Updated: Dec 31, 2018
Preface: This story makes me wonder who's life am I living? Please do me a favor, don't wake me. I'm still dreaming and it all began like this . . .
Early last year I threw out into the universe that when I retire I'm going to live in France. Maybe not permanently, but long enough to speak better french. Being proactive I immersed myself in all things french: television, music, YouTube channels and reading french literature (and I mean fashion magazines).
Mind you I had never been to France, but I was always obsessed with the country and culture since I was a teenager. I studied french for four years and although my family spoke some spanish at home, french was really my second language.
According to experts, to really grasp language skills you need to engage in native speaker conversation. So I joined a language exchange social platform and paired with Algerian, Ahmad. He was relentless in correcting my grammar and forced me to think and speak in french since his english was so limited. During the summer we spent a lot of time talking, texting and video chatting. We became friends and we were very comfortable talking about everything.
I don't remember exactly how Ahmad and I realized we kinda liked each other. I kept denying it, but he insisted that it was very obvious. Although he was significantly younger than me and we were raised in completely different cultures, we were intrigued with one another in every way.
When the fall came around Ahmad was so excited to tell me that he had booked a trip to Paris. Boy, was I jealous. I begged him to remember to call me from Paris and flood my phone with photos of his trip. He told me if I wanted photos I'd have to go to Paris and take them myself (this clearly was a hint).
And while Ahmad was sharing his Paris planning details, I was exhausted working 16-hour shifts at juvenile hall due to an ongoing staff shortage. It didn't matter how much overtime I did in a week, or if I could barely keep my eyes open, if I refused to work additional shifts I was subject to formal discipline up to and including termination. Ahmad didn't understand how this could be legal and he hated it. He came to know my work frustrations only by the amount of f-bombs I'd drop. And there were many. One afternoon he knew I had a bad day and he mustered up a single text that said, "Carrie. Come to Paris. Come to me so we can fall in love."
" . . . Come to me so we can fall in love. "
And just like that the movie montage of my life began: my kick-ass co-workers agreed to cover my shifts, I tossed my home upside down looking for my passport, and I threw my backpack on the bed and started packing. And then I called Ahmad. I had never heard him as excited as when I told him I would meet him in Paris. "Tu es le trésor de ce jeune homme" (you are this young man's treasure).
My close friends and family said I was crazy, impulsive, headed for disaster, heartbreak, and most likely both. But on the morning of my departure I received an email from an ex. We hadn't spoken in over 5 months and here he was asking how I was doing. I didn't respond because I realize I needed to move on; go out into the world and live life on my own terms. If I didn't go to Paris . . . right here . . . right now, I would always wonder "what if" and I couldn't stomach having that regret. I had to let my restless heart be free.
And so I was off to Paris. I had no idea what experience was waiting for me, but I was ready. Ready for the adventure and story of a lifetime.