My girlfriend’s hoping to move to Paris. As you can imagine, this ignites a series of conflicting feelings in me. I try to avoid talking about mushy stuff on my blog, since romantic feelings seem too solipsistic to be of interest to other people, but I’ll make an exception here because I think it’s an interesting situation, because others I know are going through similar situations, and because I’d welcome advice.
There’s no doubt that Julie going to Paris would take our long-distance relationship to the next level: that is to say, really long-distance. As it is, we get to talk on the phone or IM every day and we see each other once a month. With a nine-hour time difference between us, even phone calls would probably become occasional. E-mail and letters would have to fill the gap, and they could–it’s not like no one ever lived apart from each other before 1994–but the instant nature of communication today makes me very irritable with even reasonable delays. We’d get used to it, no doubt (maybe a little doubt?); it just would be a step back from our current situation, which is itself something of a compromise.
So that’s the Big Con. But as far as I can tell, it’s the only one. There are lots of good reasons for Julie to go, the main reason being that she wants to, and I think it would be really good for her (how could a trip to Paris not be good for someone?). I think that we’re all still young enough that we should be working towards being more worldly people and having more experiences, if the opportunity exists, and I think the long-term benefits of a well-travelled girlfriend outweigh the frustration of 9-12 months of pining.
Plus, over the last few months, I’ve been living a vicarious Bohemian lifestyle through Julie. At the beginning of the school year, I always had lots of stuff to talk about as I learned how grad school worked, while Julie felt she was spinning her wheels and never had much to report. Over the last months, though, that dynamic has reversed itself. I’ve settled into a rut–a rut I really enjoy, but a rut–while Julie has had lots of exciting stuff to talk about what with McSweeney’s and her advancing literary career. The dramatic, winding path of her struggles and successes as a writer has been really cathartic for me, particularly as it seems to be going well more and more of the time. Her going to Paris seems like the logical extension of that–if I’m going to be anchored down for 6 more years, it helps that someone close to me is jet-setting and pond-hopping, that I can learn about the world outside the cave.
Compare that with the alternative: Julie moves in with me in Irvine next year. If it was almost anywhere besides Irvine, I would probably be gunning for that. As it is, though, I think there would be a risk for resentment and frustration. I’m not aware of any interesting or exciting opportunities that exist here, besides the one I’m currently availing myself of and that Julie plans to apply for. Until we’re both doing something interesting that we enjoy, better that we not settle down together; it would feel like a surrender.
And then there’s the big fringe benefit: I’ll get to visit Julie in France next spring. And maybe, just maybe (and I do mean just maybe), I could live in Paris next summer, on the pretext of learning French or doing research on Baudelaire or whatever, and we could be expats together for a couple months. Yes, it’s crazy; I’m just not sure it’ll work. But we’ll see. What’s great about Julie’s plan to be an au pair is that it proves that there’s nothing but possibility here.