just like living in any other big capital of the world: nice but it comes with a big chunk of annoying and you can't help feeling that everything here is "worse off" compared to home.

The REAL test comes when you've begun to set roots here (usually when you've been living here for a few years) and you suddenly go back home (for visiting, vacations..) and realize that the roots you had once planted there have been .... well.... UPROOTED. Your friends have moved on, your city has changed, your hangout places are no longer cool...etc...

That's when it really hits you: Where IS home?? Is it where you're currently building one with your chéri and where you've begun to establish yourself socially, professionally ('cuz it will come, I promise you)?

Or is it where you grew up and where you feel you belong even though you no longer... exactly... do?

Ahhh ma belle...
Don't worry about it. Take it from a 7 year (and counting) expat who still hasn't figured this crap out. :s

Fned.