“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.”
― Warsan Shire
Morgan had been trying to get me to go to Minnesota for a while, but I never could because I didn’t have the money. In the meantime however, he kept talking about me moving there one day. Me? Live in a state I kept confusing for its city name? Me, live somewhere where winter is literally the Artic? Me, live in a state that I (so incorrectly) thought could not be more boring and unimportant, since “everyone knows” there’s nothing interesting in the middle area of the USA, except for maybe Chicago. God was I wrong. Either way, Minnesota was just so not me. I was meant to live somewhere exotic and foreign, somewhere where I could wake up and look around and say to myself, “Yep. This is where I should be living.” France satisfies that probably better than any other place in the world.
So when I first went to Minneapolis, I was 3479309% sure that I was not going there to live, thankyouverymuch, but just to visit. By day 3, however, I was saying “what if”, and by day 7, I was saying “when I live here”. But it terrified me. I felt a doubt. I’d get choked up. “Wait, Maëlle” the voice inside me would ask by grabbing a hold of my throat, “what about winter?”. Like in the all too well-known show Game of Thrones, winter in Minneapolis is not something you’re going to mess with. As anyone who doesn’t come from MN but knows someone from there knows, Minnesotans are kind of obnoxious about their pride in dealing with cold weather, snow, and winter in general. (On my Facebook, my MN friends have monopolized winter. If ever I make a statement about it being cold, someone will be bound to chirp up and talk about how no, it isn’t REALLY cold where you are, because you aren’t in MN.) but once you’re there, you understand. Winter is a part of life, even when it isn’t winter yet. They’re just equipped for it. So equipped, in fact, that they’ve even learned to enjoy it and take part in it. There’s activities to do in it, like sledding, ice skating, and snowshoeing, festivals and fairs still happen during winter, and if you need tips and tricks on how to survive the sunless days, you will immediately learn that there’s such a thing as a sun lamp, and they’re actually kind of amazing.
Still…just because people had learned how to fare the winter, didn’t necessarily mean that I would. Sunlight is so unbelievably important to me. I get cold very easily, and become practically inoperable when I get too cold. I have very real and good reasons to certainly NOT live there.
But then when I was recently asked, why I was living in France, it got me wondering about how anyone chooses where they live, ever. It made me think about why I was here to begin with, what I had wanted from this trip to France, and had I actually achieved it.
The reasons for deciding to live in France were fairly simple, and very few. Three, in fact.
First, I wanted to be close to my father so I could experience him more, spend more time with the man who I had essentially come from, and understand who he was, as well as giving him an idea of who I was, now as a full-grown adult, and not the kid he had last seen.
Secondly, I wanted to be in France because I was half French, and maybe I thought that being in a country that I half “belonged” to I would feel less foreign, or be less foreign. (I was completely wrong.)
And finally, because France is gorgeous, and the energy of the land feels like I live in a story book.
And while the third reason is still very much in tact, the other two are no longer standing.
In fact, it was in coming here that I truly realized how foreign I will always be, but that if I ever felt at home anywhere, it was in the American continent. Like I previously mentioned, I am nothing if not Latinx American. I was hesitant in being American, rejected it even, as if by being placed under that identity my Colombian and French heritage would be drowned out, like being American is the ultimate goal. I do not want to be called American any more than I want to be called Mexican, because I am neither, and I want to fully represent mi bella Colombia and let people know that we’re here, and we’re good people. I love Mexico, and it’s partially my home, but I’m Colombian.
Being in France has only made me feel foreign and alone. People here are so very cold and distant, always ready to complain and criticize, not ever as quick to want to help or appraise. It is unfair of me to say that while having unbelievably amazing friends that have been helpful beyond anything, generous, and selfless. There is a little bit of everything and I will only ever seek out the best. As a people, however, walking out into the street on any given day, I was not met with the welcoming warmth and open friendliness I had gotten used to living in Mexico and the USA. Me being so dependent of that warmth, France’s people have been slowly depleting me.
As far as my father is concerned…I’ve spent time with him and have had experiences that I will keep with me always. I have learned so much and he has provided me with tremendous growth opportunities. Basically, I got what I came for, and it’s enough.
The third reason, France being gorgeous, is still very much there, even more so than before because I LOVE my country, and have gotten to see her so much more. France is stunning.
But it isn’t reason enough for me to live here. Be here, yes. Enjoy being here, yes. But not enough reason to stay.
The only reason that maybe sneaks in is the fact that now my baby sister (and by baby I mean 20-year old) is living here, and that leaving France would mean going years without seeing her. That…would be hard.
I have enough of an interest and an idea in projects I’d like to fulfill to keep me in France for a little longer. However, ultimately, I don’t know that I can thrive here. I think I always traveled looking for adventure, and trying to find and lose myself. I came to France thinking I’d find stability, but had no idea what stability looked like, or how to go about acquiring it, so going to a completely unfamiliar place, without really a plan, or an idea of how to make it…looking back, I feel like it makes sense that I am where I am right now. I guess what I’m trying to say is, and this is hard to type…I’m ready to leave France.
I’m not saying I’m leaving tomorrow, because I can’t. I’m also, actually, not saying that I’m going to Minneapolis.
What I’m saying is, I was totally willing to deal with the winter in Minneapolis because my priorities changed. I felt community and purpose were my new priorities, because Minneapolis made me feel like I had community and purpose. It made me seriously consider going there and start brainstorming solutions for upcoming obstacles, because of how bad I wanted not the place, but the people, and how the place would make me feel about myself.
I don’t know if home is Minneapolis, but I do know that home is not on this side of the world, and I don’t think it ever was. This has just felt like one very long trip. I still have things I’d like to do here, and moving is extremely expensive, so honestly it’s not like I’ll be leaving any time too soon. I’m not sure what the next steps will look like, because you have just witnessed me fully admitting this to myself now for the first time, without a ‘but’ after.
Things could change. I could meet the right people that might make me want to stay a little longer. However essentially, my entire family is on the other side of the planet, with the exception of my sister being here, everyone that I really need to be close to and want to see and be there for isn’t here, or even close to here. So why am I?
I’m not sure what to do now. Essentially, if I knew how, I’d just try to raise the money to get the eff out of here. Maybe that’s what I have to figure out. Moving is already hard. Moving across an entire ocean is another story, moving across an entire ocean with a cat, is a saga. Granted, my cat is not just any cat.
Pilo is rightfully my son and has been on walks, in trains, to the beach, in a tent, on a scooter, hiking, and yes, on a 10 hour plane ride. While it exhausts him, he handles it like a champ and doesn’t get overly stressed. But it is still an expensive and complicated thing to do.
So I say this, but who knows, I may end up staying in France another couple of years. I’d like to not though, because at this point, I feel like it’ll be me barely making it by. As I found out the hard way, when you live somewhere, there has to be substance to your reasons. You cannot shallowly be somewhere just because it’s pretty. And even though initially it started off as something more than that, France and I have come to just that. I find my country beautiful, but its general personality unpleasant. I’d like for me to leave here while we can still remain on friendly terms. I’d like to start living a purposeful life where I am using my talents and qualities, and I can’t wait to be in a place where my sense of humor is fully understood and I don’t get social anxiety just from going to the supermarket. I want to live somewhere where I know how to make a difference and can. I also need to, for my own wellbeing and survival, be closer to family and friends. Dear America (no, not North America. The real America. The ENTIRE America…) I belong to you. You are my home.
It took me this long to realize it because I always thought home was a tiny place. But it isn’t. It’s a feeling. A community. A people.
And being away from home hurts. But finally understanding where it is, that is something that perphaps I may not have gotten had I not lived here in France first, and felt disoriented for a while.
Now, I’d like to orient myself. So I guess that’s what I’ll do.