2015: A Year in Review from Paris and beyond

31 December 2015

Looking back at my thoughts on the last day of 2014, it is clear that I am in a much different place now. Emotionally, professionally, even physically. If one year was about challenging my impulses for radical change, 2015 began swiftly with reasoned change and a foray into a lifestyle I didn’t have the confidence or strength to believe I could pursue before.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it explicitly, but I’ve been working for advertising agencies in addition to writing about travel, food, and lifestyle for newspapers and magazines. Up until April, I was juggling freelance writing with an almost full-time gig at a large digital agency in Paris that I held since 2011. When the itch for change came knocking (or….itching, as it were), I paid attention and considered what it would mean to heed the call. That’s effectively how I spent holiday time in the states at Christmas last year; my mind filled with the realization that if I didn’t make a move in 2015, my ambitions would remain abstract dreams and nothing more. Pull the plug or let the illusion of comfort in familiarity dictate my future. Pas possible.

When family asked how things were going with work, I verbalized my intentions to leave the company, emancipate myself from an environment that no longer brought me happiness and establish myself on my own. The more I talked about it, the more confident I felt to make the move; 100% freelance with the flexibility to manage my own schedule and workload and pursue only the projects that inspired me. It sounds great on paper but a series of events made that transition less than smooth.

I submitted my resignation on the first day back in the office after the winter holiday, January 5. Two days later I sat rapt in front of my computer at work as reports of attacks at Charlie Hebdo headquarters, a 10 minute walk from my home, flooded my Twitter feed and consumed the chatter among colleagues. Our lives as Parisians would never be the same.

Two weeks later, our feline baby would undergo the first of several interventions and tests to ease what ailed her. I don’t presume to know what it feels like to have a sick child but for us, this was devastating. I didn’t even know I was capable of feeling hurt and ache in the places I did. And once we understood our time with her might be numbered, despite our greatest efforts that would later be commended by the veterinarian, our routine changed even further. If I had to travel, my husband had to stay with her, coming straight home after work and when he took time for himself, I holed myself away to bathe her in cuddles.

Whereas my husband’s general reaction through her health travails was to seek solace and distraction in sport, mine was to heave myself into my work and spend every possible moment by her side, at the expense of my physical fitness; I knew better but couldn’t help from falling off the exercise wagon when all my energy was corralled to be the rock she and my husband both needed. That and to follow through with the book proposal I had prepared and wanted to see come to life. But as we all know, exercise is key to emotional health and alleviating stress. I simply didn’t make it a priority.

From the moment I broke out onto my own, things have been mouvementé, as they say. I’ve written and published more than I ever have, signed the contract with Abrams to write the book I imagined in my mind, watched our little fur baby take her last breath, shattering the earth beneath us, and said goodbye to two of our best friends who left Paris after seven years of adventures.

I’ve also traveled more than I ever have in a year to see beautiful, exciting parts of the world — all over France (Lille, les Baux de Provence, Annecy, the Alps, Burgundy and even an hour outside of Paris to the headquarters and foundry of Le Creuset) New York, Seattle, Marrakech, Tuscany, Florence, Amsterdam — and saw the worst of the world right on my home turf, where wanton violence ripped off the city’s veil of security and projected us all, regardless of age, race or creed, into a war on ideologiesthat cannot be won on the battlefield. Punctuating my proudest accomplishments (more frequently than I would have hoped) were moments of profound sadness, fear and disillusionment.

It was a year of information overload, questionable willpower and minimal headspace to cut through all the noise. So 2016 isn’t only the year where my manuscript will start to become a tangible book that you can hold in your hands in early 2017, it’s the year I will work toward greater mindfulness and balance.
The year ends today on a high note: As I write this, I’m being rocked by the steady vibrations of cat purrs from one of the two male kittens we adopted less than a week ago; brothers Léo and Charlie. Their need for attention, love and guidance naturally forces us to re-prioritize. Less dawdling and losing myself in the digital rabbit hole, more at-home entertainment and responsibility that does the soul heaps of good.

I’m loathe to say 2015 was a rotten year because there were so many bright moments — enriching friendships, exciting opportunity and inspiration from the individuals I interviewed for my book. So let’s just say it was my most adult year yet.

Here’s to the resilience of the human spirit, cat cuddles and Paris, my sweet Paris. Bonne année, mes amis.