Sunday, 21 May 2017

Death of a dream

I've tried so hard for so long not to make this decision. I've looked for last minute reprieves, signs of a positive change in the wind. I've cried oceans of tears for years but there's always been plenty left to cry. Yet, here I am in this 'place' I don't want to be, making a decision I never wanted to make.

My dream of living and working in France took years to develop and eventually became irresistible. When, through a combination of my own efforts, imagination and what I thought was 'luck' at the time, I was offered a great-sounding job here, I discovered there was a hell of a price to pay and the job proved to be a horror.

I thought the price for coming to France was losing my worldly goods and regular contact with my daughter, but that was only the start of it. After arriving I found myself trapped in a whirlpool of corruption and manipulation, harassment and abuse with nowhere to turn. Somehow, determined to find a way out and stay, I have survived. I felt getting thus far must mean something.

Once I set foot in France I realised I needed to stay here. My soul was so obviously at home. I needed to put down roots but that was never possible. For me to make a life here I needed at least one of two conditions (preferably both):

Condition One: A stable, fulltime job. It's not much to aspire to but I never had one despite my best efforts and good performance and around one thousand job applications over 7 years within France alone. Each year my employment situation here was totally precarious and has deteriorated. In 2015 I lost the battle to live independently. I knew at that point it was probably all over. Unemployment, suggests JC? That would amount to 65% of a sum already well below the minimum annual wage. Unemployment wouldn't cover basic personal expenses let alone any living expenses and would only be available for 3 years. Retirement in France wouldn't start for me before age 67 and would be unliveable as it's based on lifelong contributions.

Condition Two: Have a relationship with a man who wants to construct an equal life together, buy a house, have security of lodgings in old age. I told JC I could sell my house in Auckland, contribute equally to a house with him in France and use the balance for my retirement. "That will never happen" he said. He doesn't want to change his life and I understand that because his home means the world to him. He won't let me contribute financially to the property because I'd never have the money or technical expertise  to manage this large, expensive terrain if he was gone. And anyway, everything goes automatically to his kids. That's how it works in France.

 I am currently dependent on JC for a roof over my head so the moment he changes his mind or gets really sick and has to move out or even dies (he's much older than me) I will instantly find myself a sans abri - a homeless person standing in the road with my suitcase and no resources to save myself. I'm saddened after nearly seven years that having a roof over my head and food on the table and interesting company from JC is the extent of what I can look forward to here in France. I've been existing and not living and it's destructive of the spirit.

Through a particular set of circumstances France has been, on balance, a very painful experience. I do love France and just one of those conditions appearing would have changed my life here completely. I thought anything was possible in such a big and interesting country but it's not possible if you are not allowed to have it. My experiences here have not been typical expat ones, I could not have known what would be in store. Life is short and another year of barely existing with no hope for improvement or security is something I can't face, despite my feelings for JC.

I have to do what was unthinkable and leave France because, without at least one of the conditions, it's not possible to stay. I'd rather jump on my own terms than be pushed. I've swallowed my disappointment and hung in here to get my citizenship, passport and ID card in case a miracle occurs one day which could see me return, and I've voted in the elections. My dream is the past. I have to find a new dream and move forward. It's going to be scary jumping into a void, arriving back in New Zealand even older, with a suitcase and little else to start all over again. I don't know where I'll go or what I'll do but I'm going to work towards a better life with more social contact where I can make a contribution somewhere and actually put down roots. I'm heartbroken and there will be scars that may never heal (every time I miss JC). I sincerely hope I will have the opportunity to spend time with JC again in France one day even though our circumstances may be different and the potager we built together will no longer exist after I leave. In the meantime we will try to make the most of what time is left to us.

10 comments:

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