“And you know, Paris is all metro and work and the run-around.”
He used the famous idiom “Metro-boulot-dodo” which is a colloquialism that is literally “subway-work-sleep” that indicates the grind of life for many in the City of Light. We were high in the French Alps, not far from the Italian border, but quite a distance away from home, and yet the complaint was similar: “I used to think Paris was magic, but now it’s just a place I work and pay bills.”
I tried to hide my dismay at hearing this, because no one should live in a place that one doesn’t love, if it can be avoided. It’s socially acceptable to tell people you moved to a dreadful city for a job but it’s some revolutionary concept to tell people you moved someplace for the city and who cared about the job? It would come.
Now, I’m not pretending that everyone can have a great amount of time wealth/lifestyle in the world’s finest cities, but if you are going to bother to live there, to “put up” with the cost of living, it’s surely a great shame if you can never enjoy it.
Now, the first time I heard this complaint was from a lady who attended my Paris Culture Lovers meetup who rather sourly complained about her schedule as I described my own, which included grocery shopping, visiting parks and museums, and riding a Velib during “off hours” – when everyone was at work from 9-5. While I was a bit taken aback at her tirade, even though I’ve become very used to the French complaining (it’s a national art and sport), especially since she chose to move to Paris 15 years ago – for work – I avoided what would have been a typical American retort: “Well why don’t you do something about it instead of just complaining to 10 near-strangers about it?” I said it another way to my friend Julia last month: “The French as a people would rather complain about what they don’t have than take responsibility for building their dreams.” Instead, I just managed to stutter, “I guess…I guess I just live in a different Paris than you do.”
Since my current conversant was French I decided to take a different tack and asked him how he planned to break the cycle. He shared some great ideas, but unsurprisingly, had not done any real research into those ideas.
Okay, Stephen, so people quit their miserable city jobs, then what? Look, I don’t know. I’m not advocating that everyone quit his/her respective jobs. I’m just asking the serious and adult series of questions: what is the life you want for yourself? Are you living it now? If not, why not? Do you have any plan or timeline in which you will be living the life you want? Does it solely hinge on money? Have you rethought that?
Surely life is more than paying rent or a mortgage. Our time on this magnificent planet is too short and brief to spend focusing on the life you don’t have. Start creating the life you desire and marvel at how much the journey alone will prepare you to enjoy what awaits your sacrifices. I’m reminded of the words of Marcus Aurelius:
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
The obstacle is the way.