In a film a while back, there was a line that became famous – “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Years later, Apple introduced a music device with the slogan “Life is random,” which referred to the music player that “shuffled” things around for you, randomly (so you never knew what you were going to get), although some speculated that it could have been a metaphor for Steve Jobs’ cancer diagnosis.
Fortunately I’m in good form, perhaps thanks to those antioxidants in all the chocolate that I seem to find myself surrounded by. But as much as we try, we never know what’s going to happen or how things are going to turn out. That’s particularly true when someone uproots and moves somewhere else. You’re not just moving out of your city or town, you’re moving out of your culture into unfamiliar territory – a new unknown.
When I first arrived in Paris, I’d bring people I barely knew treats to share; some chocolates, a couple of pieces of cakes, a tin of cookies, or other recipes that I was working on. From the astonished looks I got, I quickly learned that locals don’t bring edible gifts to shopkeepers and market vendors. However no one seemed to mind. (Although it doesn’t seem to be a trend that’s caught on…) It’s been over a decade since I arrived in Paris and each day is — well — like a box of chocolates. And it’s always amazing. Not always amazing in a “wow – that was great!” kind of way, but not always “amazing” in a bad way either. It’s just that each day is different, and like life in any city, it comes with challenges, an occasional defeat, a number of victories, and (fortunately) some lasting rewards.
Many of us who live in Paris often get emails from people wanting to move here, just like I did eleven years ago when I arrived on a whim. (Although as anyone who gets up and moves around the world knows, it’s not like it just happens. It takes a lot of planning and work.) Like me, most don’t have a clue as to what awaits them. I wasn’t quite prepared for what would happen to me in subsequent years and there were lots of hurdles to overcome. Yet I set up home, snagged a terrific partner (score!), learned the language (yet those French verbs continue to challenge me…), and managed to become, in my own way, a small part of the great city of Paris.