On this special day, I am pleased to bring you the story of Anne Denise Stills, a woman who was inspired by this blog – and particularly by the Black Paris Profiles published here – to take definitive steps to move to Paris.
Photo courtesy of Anne Denise Stills
The idea of moving to Paris took me by surprise. It was a buried, long-time dream, first nurtured as a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, New York by my love affair with haute couture fashion. Over the years and into adulthood, the dream continued to grow subconsciously, quietly, through international travel, a fascination with beautiful ancient buildings, and a curiosity about all things French.
One year ago, I made a decision to start seriously thinking about living my life in Paris. Perhaps it was because I was feeling overreached by the hustle and bustle of New York life. Maybe I needed a change that would nourish my spirit. Possibly it was that my son would be completing college soon and on his own, and I would have my life back to do as I pleased. Whatever the reason, the dream of living in Paris was rekindled vividly and invaded my thoughts day and night.
Three months later, I was on a red-eye flight on my first trip...April in Paris. Going through the Charles de Gaulle airport terminal and hearing the music of Louis Armstrong singing “La Vie en Rose” put a smile on my face and made my heart sing. I felt like I was coming home! As a temporary resident and self-assured New Yorker, I hopped on the metro and local bus with ease and went to a private flat in the 15th arrondissement.
Every experience and interaction I had during this trip was magical. The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower, it took my breath away! I stood in awe of the ancient architectural masterpieces, cobblestone streets, the beauty and history of the treasures at the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, and the peacefulness of the River Seine. The food was divine and the language was music to my ears.
The kindness of strangers at every turn was contrary to the reputation of the French being unfriendly and snobbish. From the lady who got off the bus with me to direct me to Galeries Lafayette, to the gentlemen working at the museum who after a delightful conversation invited me home to dine with him and his wife, to the Paris Opera Ballet ballerina whom I accidentally ran into while trying to find the entrance to Palais Garnier and who pleasantly answered my many questions about her life and training, then kindly showed me the entrance door…all these are lovely, touching moments and memories.
Upon my return home, one thing was crystal clear: there was a life waiting for me in Paris. I had a burning desire that I could not quell. It propelled me forward to take action to follow my desire to live in Paris.
The first step I took was to research on the Internet other African Americans living in Paris. One of most significant sites I found was “Entrée to Black Paris.” The historical, events, art, and restaurant information was extremely informative and made the city come alive for me. In particular, the Black Paris Profiles were very relevant. They document the lives of ex-pats who created a new life for themselves in the City of Light. Perusing them gave me the idea for my first step in my plan to move: build a network of people living and working there who have done what I am trying to do. As a result of reading their stories, I reached out to some through LinkedIn and start building a network. All were warm, welcoming, and positive and offered to assist in any way they could.
Through the social network I have reached out to almost 200 people. I continued to build upon my professional connections in the industries in which I have worked – airlines, hospitality and financial services – as well as industries I have an interest in so that I can attract employment opportunities. I realize it will not be easy and I will be sacrificing the comfort of a successful, well-established career in New York to take a leap of faith towards the unknown. However, my spirit has already embraced a new life in Paris and I feel compelled to follow that path.
I have given myself a timeline of 36 months towards my goal to move to Paris. Meanwhile, I am doing practical things such as taking French language classes at the Alliance Française and listening to conversational tapes. I visit every 3 to 4 months because I feel “homesick” and I move around the city to familiarize myself with the different districts and get a feel for where I would live. At the suggestion of a few ex-pats, I am gaining a TESOL certificate as an option for a quick means of income. I am formulating a plan on how I can use my professional background, interests and skills and create my own business as well. I have also compiled a list of firms to approach to explore employment opportunities.
As I patiently take these steps, I feel empowered and know that I am moving toward my destiny. With courage and passion, I am following my dream and feel excited about the possibility!
Anne D. Stills
20 November 2012