You can tell with the assistants that we’re all aware that the end is near, because every time we encounter each other this question always comes up: “What are you doing after France?” And the response is almost a uniform “I don’t know.” Some people are going to graduate school, a few are still undergraduates, a handful have jobs waiting for them, but most are like me and are just hoping that something turns up when we get back home. Although home is so arbitrary. Is Oklahoma still my home if I don’t intend to move back there? What about my hometown, Bartlesville? My parents are moving away from there, so I’ll have no reason to go back. And the United States seems too large to call a home, although it might be my best answer. The fact is that in two months when I go back to the United States I’m going to have to find a new home, job, apartment, and life. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but then again I’m ready to see something new and, I’ll admit it, be in a country where I’m no longer a foreigner. I get tired of being an outsider and even when I’m not speaking and therefore hiding my accent, I feel like I have some cloud of otherness around me. Yet I’ve definitely felt like an other in the United States, especially in the awkwardness of high school or in rural towns that still have George W. Bush stickers on all the cars.
Despite all that, I know I’m going to miss France terribly. I’ve met some wonderful people and have seen and done more things than I expected to do in my entire life. If I ever get depressed here, I’m only a 5 minute walk from what will undoubtedly be the most delicious pastry of my life. I’ll miss getting coffee at cafes with no worries about deadlines. I’m going to miss having so many friends. After graduation from college, most of my friends moved away and while I had a lot of acquaintances, there weren’t many people with whom I could have a casual yet meaningful conversation. Maybe it’s more of me being comfortable with myself, but I just feel like I know so many wonderful and open people here that it’s going to be sad to possibly not see some of them again. Although with the wonder that is the internet and Facebook, I’m sure that there will always be some contact. On the positive side, I will know people all over the States and the world and when traveling should never be far from a friend. And to those that I have met over here who might be reading this, know that you’re welcome to sleep on my couch or floor wherever I may be living. Even if it’s a closet-size apartment in New York.
I find myself keeping an unofficial mental list in my head of the pros/cons of France versus the United States. For example, the teenage boys pushing in front of me and the man with a cane to get on the bus today would be a con. The spitting on the streets and people not cleaning up after their dogs are also negatives. However, I can see a crumbling castle on a hill when I walk through the center of town and can take a train to Provence whenever I want. Definitely pluses. In the end, France is not some sort of magical dreamland nor is it a slum, just like the United States.
As to where I want to live in the United States when I get back, my hope is a major city with New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Seattle all under consideration. I am honestly up for anything.