The Psychology Of Leaving The Past Behind

"Nike." Le Louvre.

As it said in the NY Times’ article, The Psychology of Moving, “moving is an intensely emotional experience. The underlying psychological issues involved in real estate decisions are of great interest to therapists and psychologists, because housing and moving are filled with symbolism, the hope for new beginnings, crushing disappointments, loss, anxiety and fear.”

I was talking with a friend of mine recently. He is considering living abroad for a year and mentioned that he thought he would need three months to settle in. I wonder if that is a good gauge of time for settling into your new home. Is there a universally accepted number or does it differ for everyone?  I would think that there might be a psychological study that says that it takes 4-6 months. I do feel that I am at home here in Paris only two and a half months into being here; more so than I ever felt at home in Los Angeles.

I have learned that friendships do not make a home, but that they can make it a special place or somewhere you might accept and are able to handle, even when you do not feel at home there. I was chatting with a few classmates of mine – we were doing the CELTA course here – and I said that I would never want to raise children in Los Angeles, but feel comfortable with the idea of doing so in Paris. I also told them that I felt like a foreigner a lot of my life and never felt at home in the U.S.A. A woman, Elizabeth, said a very interesting thing, “In America, a lot of people treated you like a foreigner, but you weren’t. It wasn’t true. You were born in America. Here you really are a foreigner, so you know it’s true.”

There are things that have remained with me after moving to Paris. Aside from the physical luggage that I brought with me – three suitcases – my mind and heart remain affected by a few souls left behind in Los Angeles. There are friends that I miss terribly and, as I begin to acclimate to the Parisian Lifestyle, I wonder when the inevitable switch will happen when these “losses” will simply become vacations back to Los Angeles and their own trips to Paris. There are days that I feel homesick, but they are becoming fewer as I fill my life up with classes, job-hunting and new friendships.

I have been “warned” by ex-pats, who have been living in Paris long before I arrived, that over the first year, I will experience a “what the hell did I just do?” moment every three months. I haven’t reached the first one yet – but I do have another two weeks until the three-month mark – and do not know what to expect. I am actively trying to divorce myself from my past and feel like I have succeeded for the most part. I will not forget those loving friendships in Los Angeles, just like I didn’t forget those friends I still love in Boston and New York when I moved to LA in 2002. When you connect and build solid friendships, time and distance do not destroy them.

I am living my life the way that I want to – following a dream – and there are times when I have cautioned myself about being such a romantic, which might be considered a romantic notion based on the fact that I live in Paris. I say this in order to move forward in my life and not be held back by the things that I still hold onto. I need to let certain things go. I need to find freedom in my new life. I do not want to be constantly reminded of what I lost, which is what is happening to me now.

And perhaps I am simply going through my three-month mark where a part of me finds myself having a hard time letting go of one soul in particular. Knowing that this soul does not care should make this easier, but it doesn’t. That this soul moved on and does not think of me does not make this feeling more manageable. It only makes it harder. I am trapped by a constant remorse for hurting someone I dearly love – still – even though it was done out of fear of being hurt. I am trapped by a single word, his word, incompatible.

Perhaps it is silly to want to lessen my romantic nature. Even as I think about this, I’m struck by the romance of life that constantly surrounds me here. I love Paris. It is such a romantic city. Looking out the café window, there is so much I see randomly that is part of why I love it here: the lovely waitress showing a few patrons the bottle of wine before pouring it into their glasses. What a romantic, but respectful gesture. And then the two women riding up from the Pont de Alma and past my café on their bicycles. Dressed in black Capri pants and pretty floral summer tops. So picturesque. So Paris. So romantic.