If we had to do it all over again, we would stay here for two years. No doubt about it. You wouldn’t believe the shock on most people’s faces when you tell them you are only here for one year. We are the oddities; people like us and families of professors here on sabbatical.
When we began making plans for this trip and even telling people about our move, one year seemed significant. A large chunk of time from our “regular” life to uproot yourself and your family from all they know. And in the midst of all the preparation, you ask yourself, “Why am I causing myself all this work and (many times) frustration in order to make this happen? I’m comfortable!” But a friend had an answer for that one: “You are doing it BECAUSE you are comfortable.” And she was right.
Living life outside your comfort zone can be exhilarating. Living life outside your comfort zone for an extended period of time is hard work. You are in a constant state of trying to operate through only your inabilities and weaknesses. I even noticed a physical change in me (could have been the days that I walked up to 10 miles…shuttling kids, city-style) because my brain and body had no downtime; no point of relaxation. I find shopping at Target can be relaxing. Shopping here, at one point, filled me only with anxiety. As did dealing with multiple bank accounts. And going to conversation group. And volunteering for a class field trip. Thank goodness I didn’t work this year. I think I would have been a wreck.
But then a corner is turned. Routines are developed. Friends are made. Language improves. And you start learning to remove the unnecessary stressful pieces of your life (is it necessary for me to spend an entire Wednesday morning at a stressful conversation group when I don’t need to master a language? No. Better things to do with my time. And then you start filling that time with things you enjoy. Runs to a bakery you’ve read about. Setting aside Thursdays for girlfriends doing whatever we want all day. Book club. The Cathedral. And, as silly as it sounds, sometimes when Tom was not around during lunchtime and I was eating in, I would spend my lunch hour with people like Jeb Bartlett and Sam Seaborn. Or Jerry Seinfeld. Just little dollops of comfort outside my comfort zone.
11 months later and my perspective has changed from last fall. I can see why people stay longer. As they tell you, “You work so hard during the first year just to figure everything out. The second year is when you really get to reap the rewards.” In many ways we won’t get to enjoy the harvest we nurtured. The kids won’t have the opportunity to solidify their language skills the way a second year would allow for. I can’t sign up for longer-term activities I want to be a part of: Paris Choral Society or Room to Read. And every day I’m discovering or being told about a new park or a new restaurant or even happening upon a grocery store that is (hello!) right around the corner. On Wednesday someone I just met asked me where we lived and said, “Oh, you have the best ice cream so close to you!” Who knew.
Yes, I am ready to return home for the simplicity. I look forward to walking into a school meeting and having the ability to understand what they are saying. I look forward to walking into a store and reading every detail of a label clearly. I look forward to being able to say, “I can help!” rather than thinking, “I can’t help.” I look forward to walking around without a map or Apple Maps at the ready at all times.
But being ready to be home doesn’t mean I am ready to leave.
Yes, if we had to do it all over again, we would stay here for two years.