August 26th, 2015. I hopped off a plane at Blagnac, Toulouse with my dreams and my life packed into 4 suitcases.
I was a freshly graduated high school student, full of hopes and dreams and optimism. I couldn’t, for the life of me, erase the big smile plastered on my face as I was breathing the nice summer air of the south of France for the first time. I have finally arrived. Finally, my dream was starting to turn into reality. Finally!
That day felt like Liberation day! Like a national holiday! Like the first day of the rest of my life!
A million invisible fireworks were setting my heart on fire, making it drum in my ears, loudly. My mind was going a miles a minute, chanting over & over “This is it. This is happening”. And my eyes were restless trying to save every new face, every new landscape.
Of course, I was also nervous. How couldn’t I be? But my excitement overruled every other feeling and I was just left with a big smile on my face and sparkles in my eyes.
That was the first day. I was still new. Still dreamy. Still innocent. Dare I say, naïve even.
Days went by. One month replaced another and another and another. I was now fully and officially settled in my new life in France. However, the excitement of the first day was long gone replaced by a feeling of uncomfortableness. The fireworks were no longer setting my heart on fire. My mind was now chanting “Take me back home” and my eyes were dull and withered. In a matter of a few months, a lingering sadness engulfed my whole being. Doubts and concerns crept into my mind and I was left suffocating. Crying out for help. Alone.
My first year in France was not going as I dreamed it would. The dream has turned into a nightmare and there was no escape possible.
This first year has brought out a lot of insecurities I didn’t know I had. It made me pause for one second and contemplate myself. My true self. Not the one who was spoiled and protected and comforted by family, friends and childhood. But the one who was living alone, paying bills, saving money so she can still eat at the end of the month, going to college with a crowd of strangers…the one bullied by adulthood.
That first year was hard. Harder than I ever thought it would or could be. And I hated everything. I hated the city. I hated France and everything it stood for.
Yet, when I went back home in the summer after that first year, I caught myself missing Toulouse. And to say that I was surprised is an understatement. I was astonished! How could I miss the city that I spent a whole year hating and wanting to escape from?
When I hopped off the plane at Blagnac, Toulouse in august 2016, I was miles away from feeling the excitement and bewilderment of the first time.
I wasn’t a freshly graduated high school student full of hopes and dreams and optimism anymore. And that day didn’t feel like a national holiday or liberation day or the first day of the rest of my life.
No, that day, August 27th 2016 felt like the day I was coming home.
Home. Toulouse was my home. And there is no escaping home. That day, I realized that I can run all I want, I can wander in as many places of the world that I want, I can hide in Tunisia for how long that I feel like it, but I will always have to come back to Toulouse, my home.
And so with this new found information, I breathed in the hot summer air of the south of France for the second time and I instantly felt some of the sparkles return to my eyes as my lips turned into a knowing smirk. Home…
My second year in Toulouse was so different than the first. This year, I have embraced everything that makes me Me, the good, the bad and the ugly. I have opened myself to meeting new people and I have met friends from all over the world. I have started going out more, smiling more, laughing more. I have finally started living. And I have finally opened my heart to this city. To love it, to enjoy it, to cherish it.
As I only have a week left in Toulouse before I go back to Tunisia for the summer, I am feeling nostalgic. Leaving this city for 3 months is proving to be a hard task for me. But this nostalgia also makes me realize how far I’ve come.
The truth of the matter is, leaving everything behind you to start a new life in a new place is not an easy thing to do and getting accustomed to all the changes occurring will require some time. This is what I’ve learned from this experience :
I have to be patient and allow time to myself, to my surroundings and to the universe.
Because sometimes, the place that we think of as hell might turn out to be a paradise just waiting to be unveiled…