“Am I really happy in New York? Is my life better there than in France? Is all the money I earn worth being so far away from my loved ones and of my culture? Questions asked by Julien, 34, expatriate in New York.
I always knew where I was going. Existential questions of the type who am I / where am I going? never concerned me in the end. Senior executive for six years in a French company based in New York, accomplished single person, I can say without boasting that from the BAC, I succeeded in everything I undertook without forcing too much, without having of regrets and without hesitation…until today! Indeed, about to return to Manhattan after my first post-covid vacation spent in France with the family, I doubt everything and nothing, I no longer have any certainty except that of being lost like a castaway alone in the middle of the middle of the ocean. Am I really happy in New York? Is my life better there than in France? Is all the money I earn worth being so far away from my loved ones and my culture? I don’t know anymore, I don’t know. Help, I’m sinking when I shouldn’t…or should I?….
This feeling of confusion is not new. I believe it started a year and a half ago when I was returning from my cousin’s wedding. He and his wife had organized a country party “à la française” as I like and, on the plane back, I had had an anxiety attack. “My God, I’m going back to New York with the terrible feeling that home isn’t home anymore, that home is over there, the country I’ve just left!” With work, girlfriends and friends, I had quickly forgotten this panic which invaded me, cataloging it neither one nor two in the section rich man problems. Alas, all my following trips to France had the same effect on me, an exponential version. I tried at the time to understand what was happening to me by talking about it to colleagues and even to a shrink, but the guilt took over, “stop complaining, New York is great, everyone would like to be in your place! ”, and prevented me from moving forward.
Today, in the departure lounge of flight AF007 en route to The Big Apple, I know my discomfort needs to be addressed seriously. That said, despite my lump in my stomach, I know I’ll get out of it, especially since the discussion I had the night before last at the restaurant with Nicolas, expat coach and childhood friend. “You’ve always been someone who followed others like a doggie, and to catch up with them and then overtake them, a way of taking care of your ego no doubt, you never stopped being better than them”. At the time his reflection had me well inflated, but a cigarette and a few drinks later, my life had paraded before my eyes and I had to admit that my old friend was not wrong.
In high school, I chose the scientific path because everyone said that the literary path was the path of loose. I had my BAC S with honors. I did Sup’de Co’ because my friend Marc convinced me that it would look good on a CV. I graduated at the top of my class. I went on to an MBA at Columbia because Marc, again, had enrolled there and, after three years of slaving away in my box in Paris, I agreed to be transferred to New York because all my colleagues dreamed of it. ! We can say what we want, but this discussion with Nicolas, without exaggerating, was a revelation for me. All my life, I have comforted myself in the idea that I was a man steeped in certainties when in fact I lived the lives of others and this without realizing it. When I now ask myself the question “what do you want in life”, I am unable to answer directly. I think about what my friends or my family would answer in my place! It’s terrifying to admit it, but the truth is that I never knew who I really was and coming to New York, far from my roots and my habits, exacerbated this underlying malaise. To get out of it, to stop feeling more and more anxious when I come back from France, I see only one solution, with or without the help of a professional, to learn or re-learn who I am, where I want to go and thus define and then live the life I really want. I believe it.
Nicolas Serres Cousiné, the life coach of French expats around the world
Nicolas Serres Cousiné’s website