I am stunned thinking that come September, it will be six-and-a-half years! since I left New York and moved to France to teach English. I had lost my job, which was at the time, the love of my life, and as what seemed the only cure for my broken heart, I decided I would try living abroad. So I dusted off my French books and started seeing a tutor, broke my lease, drove my things to storage via 14-foot U-Haul and set forth.
Of course, the week before I was leaving, panic set in and I found myself sleepless, looking for a way out. But with the promise to the French Ministry of Education that I would be there for the job, the non-refundable transcontinental plane ticket in hand, and no longer any place to live in the city I’d been calling home for almost a decade, at that point I really had no choice.
So I went. I lived there for eight months in a small town that was nowhere near the style and sophistication of Paris but equally far from the romance of Hollywood’s cozy village in the Juliette Binoche-Johnny Depp film Chocolat. I made a meager wage that was a fraction of what I was accustomed to living on, but soon enough that didn’t matter. I had little French children lining up to kiss me hello and goodbye every day, baguettes and cheese were my diet, and all around me, life was playing out in French!
Had I known how fast eight months would go by I would have never gotten sad about leaving New York in the first place. Before I knew it I was back in the US with the great question of “What now?” looming over my head like a hot raincloud about to burst. I was the confused grown child at home again with mom and dad. I made the best of it. And then finally, the call came—the call I had been secretly wishing on stars for. My invitation back to New York.
That was February 2007. Now four years ago.
So I’ve been back in New York all this time. What’s crazy, is that since then, I’ve never had a real home. I’ve been living a nomad’s life. Because even though I thought being back in the city was what I really wanted, picking up to this wild existence again had me wondering for a long time if I really did want to stay.
In those 48 months, I haven’t had a place of my own, but I have become a pro at subletting. In those 48 months I’ve lived in five different places. To each, I brought a suitcase of clothes and a few shopping bags’ worth of what I considered necessities. I’ve adjusted to sleeping in foreign beds, (futons included); I’ve become well-acquainted with the prepared foods aisle of the grocery store for lack of my own kitchen or my own space in which to make a mess; and I’ve become ok simply living with less—with most of my possessions collecting dust in an attic in New Jersey.
And I realized about a month ago that in a weird way I think I’ve been testing myself, to see how long I could go on living like this. Because sure, I’ve been without a real home of my own for all this time, but I’ve been doing just fine and on top of that free, without the responsibility, without the commitment. But then I remembered the things I’ve been missing, beyond the material possessions. A space of my own, to make my own, to make a mess of if I want, to clean the way I want, to have friends over to, to be home alone in. I realized that not having those things, which are in essence a different kind of freedom, I have not really been myself. And I’ve been missing me!
And I came to the conclusion that it was time to get that back. So like I did when I went to France, last month I got up and got to work. I searched and searched, made endless phone calls, said no at least a dozen times and finally, I found my place. Finally, a home sweet home. And the best part is, I feel like me again.