It's hard to believe that Gui and I moved into our apartment just over a year ago; that last year we were organizing our new life as a married couple - running through the aisles of Ikea weekend after weekend, building and rebuilding furniture; that I was setting out into the unknown world that is Paris with no friends nor any idea of what my life would be like here. It's crazy how much can change in one year.
Paris has gone from being a confusing labyrinth of roundabouts to an easily navigable town wherein lie my regular hideouts, favorite patisseries and most-frequented shoe shops. I know where I can go if I need to pick out buttons for my latest knitting project, if I'm all out of baking soda or need to get a gift for out-of-town guests. Meeting friends or family for dinner in the middle of town is no longer a strenuous task and I know exactly how long it takes me to get from one stop on a metro line to another. Add into the mix a solid set of friendly faces that I regularly meet up with for coffee, picnics, drinks and dinner-parties, and there could hardly exist a better definition of home.
Yet, continuously fermenting in the back of my mind is the thought of returning to Austin, and it's because of that thought that I've never really embraced Paris as I really should have. The walls of our apartment are still bare because I'm hesitating to "homify" the place; our kitchen still lacks a mixer, real coffee maker and blender, and my clothes go un-hemmed for lack of a sewing machine because I'm resisting the urge to buy things I already have back in the US. I keep telling myself, "Oh, well, it's just a waste of money if I do that or buy this since we're going to move back to Texas anyway." And thus, my nostalgic feelings and homesickness settle in, making Paris feel less like home and more like an inconvenient place to be.
I think after settling into the reality of what I thought my life would be like here - exhausting French classes, more coat-wearing than flip-floppping, a tiny kitchen and even tinier bathroom, walking instead of driving, putting my career on permanent hold and taking out loans to stock-up on refried beans - I just kind of decided to give up on my efforts to make myself at home. So, it's weird now. I feel like I physically live here, but mentally see it as a mere means to an end. And who wants to live like that?
I think the epiphany came when I was at a book-signing for my favorite food blogger, David Lebovitz's latest new book. I was standing in W.H. Smith, flipping through his novel-style recipe book and realizing that I live in Paris. There I was, standing in a bookstore just in front of the Tuileries Garden, just off of Place de la Concorde, a mere 20 minutes from my apartment, waiting for friends to meet me after their day at work so that we could get our shiny, new books signed by a local author. We strolled through the neighborhood afterward for a quick drink and for one evening I really felt like I was in the place I was supposed to be. Maybe it had a little to do with the familiarity I felt when flipping through Lebovitz's book that cited familiar places and similar experiences, or maybe it was because I was in an English bookstore that reminded me of one back home, or maybe it was all the people I ran into - the friends and familiar faces that made it feel like the world is so small. However it came about, it started a series of thoughts about how I really live my life here, and I came to the realization that I've really been holding back.
Although it doesn't change much about our intention to move to Texas (which we're still planning to do in the next 4-8 months), changing my mentality about how I want to live here while we're still here (and when we return) really gives me a new perspective on how I spend my time each day. Holding back because of what might come is a silly way to pass the time, and I don't want to short-change myself from having a seriously amazing time living it up in gay Paree. I guess in short, what I wanted to say is, I'm getting a blender...and may be doing a little decorating, too.