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.