My partner and I starting dating at a time when I had just moved to Paris. He had been in Paris for much longer than me, and honestly, he was quite sick of it. Around the time we were moving in together, we discussed moving away of Paris but I couldn't bring myself to even consider it. I had just got done with my move a year ago, and I did not feel like I could move again. It was too soon. So we stayed. It proved to be a wise decision: My second, third, and fourth years in Paris were all better than the previous years. By staying a total of four years, I truly settled into and enjoyed my life there.
At the end of 2019, my partner started getting really restless.
We were also at a different place now: we wanted to be closer to nature and closer to both families in France and in Turkey, we wanted to have children, we wanted more space (an office, an atelier, a guest room...), we were sick of paying rent (we wanted to own), and we did not want to pay 10,000€ per m2 for a tiny Parisian apartment. As much as it broke my heart to say goodbye to this city that helped me heal, create, and find myself, I now had other values I cared about equally. It was clear that a life in Paris was not going to give me nature, family, space, and financial sense on a daily basis. So I agreed to the heartache of saying goodbye to my friends and places in Paris.
We spent the last months of 2019 and early months of 2020 talking about many options: Berlin, Lisbon, Istanbul, Urla (a small and hip sea town in the south of Turkey), and the south of France. Our jobs had become mostly remote by this time, and we felt free. Our friends thought we were a little “too free”; the different options we had on the table did not make sense together. There didn’t seem to be a common thread among them. While we saw the common thread (our excitement for living in each place), to be fair, we also felt lost. Having lived in big metropolitan cities all my life, would I lose my mind in the countryside? Given the prices, could we really have more space in a city? Were we going to spend 1-2 years in one place, then move to the next? Were we going to do shorter-term rentals, hopping around every few months? What about laying roots in a place? Didn't we first need to move and explore the place, in order to buy? We talked about many scenarios and they all seemed to confuse us more. We had a vision for how we wanted to feel and which needs we wanted to meet; we couldn't figure out its operational and practical side.
The image that we kept coming back to was a life split between France and Turkey. We knew in the long term, especially with family members getting old, we would have to travel back and forth between the two frequently. Staying connected to this longer-term vision helped us manage the frustration and the confusion. Me being a product manager and him being a product designer also helped a ton. We had met when working at BlaBlaCar and we had experience moving through complex projects together. We were familiar with the divergent phases of the double diamond: Things always get more confusing before they get clear. Questions are first more open and broad; they then become more specific and defined.
We kept going back to the drawing board.
A funny thing happened around May in the midst of our decision-making agony. We heard that the house my partner grew up in was suddenly available - the renters moved out. This house was 10 minutes by car from our family in the South of France. It wasn’t the house we wanted to live in but the rent was half of what we paid in Paris and it would allow us to discover the region and explore buying. So we packed our things in July-August, moved out of our apartment in Paris, and moved to the South of France! It was amazing to have more space, both inside and outside, and to be in the midst of nature and family — for half the rent.
In October, we were making plans to travel to Turkey for 2 months to see my family, and another funny thing happened. We heard that the apartment I grew up in was suddenly available - the renters moved out. We weren't ready to rent another apartment in another location indefinitely, but we decided this made more sense than renting expensive and small AirBnbs we didn't feel good about. So we ended up with a second base in Istanbul!
Within a span of 4 crazy months, we had two homes for the price of one in Paris: one large house in the South of France and a large apartment in the city of blue. We had access to nature. We had access to the city. We were close to both families. We lived in the midst of both cultures and countries we deeply love. We had the fundamentals we needed. This wasn't an answer to all the big questions we had been asking, and it did not feel ideal or good on many days but it sure felt like a great step forward. We were now in a new iteration (to speak in design terminology) of our lives; we were closer to the long term vision. We were going to learn new things about what we wanted and where we could go next.
I realized that I was missing a key ingredient during this whole process: trust. I was feeling afraid we would end up unhappy. More so than suffering from the questions themselves, which were big and difficult to answer, I was suffering from not trusting it would work out. Experiencing agony, indecision and frustration in the midst of a process like this is normal, but my lack of trust was multiplying my agony, indecision and frustration to an unnecessary extent. I was trying to control both the process and the results. I was adding extra suffering.
This is a life lesson I've gotten before: things work themselves out. Not in the way I want them to work out, but in the way that they do. While I obsess with answering big questions, they fall into place, and there is a sense of progress even if not a sense of complete resolution. Calling forth an attitude of trust is not easy while I'm still in the middle of the chaos, and it is possible. This is what I'd like to practice more.
For Your Reflections
- Are you trying to answer any big life questions? What does your process look like? What tools or attitudes are you employing?
- Why does trust matter to you, if it does?
- Where in your life could you trust more?
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