Is a Move Overseas the Cure for Your Midlife Crisis?
Maybe? Maybe Not?
Why did I do something as foolish as quit my job and move to France?
This was a question that really bothered me right after I’d done it a year and a half ago. I so completely turned my world upside down and was very uncertain what life would hold next for me. For that matter, I still am unsure, but back then, I needed to know why I had this illogical desire to get to France. Sure becoming fluent in French would be fantastic, and writing my second book about my experiences here would be interesting, but I felt the need to know a deeper purpose behind the move.
However, early on, I chose not to entertain this question or be pulled into the negative emotions that accompanied it. Each time I felt this question creep into my mind, and my brain start to puzzle over it, I felt my mood fall. The answer I’d been seeking, which I knew would be at the top of my mind as soon as I’d settled in France, wasn’t. And the answer never came.
I was curious, but I also wanted to live my motto “Life was not meant to be a struggle.” And when I anguished over finding the reason for my move, that felt like struggle.
So when needing to know my reason for being in France came up for me and I felt myself starting to worry that I’d made a bad decision, I’d ask myself if this was how I wanted to feel living in this incredible haven I’d found and to which I’d managed to transport myself? The answer was always no. Gradually my need to know fell away, and I could simply enjoy being here.
In the early days, when people asked me why move to France, I joked with them, saying “I’m having a midlife crisis. I need to find myself.” But I didn’t really think that was the reason. I knew there had to be something other than a midlife crisis, some world-changing purpose, at the heart of my bold move.
As the days shorten and the nights get chilly and give way to darker mornings, I feel the unwelcome pull of laziness that autumn brings. But this time of year also brings with it a slower pace and time for reflection. During this period of contemplation, I’ve come to a better understanding of why I needed to move to France.
The transition from Summer to Fall is like a homecoming. Fall has been before and is being itself again now. And so am I. I needed a significant change to be able to see life and living in a new way. I needed this change of seasons in my life to come home to my self.
Joy, curiosity, and a zest for life are what most young children experience before they learn how to be in life so they can get along. So they can be accepted and become “successful.” This is when their spark lessens or even dies, and they become who they think they should be.
A friend asked me recently if I’d had a happy childhood, and from where I am in my life now, I found it difficult to say yes, though as I was living my childhood, I probably thought I was happy. The lightness of being a child dissipated gradually from my kindergarten year on. Joy and curiosity were replaced by feelings of unfairness, confusion, and resistance especially when I was eleven, and my parents separated and eventually divorced.
Living here in France, I feel like a child. I’m excited for what each day will hold. I feel safe and calm, even with the uncertainty I face being an American citizen with no status in France, beyond the second year-long visitor visa I hold.
My time here takes me back to my preschool days when I attended Singer Learning Center, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The other children and I frolicked on the playground behind the school, the smell of stagnant water wafting over from the large puddle off to the side. I remember Johnathan Howeiler, another preschooler, teaching me how to play chess and napping on mats in the afternoon. Life was good!
I had to get here to France to come home to my self. My move here is like a second childhood, a renaissance where I can laugh and be, awed by the rustle of a breeze through the trees or the hooting of a tawny owl in the woods. Being out of my element, I notice the ordinary things of life and know they aren’t ordinary at all. I don’t know where this journey will lead, but I don’t need to know that. It’s not for me to know. It’s for me to experience and be.
And so it is for all of us, we must learn to be. Learn to see ordinary things and see beyond their simplicity. We must be present to what is unfolding right in front of our eyes, as mundane as it might seem, because in that normalness awaits our awakening.
It took a big move and a lot of discomfort for me to know this. But awakening doesn’t require such a huge change or move. This was my path. Awakening requires finding gratitude for what is. It requires being present to what is. You can do this by slowing down and stopping.
Our lives can catch us in a continuous stream of running, going, doing, and taking care of others. We can get pulled into the drama of an endless news cycle or what others are experiencing through a Facebook or Instagram feed. But when we stop and truly see things, we can give thanks. And we can enjoy the beauty of life, knowing that everything will be okay.