4 Cities - 4 Tiny Steps
I grew up in Dijon, a small city “de province” in Burgundy (i’m sure you heard of the mustard de Dijon ?). I had a very happy and spoiled childhood but my primary goal in life was to go as far as possible from there.
My parents encouraged this impulsion and even let me spend 4 months in a small city called Nelson in British Columbia, Canada as an exchange high school student. I remembered that I chose to learn Russian at school because I knew it implied a travel to Moscow and I took extensive English classes hoping that we would also make a trip to London (and we did).
After high school I studied in Paris, Strasbourg and Lyon. As you already know I did a 2 months internship in NYC in 2012 and I also tried to do one year in a Drama school in Denmark but the exchange with my school didn’t work out so I didn’t go.
Instead I decided to travel to the USA and spend 3 months in LA with the guy I had met in NYC a year earlier and with whom I stayed in touch and became close friend after casually hooking up at a party in 5 Pointz, Queens.
LOS ANGELES - A TASTE OF FREEDOM
LA was my first real “living abroad” experience because I ended up staying 9 months there... I remembered it as a surreal long dream of love, wild freedom and palm trees but also a hole of uncertainty and fear of what was coming after that. I knew I could not stay there (visa) and I would have to really find some work eventually (and not just give French classes to rich kids in Hollywood and be an underpaid PA on indie film sets). I was so scared of going back to France, not knowing how to get a foot in the door there and having to say goodbye to the man I fell in love with.
This freedom and excitation of discovering things I never thought I would ever be able to see/do/experience was powerful. I fell in love with American people in general. The positive mindset, the open smiles and laid back attitude really caught me. I felt like things were possible and I didn’t need to be “une fille de” (a daughter-of-somebody-rich and/or famous) to reach my dreams like I always thought was the only way to do so in France.
PARIS - SETTLING IN
I ended up moving to Paris with my love/newly husband.
We rented our first real apartment together (we always had roomates before). We made it a home although I always thought it would be very temporary and we would move back to LA at some point. It took me several months to start really working in Paris and then it never stopped. I was so focus on my work I didn’t see anything going by.
In Paris I was feeling like an outsider all the time, trying to settling in but failing at it. Paris was in between the frustration of having to fight to get a foot in the door and the comfort of having my long time friends just close by. Working in the film industry in Paris is a fight because there is not enough work for everybody and being young is seen as something negative. You can’t be seen as a professional or at least someone with skills if you are under forty years old (unless you are “une fille de” - the daughter of someone rich and/or famous). Yet I didn’t want to leave. I was committed to dig my hole there. I wanted to be one of them.
LONDON - BUILDING RESILIENCE
I moved to London because I didn’t want my love to fall apart. Paris is not very welcoming to a young not-so-fluent-in-French Black man who is pursuing a career as a creative.
Moving to London was painful but so rewarding. I remember London as a never ending winter filled with the most powerful friendships I ever had. Living in London was probably the hardest years I ever lived. I was either struggling to find enough projects to pay my rent or getting high budget commercial gigs which made me feel lonely (I missed the collaborative process, being on a project for more than a day, working within a crew, real characters…). Yet I managed to start a blog, meet the most wonderful people ever, find a tribe of fierce creative women, have terrible and great work experiences, build a new portfolio, deal with foreign administrative things that neither of us understood and finally finalize all our immigration paperworks !
NEW YORK - AFFIRMATION
When I moved to NYC I knew it would never be as hard as my experience in London because I knew some people there and I was living with a native.
Doors open here. There is so much cliché in France about the American way of success and doing business but so much of it is true. People are willing to help you if they see your value. They don’t expect you to have twenty years of experience, they want you to have a fresh vision and to be different. NYC is probably the roughest city I ever lived in (and I live in Newark so I’m talking about real roughness, not gentrified Bushwick roughness lol) but there is an incredible positive energy there that really makes you believe than anything is possible (even if most of us struggle to pay rent). And sometimes when I see the weirdest thing happening in the subway at 7am on a Monday morning, I do believe that anything is possible.
I know I won’t spend my life in Newark or NYC. I’m already thinking of the next step because I learned that moving is the most effective way toward self-discovery and growth. I’m a home person so I’m always scared of moving, packing, having to build new routines, meeting new people, losing all my marks… but I know that it’s necessary. Moving keeps me grounded, it leads me to the essence of who I am and what I need to live an awaken life.