I came to France with a path uncharted. Well, that is to say, I had a place to stay and a couple of ideas of what I would like to accomplish in my time here.
In the weeks prior to my departure I changed so much of my life and my comforts, perhaps the very items I considered my identity. I resigned from my position as a Human Resource leader. I sold my home and tried to minimize as much “stuff” as possible. I transitioned to my parents house and started to mentally prepare myself for separation from my beloved labrador, Gus. I had parting rendezvous with close friends, neighbors and colleagues all of whom I confided my fears and who in return, offered comfort and confidence in me.
It seemed beyond my comprehension to leave these well established networks – to this single, forty-five year old, they are my collective family. Somewhere deep inside me I knew it was time for change, but I was reluctant.
Paris greeted me in late December 2017 as it always does with twinkling lights, beautiful cityscapes and chilly, but restorative walks in the public gardens. It took a few weeks to realize I was here to stay and to get into the rhythm of life. It was a challenge, but a good challenge. It helped mitigate the emotions of what I had left behind in Philadelphia.
I went from knowing exactly who I was and how to accomplish my goals to a vacuum of ineffectiveness. Everything was an effort, an exhausting effort. I felt vulnerability in a way I could never experience in the United States.
With time, I established a few contacts and developed a bit of a social circle. These relationships grew into friendships and my Parisian life became exponentially more rich. Book club discussions spilling over to leisurely lunches, afternoons of art, garden tours, hikes in the countryside all became part of life. The emphasis on spending time with others and enjoying the moment, the present, came into focus.
Days unfolded in front of me – unscripted. This was unique because my life in Philadelphia has always felt scheduled and rushed. I’ve always had limited time or not enough time. I can’t think of a more valuable resource than time.
My curiosity piqued as I explored greater France. It is a beautiful country. In the last seven years of traveling to France, my time has been concentrated in Paris. I did not know the regions of France. A clear goal during this sabbatical was to explore, literally and figuratively.
Without exception, I was greeted with kindness and generosity. I kept thinking how lucky I was in landing in these spots, but the truth is the families and proprietors I met are the fabric of France. In a world that seems to be deteriorating with unkind words and actions, crossing paths with the welcoming French restored my confidence.
As 2018 is ending, I am in the bittersweet moments of my time in France. The next challenge is to carry forward the lessons, feelings and momentum of this experience and transition back to life in the United States. I return to Philadelphia this week; I am ready and not ready all at the same time.
I am in the space between – a privileged place to find oneself…
The space between your heart and mind
Is the space we’ll fill with time
The space between
The tears we cry is the laughter keeps us coming back for more
Dave Matthews Band, Album: Everyday, 2001
Programming Note: Family and friends, this concludes my blog theparispen.com. Perhaps, additional posts will pop-up in the future, but nothing that I have planned at the moment. I wish you all a terrific holiday season and 2019 – thank you for taking this journey with me. Love, Gretchen