The Year That Wasn’t

I just checked my Franchement Instagram account to see that I haven’t published anything in a little over 11 months. As an extremely imperfect human, I was stressed over work one day and told myself I wouldn’t have time for creative writing or creative posting, as I needed to focus on my consulting business. That allowed my brain to tuck this project away guilt-free for almost a year, even cancelling my WordPress subscription in a fit of “done-ness.” They bill you without notice, by the way, pretty tacky business practice (which I of course told them when I cancelled).

If you’re one of those poor souls such as myself who constructs an ongoing narrative of life to make sense of it, a year-long hiatus in documentation can make life feel a little fake. If it isn’t written down, analyzed, and delivered with a lovely little narrative bow on it, full of “good” metaphors and all, did it actually happen? I’ve given up journals before during hard times in an attempt to reject reality, a tactic that both works and doesn’t.

On the one hand, there is no written history and reflection to cure the cement of what I decided “was” in that time. No record to consult, so reality can be shifted, doubted, or ignored. On the other hand, without busily scribbling my little thoughts about events, finding their meaning, inventing meaning often, neatly fitting them into the larger story I have in my head for my life, then I’m left to just live in the moment. No more mining my day for content, or feeling that I’ve got nothing to show for it if I return home without any prize gems.

That said, I will feel better if I, even in just one paragraph, continue the narrative through-line of May 2020 until May 2021. Humor my neuroses: I had a lovely summer in Paris, as did many others, because it was almost as if the pandemic didn’t exist. We could travel around Europe, eat at restaurants, attend museums, sit outside without masks. Summer was a blur of heat, hand-washing, and having fun while also trying to play it safe. I enjoyed a Venice completely empty of American tourists. Then came fall and the Covid numbers in France soared to heights we never could have imagined back in July as we drank Aperol Spritz on crowded terasses. Macron hit us with confinement and curfew at the end of October, and things have felt like a French Groundhog day for the six months that followed. Work, walk, workout, eat, sleep. Everyday. There, the documentation for this period in my life that my brain requires to sleep at night.

What that account doesn’t really explain is the loss of a sense of purpose that has come with leaving my career and hometown and property and cars to live a simpler life in France. The first year was pure relief to not have meetings, to work only when I wanted, to not have to sit in traffic just to pretend in an office for 9 hours. The following six months has been trying to understand what I’m about if I’m no longer defined by career and financial success. My homework for myself is to do whatever I want and see what feels important. If this reminds you of the musical montage in Zootopia when Judy Hopps tries everything, then maybe you too worked at Disney for nine years.

I spent that pandemic-induced gap exploring, undoing many years of programming, not writing it down, to realize that I miss writing it down.

So in news that’s only interesting to me, that’s what brought me here today. I’m having fun in Paris, thinking about what I want to write about, and hopefully in a place where I can actually do it more often, frankly.

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