Europe

Seeing the invisible; or, why I decided to move to Marseille

Time for new beginnings in Marseille

“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.” – Frank L. Gaines

It had been almost two years since I’d graduated from college. I was lucky enough to have found a full-time job at a hip agency in downtown Boston. I had friends and nice roommates. I had a good gym membership and fun weekend activities. I felt very grateful for all I’d been granted.

And still, something seemed to be missing. A part of me felt disappointed. I’d heard of post-college blues and of quarter-life crises. But this was something less tangible, less visible. There was a quiet but persistent voice chewing at me, asking: is this it? I began to feel trapped by the things that were once the fabric of my safety net. I knew I needed a change, but what?

I had studied abroad in Paris in college, and my boyfriend lives in France. But although it seems an obvious choice now, moving to France wasn’t always on my radar over the last two years. I thought about trying another American city, or more “exotic” places, like Australia and Singapore. But France gradually eased its way into my mind as the most logical and safest choice in a set of endless possibilities. I would move there.

Easier said than done. Having made the commitment in my mind did not make it easy logistically. I began to network like crazy, reaching out to everyone I knew and all of their contacts, to see who might have advice about how to move to France as an American. Teaching English and studying didn’t appeal to me; I wanted to work. Finally, in looking around the French-American Chamber of Commerce’s website, I found a little-known but absolutely amazing visa sponsorship program for young Americans. With a visa sponsor in hand, and my job hunt going poorly from the United States, I eventually quit my job cold turkey and flew to France for three months to search on the ground. They were some of the most challenging, exciting, tumultuous months of my life; but that’s another story for another time.

In hindsight, I think I used my relationship as a cover for why I was moving to France. It seemed safer and easier to explain. I was going to live with my boyfriend, who I’d met during my semester abroad. But as I’ve become more comfortable with my decision, I’ve realized he only plays one part in that choice. This move represents something else to me, too: it is my gift and my responsibility to myself, and in a way, it’s accepting control of my own life. It’s acknowledging that without this push, I won’t go anywhere or do anything. That opportunities pass you by if you don’t seek them out.  I read a well-timed article on Salon that confirmed this sentiment in me. Our twenties are meant to be the time where we’re figuring it all out.

Of course, there is still all of the administrative noise to be dealt with, which is far less romantic and far less fun to write about. I’m back in Boston, waiting for my work visa, trying to find enriching, meaningful ways to bide my time. That’s another challenge in and of itself. But I’m reminding myself what a privilege and treasure it is to be able to pursue this dream, and that makes it all worth it. And I’m ready to dive into the invisible, and bring myself a little closer to the impossible.

Julia Shew
Julia is a native Kansan, but lived in the United Arab Emirates for 18 years before returning to the US for college. She is fascinated by travel and its influence on personal identity, which, for her, usually translates into eating, drinking and dancing her way to self-actualization.

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