Last September, I packed my bags and moved to Paris. I did this because I was following one of my last options for a career that I’ve wanted since I was a child, and even though I didn’t have a job lined up at the time I made my big move, I had long since decided that moving to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know a single person was worth the risk if it meant going for my dreams. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. Now that I’m about to leave France, I’ve been searching for a way to describe what this past year has meant to me, and the other day, while aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, the answer reached through the screen and smacked me in the face. It happened when I noticed that a friend had posted a status that required a click on the “Continue Reading” button, and it’s always been a general rule of mine that if someone takes the time to write a status update of that length, the least I can do is give them the courtesy of reading it. Near the end, I came across this: “To me, the whole point is to walk into the unknown with a brave heart and weak knees. I could utterly fail at this. So what?” And there it was.
Before I left for France, I can still remember the look of shock and surprise on people’s faces when I told them that I didn’t have the job yet. I had been planning my year in France for months, so I think everyone had just assumed that I had a contract signed and ready to go, but in reality, I had actually already received several rejection letters prior to my departure. This may have been my cue to pause and review whether or not packing up and moving to a foreign country without a job offer was a smart idea, but I threw caution to the wind and pressed ahead with my plans. I reasoned to myself that once I was actually in the country, I would be able to find a way to talk myself into a job, and I reassured my shocked friends that I was well aware that this whole plan could blow up in my face, but in keeping with the whole “no regrets” life mantra, I was prepared for that to happen.
Well, blow up in my face it did, and if by “prepared for that to happen”, I meant spend a week curled in the fetal position in bed crying, then yes, I was absolutely prepared for my dreams to disappear in an instant. As I lay there, day in and day out, wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life now that my assumed future was gone, I often wondered if the gamble had been worth it, and whether or not I should just pack it in and go home. But then I remembered. I was in Paris. The irony was not lost on me that in failing at my own dream, I was still living out the dream of so many others.
Now, as I look back on the past year, it’s hard to believe that time has passed by so quickly. I came to Paris with only one goal in mind, and yet somehow, this city managed to give me so much more than I ever could have hoped for, or even knew I needed. It gave me art, culture, and history in abundance. It gave me adventure, and allowed me to journey into the unknown on a daily basis. It gave me friendships that I will treasure forever, and kindness and compassion from complete strangers that the stereotypes of the French would have you believe to be impossible. It gave me the opportunity to learn a new language, and learn to trust in people in a way that isn’t possible when you can incessantly ask questions to understand every last detail of every process or exchange. It gave me a new career that I love, one that challenges me everyday, and one that has given me a new and exciting plan for the future. But most of all, it gave me a life that I love in a city that I adore.
As a Millennial, I was told repeatedly while I was growing up that the key to life was following your dreams. The only problem with this philosophy is that no one ever taught me what to do when the universe isn’t as enthusiastic about my dream as I am, and so it never occurred to me that in following it, I could fall so spectacularly on my face. And yet here I am, a year later, still standing, with another dream firmly on the horizon. I guess the key to life really is following your dreams. You just have to be prepared to find a new one every now and then. “To me, the whole point is to walk into the unknown with a brave heart and weak knees. I could utterly fail at this. So what?” So what indeed.