Turning 30 in Paris
Saturday was a pretty perfect day in Paris. It was sunny with few clouds in the sky. The weather wasn’t too chilly and the half-bare trees stood tall. It was also my 30th birthday.
With the two of us halfway across the world, alone, there was no big bash on the books; Steve and I were planning to celebrate together with an easygoing day: coffee, a visit to Place de Vosges and a few glasses of champagne.
I did feel a little bit of cultural pressure to be angsty about “getting old,” but I wasn’t dreading the oh-so ominous 3-0. So I asked a good friend what she felt was the best part about this milestone. Her answer:
"the ability to recognize and live according to what’s most important to you.”
(There’s another piece to what she said, but I’ll get to that later…)
Things, they are a-changing.
Those are wise words. But with this big, discombobulating life change, I started thinking, I’m not sure what was important to me last year will be the same this year. Time to reevaluate.
All the big things will remain - family, friends, health, career - but I am in the midst of so many unknowns around those four things.
- When will I see my family? hmm. save up some money and find out.
- What our little family will look like in five years? pfffff, that’s a tough one.
- Will I have good friends here? Probably, but it will take time.
- Will I be able to speak French comfortably? hopefully. keep practicing,
- What will I do for work in Paris? Will I get actually my work visa? only time will tell…
So many questions, no real answers.
What I’ve learned.
I’m uncomfortable. I’m not the content, established 30 year old who has all her shit together, though I was on my way before we picked up and moved to Paris.
It’s terrifying but also liberating.
Obviously, moving to a new country is a big deal, but I’ve found out that all the things inside of the move are small and manageable (though annoying to have to relearn). Here are four things that can act as my “wisdom on turning 30” but in reality, it’s the stuff that’s helped me navigate my new life.
- Have patience with yourself. For example, communicating in a new language is slow process. I usually pick up things quickly, but this is not one of them.
- Appreciate the tiny victories. Like learning how to do laundry again. My machine has almost a hundred different combinations of settings. And it's a washer and a dryer; doing one load takes forever. But hooray for clean clothes!
- Recognize bravery in small things. One day, instead of ignoring being double charged for an item, I decided to go to Monoprix and get reimbursed. Before entering, I looked up the right words and practiced them a few times to get ready. And yes, we got all 13 euros back - bravery and a little victory.
- Say yes. We were invited to a party, and yes, every attendee spoke French. We weren't sure if we should go, what if we talked to no one? But we said yes, spoke both English and French, and had the best time.
The next decade:
At dinner on Saturday, Steve asked me about my goals for the next 10 years. I didn’t have a great answer. I kind of bumbled along with all the typical responses - adjusting my career, finding a job, having a family, etc.
But now that I’m reflecting on that question, I think what I want most, is to enjoy the path we’re on. I don’t want to waste time planning exactly how I’ll come out on the other side of this French adventure. In three years, I don’t know which career i’ll have, what size my family will be or how fluent (or non-fluent) my French will be. But, I want to enjoy the process of getting there -experiencing Paris, learning French, traveling, figuring out how to be married, deciding what’s most important to me and living that way.
Back to my friend’s words, in full.
"The ability to recognize and live according to what’s most important to you. It’s still something I’m learning but it feels great to be on my way. I suppose in hindsight I was always on my way.”
And it’s true, you’re always on your way. A decision made as a 20-something has given me quite the gift for my 30s - a Parisian adventure for the two of us.
Vocab for today:
- mon anniversaire - my birthday
- treinte - thirty
- décennie - decade
- les fleurs - flowers
- dessert - dessert
BONUS: My birthday in pictures:
We spent the day together, getting treats from the nearby patisserie, picking up fresh flowers, grabbing a cafe and watching the world go by, reading in the park for a few hours and ending it with a delicious dinner at a brasserie down the street (see below for details).
Pastries: Aux Merveilleux by Fred, 24 Rue du Pont Louis-Phillippe, 75004
Light, fluffy meringue pastries that are beautiful as they are delicious. We got two, one a café flavor, the other covered in chocolat shavings. Eat them right away, they won't keep very well.
Park: Place des Vosges, 75004
Cafe: Au Pied de Fouet, 3 Rue de Birague, 75004 Paris
We sat here for about an hour and did some great people watching; Steve with a café and and for me, a café noisette.
Brasserie: Chez Janou, 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003 Paris
Pretty good traditional french food. Internationals from everywhere turned up here. I ordered pasta with escargot, Steve ordered the entrecôte with potato gratin. For dessert we had a giant bowl of chocolate mousse (the real reason we chose this spot).