Last year, I made the irrational decision to leave Montreal, a place with better job opportunities and happy hikes to get closer to my family and friends to be back to Paris, France. How nostalgic I had become of my dear hometown throughout the years... It wasn’t an easy move because I had spent the last 11 years in North America building a network of awesome friends, got blown away by fantastic hiking spots, and I had invested quite some time in finding the right apartment. I was also attached to my stuff because they simply held happy memories and letting them go was a kind of ritual of passage. I had to shed my old skin and dusty belongings to be reborn elsewhere and adapt to a new environment, except that it wasn’t that new. It was my hometown but being away for so long and having only visited once a year didn’t mean that I belonged to the place anymore.
Why do individuals have an innate feeling to want to belong somewhere? And why do people print “property of Boston”, or “property of the Chicago bulls” on hoodies for college students and athletes? I always wondered if it would make me happy to actively be a part of something bigger, then I’d have a feeling of being protected by a tribe. For my entire life, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I simply reached the mature age of 32 and felt ready to have kids with the man of my dreams, so I had to weigh the pros and cons of few potential cities. I want my future kids to grow in the most beautiful city in the world, surrounded by culture and magnificent monuments. I want them to experience the easiness and freedom to travel because transportation is very practical here and distances between cities feel like nothing compared to North America. And most importantly, I want my future kids to know the meaning of true friendships. Many French people enjoy coming back to France because bonds between people are tighter and less superficial than overseas.
Moving back here also meant making readjustments. I completely forgot that living under a thick grey blanket of clouds meant more depression. I also forgot that during rush hours, people transformed into professional sprinters and elbow kickers. I was politely queueing at the bus stop but then remembered that it was more of a jungle out there and people competed for seats like famished vultures. I didn’t realize people feared for pickpockets so much that they got special phone cases with a handle or a strap. I loved discovering how things have changed in nearly a decade. Most of all, I moved into my hometown as an adult in my thirties and I realized that my memories of the city were mostly related to my teenage years. Movement and growth are beautiful, except when they make you feel like a dinosaur.
Coming back for family was foolish because they wouldn’t want me to sacrifice my happiness by forcing me to stay with them, but I came back anyways to reconcile with my roots. I had been gone for too long that an identity crisis started to grow in me. I didn’t want to be an immigrant anymore. I wanted to be a permanent resident of a place in which I fully master the language and the jokes. I wanted to be there for my friends’ and cousins’ newborns because there were so many in the past decades that I felt like I was missing out on important milestones. I wanted to grow old in a place and be grounded like a strong oak tree. It’s ironic for a traveler like me to want to settle down, but my restless feet turned into roots in need of a familiar soil.
Roots do not grow on their own just because one moved back home. They need care, love and nurturing. My family has always been there for me, and I was the one who left to seek a better life. I had to rekindle this family tree before making new branches, so I am proud to say that my mom and I make time to go out every two weeks to chat about our lives. We used to keep in touch through video chat, but it doesn’t compare to face to face because for once I wanted to share affection with her. I made the decision to live with my dad even though I’m a grown-ass adult. I am quite happy and comfortable to reconnect with my childhood apartment and to be around familiar objects. For this, I am grateful.
I have been living in Paris for the last 6 months and I never regretted my decision a single day. I do not feel like I regressed in life because I made a move from the heart. I love my family more than ever and instead of telling them about my adventures, I want to build new experiences with them. That switch turned on when I decided to have kids because I didn’t want to say that I was having a family, I wanted to say that I was growing it. As of now, I am actively part of a group, a property of Paris and I do not have an identity crisis anymore.
For those of you who feel homesick and have this urge to return home, follow your gut feelings because you don’t ever get your time back. Time is only fleeting, so be wise and make sure you’re on track to be the best version of yourself.