Sunday, 19 February 2012

Expanding on my dream

U2 have a song - where the lyrics go ..." stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it". That seems very apt for me right now. I wonder if I've come down with that winter blues maladysome folks get here during the long European winters. NO energy, feeling demotivated and rather depressed on top of the background anxiety I always feel- wondering what on earth my future could possibly be and the effort required to survive here.

Things aren't so bad. I have the basics of life though little else. I'm getting used to life in France, more and more each week. I have my very close friend JC and I'm still employed but there's been a lot of tension and stress at work. Days, weeks and months like that can get tough. Everything in my life seems so temporary - OK we might all philosophically say that, but you know what I mean. I feel worn down. I'm impatient to move myself forward somehow but have no resources to do so. I've had plenty of time recently to reflect on just how tough this determination to realise my dream has become and the constant sacrifice required to keep it alive.

I don't have close friends here I can really talk to in English in my time off, hardly any leisure activites that I'd like that are available so I'm feeling in a holding pattern. I'm impatient and frustrated. It's a constant battle trying to convince myself that living in the moment is good. My mind is just too tired of trying to convince itself of that. Should be easy? It's not. Just when I think I've got my head sorted out to accept things the way they are I discover I'm back to square one. Sad, unhappy and scared.

Perhaps this is one of the integration phases people go through when they move with nothing to another country. I'm well past the honeymoon period, I don't feel homesick yet something's not right. I don't feel French and I don't feel Kiwi. I feel disconnected to myself and through that disconnected to everything. Add to that a layer of self-protection against hurt of whatever kind and I'm putting obstacles in my own way. Feeling annoyed with myself doesn't help... I need to find the right recipe.

Yes, warm temperatures and a lot more sun would be good. We kiwis are used to brighter light, even in winter but in Paris we're into the two most depressing months of the year when it's very slow to warm up and the skies are mostly grey. It's also wetter.

I felt so under the weather this weekend I couldn't even brave a trip to a museum with JC. That's not like me to pass up something like that. Instead we stayed inside, put the fire on and watched endless episodes of '24 hours'. We both enjoy that.

I've been asking myself what I really want now that I'm in France. Here's my answer so far: I've given up on trying to get a 10 year visa in the distant future. For me it's not good enough. I've decided to hang in here employment-wise for 7 years (that's a little over 5 more years). Once I've been working here continuously for 5 years I can start the application process towards full citizenship. That process can take 2 years so my struggles to stay here must continue for another 5 years minimum.

With citizenship I could stay as of right however my employment status might change. It would also make it easier for me to get work, even temporary work because I'd have the right to be here regardless of a working visa. I could have dual citizenship, free to move between France and NZ whenever I wanted, on business or for personal reasons. That way I could still enjoy my beloved France but also spend time with my daughter Laura and as I get older that becomes quite important for both her and me.

“You wish to become a French citizen. It is an important decision that you must not take lightly. Becoming French is not an easy administrative task. Acquiring French nationality is a decision that will affect you and after you, it will affect your descendants,” explains the Charter of the Rights and Responsibilities of a French Citizen.

From now on, all naturalization candidates must sign this document, as well as passing the assimilation interview that finalizes their demand for citizenship.

I've got a long way to go to make that happen. Somehow I must find a way to live above the subsistence level I'm on now. I don't know the answer to that. I want a charming little French house with a garden I can design and tend myself before I get too old and stiff. I don't need a lot but I do really want that, and enough money to travel to and from the ends of the earth each year.

Recently my mind has been drifting more and more towards my unfinished book. I'm too tired to write when I get home and getting up earlier doesn't thrill me because in the back of my mind is the thought that I can't get really into my writing in the morning because I'll have to stop after an hour and cycle to work. A touch of procrastination? I think I'll need to devote some holiday time for that in April. I've got a long way to go on it but I'm mostly happy with what I've written so far.

And I'm happy that after 6 months of hassle visiting the sous-prefecture many times in Cafeolait, waiting in queues only to be told they are too under-staffed to process my application for a driver's license, that someone went on maternity leave so nothing was done, that they don't know which date they should pay attention to- my visa or my titre de sejour- the letter arrived. I sprinted in the next day and finished the process. Voila, I now have a genuine French Driver License. At last I'm allowed to drive a car. To get it I had to surrender my NZ license. NZTA have said I can get another by coming back to NZ before my old one's expiry date. I need to be able to drive in both countries. So... I've got the license now but no money for a car.

French taxes are high and are not taxed at source. I will have to pay thousands, exactly how much I'm not sure so the car will have to wait in line until after I've paid my dental bills and tax bills. Dental treatment? That'll be another story.


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