Monday, October 4

This should have been my first post.

Sitting in the dining room of an old stone house in Bretagne—the sun had just began to shine for the afternoon, all of the other house guests were taking a nap—I had become inspired in the tranquility of the moment to reflect on the twelve months that I spent in France, a topic that could fill pages that I have attempted to consolidate into a short article.
I’d begin by saying that living abroad was an experience like none other, and say, as many others have, that it is without a fraction of a doubt the best thing that you can ever do with your youthful freedom before becoming tied down by various adult responsibilities; but I won’t do that, because there exists so much more to these months that deserves le mot juste, and I feel patient enough right now to find those perfect words.
I’ll throw out some adjectives. My time in France was eclectic, wonderful, educational, painful, lonely, empowering, depressing, expensive, frightening, boring, life-changing, stressful, and at times horrible. I mean, honestly, you could look up any adjective in the English language and it would apply. But that’s what being in a foreign place did for me; it put me in a place where even when I felt excruciating emotional pain, I could somehow feel proud of feeling that pain in such a beautiful place. Being troubled in Paris is a lot more poetic than being troubled in Hicksville, U.S.A.  Look at it this way: you get to look at great shoes and cool architecture while feeling sad. A Nutella crêpe doesn’t hurt, either.
I made a decision long before venturing on my French journey that in my life I want to live with the highest highs and the lowest lows. I want to know what it’s like to feel disabling pain so that I can better appreciate what a gift every day is. (On a side note, it is amazing how easy it is to forget pain once it has passed, which is why I believe we are to experience it many, many, many times in life).  Experiencing these highs and lows does not necessarily mean living in extremes. It means taking risks; going outside of your comfort zone to test your limits, like moving to France or eating liver paté for the first time.
I would find any other way of living extremely boring, which is why despite how much I try to keep myself occupied as a repatriated American, I still somehow feel unfulfilled. It was by taking a risk and living in France that I have learned that I can fluently speak a foreign language if I try hard enough, that I’m a control freak, that I hate receiving advice and criticism from others, that I someday want to become a teacher, that I actually like seafood and children (two things I had always condemned), that I am extremely proud to be an American citizen, that there is no perfect place on earth, to be happy in the moment, to be flexible, and to get along with people from an extraordinary range of backgrounds… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… Life is hard. That’s what makes it so wonderful.
There is nothing more interesting than constantly being around people who are not like you… though at the same time you realize that all humans, no matter where they come from, have certain inalienable human qualities, and therefore you will always have something in common with the most unlikely of individuals. Though we may eat or drink differently, and we may differ in what we consider “good taste”, all people need to eat, sleep, and love. Sometimes it’s amazing how similar we actually are.
And here I am saying the things that sound so cliché, but I suppose it’s because they are so true. If you’re feeling bored or stuck it’s probably because you need an adventure. Though I have only lived for 23 years, I have done nothing that I am more proud of than living for one year in a foreign country, and nothing more confusing than moving back to the one I’m from.

Here’s to a new chapter in which I will undoubtedly learn some new lessons… hopefully not the ones I already have. I believe George W. Bush said it well when he said “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame… shame on…the fool can’t be fooled again.”


  1. Hey Courtney,
    It's Stevie! Just wanted to say that I love reading your blog and I tune in whenever I see your status pop up on my newsfeed. I suppose because I found myself living in Paris for similar reasons, and experienced the ups and downs of living as a foreigner abroad, I completely relate to the experiences you write about. You have a great voice, and manage to write about memories/feelings/daily life, etc. without sounding trite or self-indulgent...which is a difficult task for anyone writing a blog. Anyway, just wanted to offer some words of encouragement. Keep writing: you're good at it.

  2. Aww Stevie that's so sweet! Thanks so much and I hope you are doing well back in Toronto, I'm assuming? Anyway it helps a lot to get positive feedback. I really appreciate it!