Most decisions will affect our lives, short or long term - on the latter: picking a subject at university, doing one more year of studying, accepting a first job, starting a family etc. Interestingly enough, in my early twenties, I was probably not mature enough to measure all the consequences of these important decisions and at times, made rather poor choices - and if not poor, irrational. But out of all those decisions, I made an unusual one, compared to most of my counterparts back then: I decided to leave Paris and move to London. Yesterday was actually the 10th anniversary of that move - the 10th anniversary of what I consider being the best decision I ever made.
Moving abroad is a life-changing experience - no matter the circumstances behind the decision. Some leave for a year of study abroad, others for a job that requires them to move away, some, like me, decide to leave simply because they want to - without any real plan ahead, job or place to live. The only thing I had when I moved were friends over there. Friends I knew from France and admired for having made the jump one year before me, who were living the life I was craving for: fun, carefree and restless in a city made for it.
It was not long before I realized it was not as easy as I expected it to be. Changing environment, culture, language, friends, currency - you name it, everything around is somewhat different so that nothing - absolutely nothing is familiar. And at times, it felt very disorienting and dare I say, I felt lonely. On the other hand, it was rather funny to see how quickly that 'nothing familiar' becomes eventually... familiar. And how those strange supermarkets' names became the norm, how those strange streets I was walking in, became part of my daily commute, how the cryptic bus system turns out to be, within 3 months easy to navigate.
And I think eventually the latter took over: the result of this adaptation is what I ultimately remembered, the sense of accomplishment and proud associated with the final 'I made it'. At least in my case it did, and after 4.5 years in London, I moved to New York and had to do it all over again. And when time will come, I will do it all over again, and again, and again.
To the question: will I ever move back to France (one may be surprised how often this question comes up), the answer is no. After 10 years abroad, I remember having reached a turning point about 2 years ago when returning from France after Christmas: it was pretty clear to me I would not live there again. Not that I do not like my country, its people, culture etc. As a matter of fact, I came to understand better what being French and later European meant since I moved. But I have never felt so much at home than when being away from what is supposed to be home. Being foreign, being different is a more pleasant feeling for me than the reassuring comfort of familiarity.
"Sometimes I have these fantasies of just moving to a foreign country and coming back with a full head of hair. Or not even come back! Make a new life there with hair... Change my name, just see what happens." - Larry David